Press Release

Modest Surge in American Horses Exported to Mexico for Slaughter Underscores Urgent Need for Congress to Ban Trafficking of our Equids for Meat

Animal welfare groups condemn uptick in slaughter, call for action on Farm bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — USDA export data reveals that kill buyers shipped 17,997 horses from Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to slaughter plants in Mexico in 2023. This was the most significant annual percentage increase of live exports since 2012. Final numbers are not yet available for live exports to Canada.

The jump in exports to Mexico prompted Animal Wellness Action to call on Congress to include language in the Farm bill or a major spending bill to halt any export of live horses and other equids to Mexico and Canada for slaughter for consumption. Not one of these horses was raised for slaughter; they were, for the most part, raised for pleasure, show, work, or racing and opportunistically collected and redirected to Mexico for slaughter. 

“We are sounding the alarm to Congress that healthy American horses are being butchered in a secretive, inhumane trade to Mexico,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. “Not one more year of this trafficking of these iconic animals should be tolerated. The animal welfare community and the Thoroughbred racing industry are united in demanding an end to this archaic, miserable, sickening trade.”

In December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed S2163B/A06109 to ban horse slaughter in New York and also barred the sale, transportation, and export of horses for purposes of slaughter. New York joins California, Texas, and Illinois — four of the five biggest states in the nation — in forbidding the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

There are bipartisan bills in both chambers of Congress — the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act — to codify a ban on slaughter of horses in the United States and to ban live exports. There are 226 Members of Congress who have cosponsored this legislation and supermajorities in each chamber favor the policy. The United States has forbidden horse slaughter domestically since 2007, when the last horse slaughter plant was shuttered. 

“If it is wrong to slaughter horses in Dallas or Yuma or DeKalb, it is wrong to slaughter them in cities in Calgary or Quebec City,” added Mr. Pacelle. Congress has approved the domestic ban on horse slaughter through the appropriations process for nearly 15 consecutive years. In 2021, the House unanimously passed a ban on live exports of equines.

The movement against horse slaughter gained momentum in recent years due to investigations exposing the cruelty to the animals and the shutdown of slaughter in the United States. Testing of slaughtered horses bound for Mexico revealed drug residues in horse meat unfit for human consumption. A national poll conducted by Lake Research Partners in February 2022 revealed that 83 percent of Americans oppose the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption.

A year ago, an investigation by the Center for a Humane Economy and Animals’ Angeles revealed immense suffering of horses and other equids during transportation, holding, and slaughter, with results showing a lack of care, deficient delivery of food or water, and transport in cramped, dangerous, and unsanitary conditions.

The number of horses shipped to Mexico from Texas increased from 13,081 in 2022 to 13,725 in 2023. Additionally, the recent actions of the USDA’s Forest Service exploited a loophole in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, leading to the distressing transport of 50 Alpine wild horses to a Texas slaughter auction, betraying public trust and disregarding the welfare of these cherished animals.

In October, actress Katherine Heigl joined Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy in demanding that President Joe Biden work to halt live exports of thousands of American horses for slaughter for human consumption. They noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for an end to Canada’s role in exporting draft horses to Japan for slaughter and asked that Biden address America’s gruesome trade of equines to Mexico. Former Congressman and National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and CEO Tom Rooney, Jockey Club president James Gagliano, and New York Racing Association president and CEO David O’Rourke aligned with animal protection groups in urging Biden to take action to end America’s biggest horse welfare problem.

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both. The Center believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @TheHumaneCenter

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News