Animal Welfare Groups Applaud Federal Legislation to Ban Horse Slaughter

Photo from Flickr by Ben Hamilton
Photo from Flickr by Ben Hamilton

The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would permanently ban horse slaughter in the US and end the export of horses for slaughter abroad

Washington, DC—Federal lawmakers introduced legislation today to permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the US and end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad. Introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL.) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 961) is supported by leading animal welfare groups, including the Animal Welfare Institute, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation.

In recent years, the number of American horses shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for human consumption in foreign countries has dropped, making this an opportune time for Congress to close this legal loophole that causes so much suffering. These horses are not raised for food but are separated from the general population at auctions, usually after a kill buyer outbids legitimate horse owners. Such horses often endure grueling journeys to slaughter plants, packed into large trailers in unfamiliar herds. Due to these stressful conditions, they will bite and kick, injuring or even trampling each other en route. Once at the slaughterhouse, horses are herded into a “kill box” and shot in the head with a captive bolt gun in an attempt to stun them before slaughter—a process that can be imprecise due to the biology and fight or flight nature of equines. As a result, some horses endure repeated blows or remain conscious during the kill process.

“Horses sent to slaughter are often subject to appalling, brutal treatment,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “I am proud to once again join a bipartisan group of colleagues in reintroducing the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which will ensure that these majestic animals are treated with the respect they deserve.”

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that must end,” said Rep. Buchanan.

“Congresswoman Schakowsky and Congressman Buchanan are both tremendous champions for animal welfare,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “Americans across the political spectrum want to see these noble animals protected from needless, gruesome and inhumane deaths. The SAFE Act would put a stop to the predatory and unsafe horse slaughter industry that butchers these animals for food.”

The SAFE Act would also protect consumers from dangerous American horse meat, which can be toxic to humans due to the unregulated administration of drugs to horses. Horses are not raised for food, and they are routinely given hundreds of drugs and chemical treatments over their lifetimes that are potentially toxic to humans if consumed. The US Food and Drug Administration prohibits many of these drugs for use in animals intended for human consumption. Even products applied regularly, such as fly spray and de-wormers, contain toxic ingredients.

Sara Amundson, Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) president, said: “It is time to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption which will take horses off of dinner plates in foreign countries. Horses are iconic species in the lexicon of American history and treated as companion animals here. We commend Representatives Schakowsky and Buchanan for their leadership in introducing the SAFE Act, which not only protects horses from the inhumane practices of slaughter, but also protects unsuspecting consumers from horse meat tainted with dangerous drugs that are not fit for human consumption.”

“The ASPCA and our partners are heartened to see a massive increase in innovative programs to prevent at-risk horses from falling prey to the slaughter industry,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “But without the law as a backstop, horses will continue to suffer this fate regardless of how many we help. The vast majority of Americans oppose the brutal practice of horse slaughter, and we are grateful to Representatives Schakowsky and Buchanan for their steadfast commitment to ending this greed-driven cruelty to our horses.”

"That more than 100,000 American horses—including an unknown number who once roamed freely on our public lands—are shipped to their deaths in foreign slaughterhouses each year is an unnecessary betrayal of the animals that helped us build our country and continue to serve humanity,” said Neda DeMayo, president of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation. “RTF applauds Representatives Schakowsky and Buchanan for recognizing the public’s overwhelming opposition to horse slaughter and continuing this bipartisan fight for the good of America’s horses and for human health.”

The ASPCA, AWI, The HSUS, HSLF, and RTF encourage the public to contact their US representatives and urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act and do all they can to secure its swift passage in order to protect America’s horses and overall consumer health from horse slaughter.

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]

About AWI
The Animal Welfare Institute ( is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is the first animal welfare organization in North America and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animals. More than two million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. For more information, please visit, and be sure to follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About The HSUS
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated most effective by our peers. For 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our 60 years of transformational change for animals and people, and visit us online at

About HSLF
The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office.

About RTF
Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation (RTF) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, advocacy, education and conservation. It operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, Calif. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates about wild horses and burros on the range and at our sanctuary.