Debunking the “Unwanted Horse” Myth

photo by Soledad Lorieto

In recent years, pro-horse slaughter organizations and individuals have consistently fought adoption of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, claiming that there is a huge “unwanted horse” population in the United States.

Proponents of this unsubstantiated claim, including the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Quarter Horse Association (all members of the Horse Welfare Coalition, a group founded and led by the slaughterhouses and represented by former US Representative Charlie Stenholm of Texas) have lobbied Congress to block passage of the federal ban. Their premise is that slaughter improves horse welfare—offering a “humane” way to dispose of these animals, a “necessary evil” without which horses would be subjected to neglect, abandonment and abuse.

In truth, no hard data exists to back up claims about a burgeoning population of “unwanted horses.” What is clear is that killer buyers working for the slaughterhouses are outbidding other buyers at auction because they have the financial incentive to do so. The market for slaughter horses is set by the international demand for their meat in other countries, not by the number of supposedly unwanted horses.

Horse sanctuaries and rescue organizations provide care for horses who have suffered from abuse or neglect. Many are able to be adopted to loving homes for the remainder of their lives with veterinary treatment and care.

Thankfully, a truly humane veterinary organization has emerged to counter the bogus claims of these veterinary and industry organizations. Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW) was founded by a group of leading veterinarians to help educate the public about horse slaughter from a veterinary position.

During a trip to meet with legislators in Washington, DC, VEW co-founder Dr. Nicholas Dodman said, “Horse owners currently have two options when their horse has reached the end of his or her trail: They can pay to do the right thing (re-home or euthanasia) or be paid to do the wrong thing (send to slaughter). A few thoughtless folks choose to do the latter, and it should not be an option.”