Equine slaughter: Not in my backyard!


A recent government report raises the question: Is the end of U.S. equine slaughter helping horses or simply sheltering Americans from unpleasant realities?

Horse slaughter isn't happening in the United States, but that doesn't necessarily mean equine welfare has improved. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the effects of the 2007 ban on horse slaughter in this country—when the last three domestic slaughterhouses were ordered closed—argues that horses have been harmed. The number of horses killed hasn't changed, so is it better that horses are slaughtered now north and south of us?

Horse exports for slaughter to Canada and Mexico increased from 2006 to 2010. Source: GAO Check out the report data at right, and then head to http://dvm360.com/equineslaughter to join the discussion on this topic.

Falling through the cracks

"With cessation of domestic slaughter, USDA lacks staff and resources at the borders and foreign slaughtering facilities that it once had in domestic facilities to help identify problems with shipping paperwork or the condition of horses before they were slaughtered." — GAO

> In Canada, from 2005 to 2006, 48 percent of the shipping certificates collected and returned to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service were missing some or all of the information to be provided at the slaughtering facility. From 2008 to 2009, that number leapt to 60 percent.

> In Mexico, from 2005 to 2006, 48 percent of certificates missed key information. From 2008 to 2009, the number increased to 54 percent.

Neglect up

> Investigations of horse neglect and abuse increased by more than 60 percent in Colorado from 2005 to 2010.

> California, Texas, and Florida are reporting more annual cases of horse abandonment since the closure of slaughter facilities in 2007.

Source: GAO

Prices down

> Horse prices have dropped 8 percent to 21 percent—depending on the class of horse—since the end of U.S. horse slaughter.

> Only a 5 percent decline across all horse-class categories is traced back to the economic downturn.

Source: GAO

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