Humane Society, Rescue Groups File Suit Over Horse Slaughter

by | 07.03.2013 | 4:20pm
Horse Slaughter Auction

In response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision to allow horse slaughter facilities to resume operating on U.S. soil, animal protection organizations have filed suit against the agency and asked for an immediate injunction. The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, Horses for Life Foundation, Return to Freedom and five private individuals are suing under the National Environmental Protection Act, due to the agency's failure to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing horse slaughterhouses to operate.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted an inspection permit to a discredited horse slaughter plant operator in New Mexico, bringing the nation closer to its first horse slaughter operation since federal courts and state lawmakers shuttered the last three U.S.-based plants in 2007. The USDA has let it be known that it may also approve horse slaughter plants in Iowa and Missouri in the coming days. Meanwhile, U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees voted in June to halt all funding for horse slaughter in FY 2014, which means that the federal government could spend millions of taxpayer dollars to start up inspections at horse slaughter plants, only to have Congress terminate the process in the coming months.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS, said: “Horse slaughter plants pollute local water bodies with blood and offal, permeate the air with a foul stench, diminish property values and put horses through misery. USDA's decision to visit these horrors on the citizens of New Mexico, Missouri, and Iowa – without even conducting an environmental review first – is irresponsible, and a clear violation of federal law.”

Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said: “The USDA has failed to consider the basic fact that horses are not raised as a food animal. Horse owners provide their horses with a number of substances dangerous to human health. To blatantly ignore this fact jeopardizes human health as well as the environment surrounding a horse slaughter plant. The negative consequences of horse slaughter will be felt immediately and over the long term if allowed to resume in the U.S. America's horses are not food.”

Allondra Stevens, founder of Horses For Life Foundation, said: “The USDA's decision to grant horse slaughter inspections is an outright insult and a betrayal to the overwhelming majority of Americans who are against horse slaughter, to the welfare of the animals themselves, and to consumer and environmental safety. With the environmental and food safety risks of horse slaughter operations, the FSIS is leading the USA down a reckless and dangerous path due to the toxic byproducts of horse slaughter. As a nation of horse lovers, our time and resources will be better spent thinking outside the slaughterbox, working to implement more programs and infrastructures that assist with horse rescue, retention and retirement solutions.”

Neda DeMayo, president of Return To Freedom, said: “We join 80 percent of Americans in their opposition to horse slaughter. America is the original home of the horse and has never been a horse eating culture. Horses have been our companions, fought battles with us, worked from sun up to sun down by our side. They have never abandoned us and we will not abandon them now. We will not have their blood on our hands.”

Any facility slaughtering thousands of horses will necessarily be processing the blood, organs and remains of animals whose tissues and blood may contain significant amounts of dangerous substances, which are either known to be dangerous, or which have never been tested on humans and therefore present completely unknown dangers. At least six applications for horse slaughter inspections have been filed with the USDA.

The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Schiff Hardin, LLP and attorneys within The HSUS' Animal Protection Litigation section.

  • old horse lover

    OH what a tangled web they weaved when Kingston and his two buddies sneaked in the funding again for horse meat inspectors.Are we as people who enjoy horses,watching them, owning them,betting on them,just plain looking at the beauty of them going to let this brutal end of life for them continue.
    To do nothing means you condone it.

    • ziggypop

      Exactly. And now the unethical and amoral are wanting us to pay for it as well. It is a quite a scam actually. The legally abuse at will, the horses are mercilessly, barbarically killed and you and I pay the salaries and benefits of the inspectors who know not to eat the tainted and toxic meat.

      I am appalled at the horse industry and a pox upon the houses of those who are secretly and overtly pushing this abomination. They are not horsemen, they are sadists.

  • giftoffaith

    We need to keep up the fight against this horror. I just can’t believe this is going to go on in a country where the majority is supposed to have their say. Most people do not want this to happen however, here it comes. I can not stand to think of this horrific end to such beautiful creatures. Let’s keep posting and passing the word. Next time it’s time to vote for these jerks let’s get them out.

    • nu-fan

      Interestingly, the Humane Society sent out emails, yesterday, to their supporters with a request that each person send an email message as well as a phone call to President Obama condemning the slaughtering of horses. I would hope that everyone who is involved in horses takes the time to actually put forth the effort in contacting their elected officials. But, I do have to wonder if some just assume that others will take care of doing so?

      • giftoffaith

        I did not receive anything from the Humane Society, but I have signed every petition I have ever seen regarding horse slaughter or any other animal abuse for that matter. I wrote to my congressman. I just have to wonder who is listening to us, the majority? Thankfully the Humane Society has the ability to be heard. I did not vote for this administration, thankfully, because I’d be kicking myself from here on out. I can not believe this door was left wide open.

        • nu-fan

          Yes, I can understand your frustrations with all of the efforts so many have gone through in order to get our elected officials heard! But, need to keep taking the time to do so. I don’t know why you didn’t receive that email but suggest that you contact the Humane Society and find out why. If you didn’t receive that email, could many others also were not included? That is something that should be checked into by that organization to make certain its effectiveness is not hampered by some glitch.

  • In Tears

    This rant will go on forever. The only way to stop slaughter is to humanly put down horses. yes it is expensive, especially body removal. Helps to know what is allowed where you live. For me, no one knows what I do behind my barn. I have a person with a big back hoe who buries animals, quietly for owners. The other option is to stop breeding not only thoroughbreds, but other breeds as well. Yes people make a living breeding, but the end result is just not worth the suffering the unwanted animal must indure. Breeders just do not care and are not responsible enough to take back unwanted animals, mainly because they do not want the expense of careing for them.

    • nu-fan

      In recent weeks, the Stockton CA area has had several horse carcasses dumped on roadsides. Some of the horses had their gum area removed in order to erase evidence of ownership. It is very difficult to me to understand how callous people can be regarding animals. Makes me wonder how many people (who own horses or are in the equine industry) there are and who can have such little regard for these magnificent animals.

  • In Tears

    Most meat inspectors are washed out vets that get gifts of prime cuts or in the case of horses take a buck and look the other way. Sadly I know one who did the wrong thing and lost a good career as a vet. And this is what he is down to doing along with trucking to make a living.

  • Denise Steffanus

    The best move horse owners can make right now is to microchip their horses and designate them “No slaughter.” Microchips are available from the Jockey Club at a nominal fee. Go to and search for “Microchip FAQ.” Vets typically charge $35-$50/horse to insert the chip; you may be able to get a discount on microchipping multiple horses.
    When a microchipped horse is presented for slaughter, the slaughterhouse is expected to notify the owner listed on the chip. I don’t know if notification is mandatory. If it isn’t, it should be written into the legislation/regulations for slaughterhouses.

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