Although there are a number of reasons to support the slaughter of horses, more evidence
stands against horse slaughter and proves that it should cease to exist. Horse slaughter is
performed to reduce the issues that accompany the overpopulation of horses including neglect,
abandonment, and starvation. Horses are magnificent creatures who are keen-minded, beautiful,
and loving. They partner with humans to achieve unthinkable goals, and are incredibly loyal.
What other animal can be groomed, ridden over enormous jumps, and ridden in the Olympics?
These equines deserve to be treated like royalty and protected, not sent to a foreign country to be
traumatized and destroyed.
Horses are currently slaughtered mainly in Canada and Mexico, but there has been talk of
slaughterhouse facilities opening up again in the United States. What happens to horses when
their owners have decided that they no longer want to care for their four-legged friends? For a
number of horses, the trip begins at a local livestock auction. Horses used in riding camps and
lesson programs, old horses, young horses, pregnant horses, and all other varieties of horses are
auctioned off locally. Most horse owners bring their horses to an auction with the thought that
their horse will go to a loving home and be given exceptional care. Unfortunately, a number of
these horses are purchased by kill-buyers (“Transport to Slaughter”).
After a horse is purchased, it is crammed with a bunch of other horses in a large livestock
truck, and the ghastly journey to a feedlot or slaughterhouse plant begins. Once horses are
packed in and they depart for places unknown, they may remain in the same truck for days at a
time without rest, food, or water. The scarcity of space allotted to each horse often causes severe
injury, fighting, and death. While some state laws prohibit the use of double decker trailers that
are designed for animals that do not have a neck as long as a horse’s neck, there is no federal
The Truth Behind Horse Slaughter
prohibition, so the inhumane practice of using double decker trailers continues (“Horse
Transportation Safety Act”). On this type of trailer, horses are forced into an unnatural position
that causes them to have trouble maintaining their balance. Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse,
many horses have broken legs and eyes dangling from their eye sockets. These injuries are
disregarded. The horses are immediately herded into pens with other horses. They can smell the
blood and death in the air, and sense the fear and suffering of the horses being put to death inside
the slaughterhouse (“Transport to Slaughter”).
From the holding pens, horses are forced into the kill-chutes. In some plants, a captive
bolt gun is utilized to drive a metal rod into the head of the horse to paralyze (not kill) the horse.
Because horses have such a keen survival sense, the untrained slaughterhouse workers are often
unable to aim the gun correctly, leading to numerous shots to the head. The improper aim of the
gun also causes injuries to the horse in other areas of its face, which results in major panic and
stress. John Holland, of the Equine Welfare Alliance, said that horses will try to “rip the place
apart” (“The Pros and Cons of Horse Slaughter”). These creatures are too intelligent to simply
allow themselves to be put to death, and they never go down without a fight. In some other
plants, horses are shot once in the head before being hung by one leg to bleed out and be
butchered. Due to the horse’s thick head, the shot usually results in a still-conscious horse. In
plants in Mexico, a boning knife called a puntilla is used to stab the horse repeatedly in the spine,
causing paralysis and eventually asphyxiation. Even after this procedure, some horses are still
conscious as they are sent further into the process of slaughter (“Transport to Slaughter”). Horse
slaughter is performed to “reduce suffering” of horses and make a profit, but is