Animal Welfare Institute
The transportation, handling and slaughter process are rife with
cruelty. Failure to properly stun animals at the slaughter plant results in
horses being shackled and dismembered while still conscious. Slaughter is
not humane euthanasia.
- Gail Eisnitz, Humane Farming Association (HFA)
Currently, three foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the United States are killing horses for human consumption. They are Beltex Corporation in Ft. Worth, Texas; Dallas Crown in Kaufman, Texas and Cavel International in DeKalb, Illinois. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 65,976 horses were slaughtered in 2004, up from 50,564 killed the previous year. In addition to the horses killed in the three US-based plants, thousands more are transported under deplorable conditions across our borders into Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered.
Conditions of transport are appalling. Horses are typically hauled for more than 24 hours without rest, water or food in trailers that provide little protection from weather extremes. They are often forced onto double-decked cattle trailers with ceilings so low they injure their heads. Many horses—sick, lame, pregnant or blind—are in distress even before being loaded.
Once at the slaughterhouse, the suffering continues unabated. Horses are left for long periods in tightly packed trailers, subjected to further extremes of heat and cold. In hot weather, thirst is acute. Downed animals are unable to rise. All the horses are moved off forcibly when it’s time to unload. Callous workers, using fiberglass rods or electric prods, poke and beat the horses’ faces, necks, backs and legs as they are shoved through the facility and into the kill box.
Subject to extreme overcrowding, abuse, deafening sounds and the smell of blood, the horses become more and more desperate, exhibiting fear typical of “flight” behavior—pacing in prance-like movements with their ears pinned back against their heads and eyes wide open.
Despite the federal mandate that horses be rendered unconscious before having their throats slit, repeated blows with captive bolt pistols are often necessary to stun the animals. Terrified horses writhe in the holding stalls (known as the “kill box”), legs buckling under their weight after each traumatic, misguided and ineffective blow to their heads. Death, the final betrayal of these noble animals, is protracted and excruciating.