The sale of horse meat is controversial and it is banned in many countries. Many people consider horses as pets, like cats and dogs, and can’t imagine eating them. Here in the USA, slaughterhouses have long been banned from accepting horses, although it has still been legal to transport horses across the American borders for slaughter in Canada or Mexico. We wrote previously about the introduction of a bill in Congress that would prohibit the export of live horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses. The relevant bills (HR 3475/S 2037) have now been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and are making slow progress through various committees.
Let’s hope these bills are passed soon, because horses suffer greatly when they are transported long distances with minimal rest periods. They may lose their balance and fall on these trips and many will be unable to stand up again. They may be trampled on by other animals and it’s not uncommon for horses to die during transport.
In France, a draft bill is also being introduced to finally see horse meat banned and give horses the same rights as companion animals like cats and dogs. A number of French celebrities have signed an open letter urging support of this bill. The vast majority of French people do not eat horse meat and it’s increasingly controversial among the general public, but there are still “boucherie chevalines” (specialized horse butcher shops) operating in France.
Horse meat is also still consumed in European countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and some parts of Italy, as well as on a number of other continents, such as Asia (Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, Japan), as well as Central and South America (Mexico and Argentina). Outside of Europe, Canada is one of the world’s biggest horse meat suppliers, although Canadians eat very little of the meat itself (except for a few areas in Quebec). Unfortunately, the country exports both horse meat and live horses over long distances to Europe and Asia.
Like all animals raised for food, horses farmed for meat generally live in unpleasant and unnatural conditions. They may be raised specifically for meat, or sent to slaughter after being retired from racing or pulling carriages, but either way they end up in large feedlots with thousands of others before being killed. Because they are going for meat, they don’t generally get veterinary care or hoof care. They frequently suffer from injuries and illnesses like hoof conditions and eye infections, and suffer from a lack of shelter in extreme weather conditions.
Let’s hope that legislation continues to make progress to ban the slaughter of these magnificent animals across the globe. Of course we wish that the slaughter of all animals for food was prohibited. Horses may be just the first step.