The history of horse slaughter
We know from cave paintings in Europe and throughout the world that hunting horses for slaughter has always existed. Man relied on horse meat to be able to eat as they were an easily available commodity. Sadly through to today this is still the case. The United States has some laws that prevent the slaughter of horses. However, there are loopholes in the law which allow for horses to be sold at auctions for slaughter in other countries.
Mexico and Canada along with many other nations slaughter horses for human food consumption. In the USA it is illegal for humans to eat horse meat, as it is considered dangerous since we are not sure of the horse’s diet.
Throughout history and from the 1600’s onward in various countries some laws were passed to protect horses. However, these laws were not always adhered to by the general public. We will take a closer look at this as it pertains to the USA.
How slaughtering horses is influenced by society
It is mainly societal factors that have seriously had an effect on the selling and eating of horse meat in the USA. Wars, depressions, recessions, the free market, famin and industrialization have all seriously had an effect on the plight of the horse. We will look into this further.
- Wars. Governments need to feed their armies. Although canned beef was available, horsemeat was cheaper. So it was considered in The Spanish American War, and in World Wars l and ll, that it would be a good idea to mix the canned beef with horse meat. This in The Spanish American War became a catastrophe as most of the soldiers died of food poisoning
- Depressions. The price of all the food was very high. Horse meat cost much less and was widely used.
- Recessions. As horse meat was cheap it took the place of most meat.
- The Free Market. Always keeping the price of horse meat low it sold more than other meats.
- Famin. The low price allowed people to be able to eat.
- Industrialization. Allowed for horse meat to be canned and sold worldwide
American society’s attitude regarding horse meat
In the 1700’s eating horse meat was accepted, but not favored. Since beef was so plentiful and available it became the preferred meat. Because living with and having horses as a part of your daily life many found it very hard to accept slaughtering horses for food.They found it uncivilized and inhumane. After all, the horse worked side by side with men, and was the only mode of transportation in the 1800’s.
Another factor is that horse meat was considered “a poor man’s food.” Because of its low price coupled with a desire to not slaughter the horses the general attitude of the society was to defend the horse. This is still today the prevalent attitude in America.
Laws governing horse slaughter in the USA
This is a highly controversial topic because the laws governing horse slaughter are both Federal and States. Laws on this subject began to appear in the 1900’s, and the intention was twofold. First the desire was to protect the horse and the second was to protect the consumer who would eat the horse meat. So many laws were passed and later changed or re-written that it is very hard to know exactly the meaning of the law.
To add to this confusion laws regarding the slaughter of horses change from state to state. However, one Federal law does clearly and unquestionably state that the slaughter of horses is not permitted in the USA. At present these horses are sold at horse auctions and transported outside the USA primarily to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. Once the horse is sold and to be transported abroad the USA Federal law can no longer be applied.
Statistics regarding horse slaughter abroad
The attitudes toward horse slaughter are very different than in the USA. In most other countries horse meat is still popular for humans to eat. It is also an industry valued at millions of dollars a year. There is a large demand for horse meat which most claim is actually tastier than beef, and it is very popular and perfectly acceptable as food in many cultures. We will take a brief look at the three countries that consume the largest quantities of horse meat based on 2018 statistics.
- China. This country consumes the largest amount of horse meat. It is estimated that 200,452 tons of horse meat was consumed in 2018.
- Kazakhstan. 126,520 tons of horse meat was consumed.
- Mexico. 83.922 tons were consumed.
The total amount of horse meat consumed worldwide in 2018 was 642.621 tons.
For Americans this is a very hard fact to believe. Americans love horses, and see them as friends and pets. They are a part of our daily lives. We also respect the horse as for centuries we worked with them side by side on farms, in wars and for transportation. It is especially hard for present generations in America to imagine eating horse meat. For us horses are to be cherished, taken care of and loved. As a society we feel that we have a moral obligation to horses.
It is very hard for us to believe that horses are the preferred food for so much of the rest of the world.
Groups and associations that protect the horse
There are many groups and associations throughout the world that have been formed to protect horses. We will look into several of the most important here.
- Days End Farm Horse Rescue. This group both rescues and rehabilitates 150 horses a year. They are then put up for adoption as pets.
- The American Wild Horse Campaign. This group works together with the American government to prevent the abuse and slaughter of horses.
- EQQES Foundation. Horses that have been abused and abandoned are taken care of by this foundation. It also assists in stopping the slaughter of horses.
- SPANNA. Work horses are sheltered and cared for worldwide. Most have been abandoned, neglected and left to die. This group provides a good life for these horses.
- The Jayson Jockey Club Research Foundation. Donates and creates projects beneficial to horse health. It works with many universities on projects the benefit horses’ lives
These foundations are to be highly commended for their work of giving horses better lives and saving as many from slaughter as possible. Many of these groups also protect donkeys and camels.
We are all thankful and should support the work of these groups because without them even more horses would be slaughtered.