Legislation is critical and timely as federal lawmakers work on legislation to ban any slaughter of American horses anywhere in North America
Albany, NY — Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy, and Animal Wellness Foundation applauded New York Gov. Kathy Hochul for signing into law S2163B/A06109, a bill to ban horse slaughter in New York. The legislation, which passed by a broad margin in the Assembly and by a vote of 60-1 in the Senate, prohibits the slaughter of horses for human or animal consumption. The bill also bars the sale, transportation, and export of horses for purposes of slaughter. The animal wellness groups, along with the leaders of the horse-racing industry in New York, strongly urged Gov. Hochul to sign the bill and they expressed their appreciation for her action.
New York now joins California, Texas, and Illinois – four of the five biggest states in the nation – in forbidding the slaughter of horses for human consumption. While slaughtering horses for human consumption is banned in the United States, it is not illegal to export live horses to Canada and Mexico. Last year, 22,000 American equines were butchered in those two countries and sent to the Old World for human consumption.
“Horses belong in the stable, not on the table, and this bill is going to bring us one giant step closer to finishing off the North American slaughter industry,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, “This comprehensive ban on horse slaughter will make it far more difficult for any kill buyer to operate in the Northeast. And it is a signal to Congress that one more major state in our nation is shutting the door to slaughter.”
Horses from throughout the eastern U.S. must go through New York on their way to an operating slaughter plant in Quebec. Thousands of horses, especially off-track racehorses and discarded Amish work horses, have historically been moved through the state from origin points that include sale barns, auctions, and kill pens in eastern states.
The new legislation makes it unlawful to “import, export, sell, offer to sell or barter, transfer, purchase, possess, transport, deliver, receive, give away, hold, or accept… a horse, with the intention of slaughtering… such horse for the purpose of human or animal consumption.” The bill imposes fines of $1,000 per horse for individuals and $2,000 for business entities for their first violations, and $2,000 per horse for individuals and $5,000 for business entities for subsequent violations.
As revealed by an investigation earlier this year by Center for a Humane Economy and Animals’ Angels, the U.S. horse slaughter industry has experienced a dramatic decline, dropping from a high of 350,000 animals slaughtered annually in the 1990s, to a mere roughly 20,000 in 2022. The investigation also revealed terrible mistreatment of equines destined for slaughter by disreputable dealers known as “kill buyers,” who gather horses from sale barns, auctions, and kill pens for export to Canada and Mexico, which sell the meat to foreign countries, including hostile adversaries like Russia and China. Owing to the special role horses have played in American history and culture and the view that they are companions, not food, a 2022 poll found strong opposition among 83 percent of all Americans to the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
The New York bill sends a strong message to Congress, which is considering the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act, H.R. 3475/S. 2037, a bill that will codify a ban on slaughter in the United States and forbid live export of U.S. equines for slaughter to Canada and Mexico. The House and Senate versions of the SAFE Act have more than 200 cosponsors. In the prior Congress, the House unanimously passed an anti-slaughter provision, and Animal Wellness Action predicts it will be able to attach an anti-slaughter bill to the upcoming Farm bill.