The Humane Society of the United States Releases Report on Human Health Risks from Consumption of American Horse Meat

Horses Not Raised For Food Receive Medications Banned by FDA and the European Union

WASHINGTON (HSUS)—The Humane Society of the United States issued a report detailing the food safety risks associated with consuming meat that originates in American horses.  Horses in the U.S. are primarily used for companionship or competition, therefore they are not treated in the same way as animals raised for human consumption. Horses are commonly given pharmaceuticals that have been banned for use in food-producing animals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office.

“The slaughter of American horses poses a potentially serious health risk to human consumers, yet tens of thousands are still slaughtered for their meat,” said Dr. Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture at The HSUS. “New measures put in place in the European Union to address this risk are vital steps to ensure horses who are regularly given phenylbutazone and other EU-banned substances are kept out of the slaughter pipeline.”

Americans don’t eat horses, but each year more than 100,000 U.S. horses are transported over the border to be slaughtered in Canada and Mexico, and the meat is exported for consumption in the European Union and Japan. Indeed, research shows that horses originating in the U.S. comprise a large percentage of the total slaughterhouse output of Canada and Mexico. The EU has found horsemeat from Mexican slaughterhouses contains harmful residues of several EU prohibited substances. A study of the medical records of race horses sent to slaughter shows that horses with a history of phenylbutazone use are making their way to slaughter plants despite the United States’ and other countries’ ban of the use of the drug in food producing animals. Phenylbutazone, commonly called “bute,” is an anti-inflammatory regularly given to horses, and it is known to be hazardous to humans, even in trace amounts.

In 2010, the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office evaluated food safety standards for imported horsemeat and found that many countries do not keep adequate veterinary pharmaceutical records nor are there systems in place to differentiate those equines raised for human consumption from those that are not.  Therefore, effective July 2013, the EU will require that all horses presented for slaughter at EU-certified plants in countries which export horsemeat to the EU have a veterinary record listing all medications they have been given over their lifetime. This new regulation would render nearly all American horses ineligible for foreign slaughter.

The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have filed legal petitions with both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to block companion, working and show horses from being slaughtered for human consumption, due to the associated health risks. The petition documents more than 110 examples of drugs and other substances which are, or potentially should be, prohibited in food-producing horses, describes the horrible way in which horses die at slaughterhouses, and outlines the environmental devastation that has been associated with slaughter plants.

View the full white paper:

Horse Slaughter Facts

  • Even though horses are not currently slaughtered for human consumption in the U.S., our horses are still being subjected to intense suffering and abuse through transport and slaughter over the border. Undercover footage shows live horses being dragged, whipped, and crammed into trucks in with interior temperatures reaching 110 degrees. Horses are often shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest. Pregnant mares, foals, injured horses, and even blind horses must endure the journey.
  • In November 2011, Congress chose not to renew a prohibition on spending tax dollars to facilitate horse slaughter, which had been in place for five years, potentially opening the door for a return of horse slaughter plants on American soil, despite broad opposition in this country to the practice.  USDA documented a history of abuse and cruelty at the U.S. plants, including employees whipping horses in the face, horses giving birth on the killing floors, and horses arriving with gruesome injuries.
  • It is not only horses who are old, sick and infirm which fall victim to horse slaughter. USDA statistics show that 92 percent of all horses sent to slaughter arrive in “good” condition—meaning they are sound, in good health and could go on to lead productive lives.

  • Horse slaughter actually prevents horse rescue; rescue operators are routinely outbid by killer buyers at auctions.
  • The operation of horse slaughterhouses has a negative environmental impact. All three of the last domestic plants to close were in violation of local environmental laws related to the disposal of blood and other waste materials.

  • Congress is considering the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 1176 introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and H.R. 2966 introduced by Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to prevent horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S. and stop the export of American horses for the purpose of slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

10 comments for “The Humane Society of the United States Releases Report on Human Health Risks from Consumption of American Horse Meat

  1. Christie
    May 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    For the record, FSIS does not have a test that can find phenylbutazone in bovines either. This is part of the National Food Residue Testing Program. In a 2010 OIG Report of FSIS Residue in Bovines, the IG noted that the current test, which was similar to the one once used in horses, does not measure drug residues in the tissue. Drug residue or the drug’s metabolite remains in the tissue for the life of the animal. There is no issue with half life in the urine, although there may be more phenylbutazone in the tissue of the animal that is not thoroughly bled out.

    So there you go. We cannot rely on FSIS to screen beef efficiently or effectively either.

    • skip
      May 6, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Relatively speaking,what you’re saying is there’s an accepted % of foreign matter in everything we consume(whether we like it or not);how much is tolerable is the only real question.On a scientific topic,where does more foreign residue reside,bloodstream,guts or tissue mass?

  2. Gene
    April 30, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Whats up with this http:/

    • admin
      April 30, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Horseback is unaware of the website.

      • skip
        May 2, 2012 at 9:07 am

        As a responsible,dedicated journalist,I’m surprised and disappointed by your reluctance to make http:/ available to your dedicated list of readers;it is an interesting read!

  3. Denise
    April 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    To humans (and I use the term recklessly) like Joe, this about preserving the breed, dump and breed on mentality. Don’t ever tell them to take care of what they got…..let them breed on with no consequence FOR THEM….screw the equines. The equines don’t count.

    Funny, Joe how you respond to HSUS press releases here. I wonder not. Can anyone smell the BERMAN octopus rotting in the light of day?????

    I won’t even begin to rip Joe a new one on the fsis “redbook” poop dated 2005. He/she/it have been corrected repeatedly on this insufficient factoid and yet Joey continues to spew poop.

    And I wouldn’t ask USDA or FDA to watch my dogs for 2 hours, much more guarantee my food safety….bad ju-ju (aka medicine).

  4. Joe
    April 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

    According to extensive testing even after the initial testing at the plants in America. There is NO BUTE IN HORSES that come to the plants. More than likely the horse owners that use bute do not end up in slaughter. If they do it must be that after a certain withdrawl time it does not exist. Here is the link from FSIS.

    • admin
      April 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      Joe, that is plain assinine. This is your last chance.

      The Editor

      • Debbie
        April 29, 2012 at 4:18 am

        Book ’em, Dano :)

    • Bob
      May 2, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Joe, did you say “extensive testing”? Testing 76 horses out of 120,000+ slaughters in 2011, is not extensive in my opinion. There are probably 76 Mustangs at every American slaughter holding facilities in the US. I’m confident our inspectors could be detained long enough, with a fine beefstake dinner, for our Mustangs to be brought to the testing pens. Europeans, and other horse meat consumers, are suckers if they think they are eating healthy flesh.

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