Horse Slaughter threatens property rights of owners

HOUSTON, Texas (November 9, 2006) — Horses obtained through theft, fraud, and at auctions by killer buyers result in horses never intended for slaughter routinely ending up at the nation’s three horse slaughter plants where they are butchered for human consumption overseas. The passage of a federal bill currently pending before Congress banning horse slaughter will protect owners from losing their horses in this grisly fashion.

Texas has the highest incidence of horses reported stolen in the United States. To help prevent horse thefts, the 1997 Texas Legislature empowered the Texas & Southwest Cattle Ranchers Association (TSCRA) to place brand inspectors at Texas horse slaughter plants. Cavel International in Illinois is not required to have any brand inspectors.

Data gathered by Stolen Horse International (, the largest organization that assists owners in the recovery of stolen horses, shows approximately 6 out of 10 horses stolen are killed at slaughter plants.

In a statement by Jody Henderson, director of brand inspection for the TSCRA, she states that “horse traders will travel from all over the United States to buy and sell horses; this scenario [horse slaughter] is a quick way for thieves to remove stolen property from their possession and into the market.”

Even when it is discovered that a horse stolen or obtained through fraud was sent to a slaughtering facility, it is often too late to save them. Incidents of recovering these horses are rare as horses are normally killed within hours of their arrival.

The TSCRA receives $3 for every horse slaughtered in Texas and after nearly a decade in providing brand inspections does not have a single documented case of a stolen horse ever being recovered before slaughter. However, there are many instances of owners identifying their stolen horses after they were killed.

In April 2005, it was reported that 41 of America’s wild mustangs were slaughtered at Cavel International Inc. in DeKalb, Illinois. A further 52 scheduled for slaughter were spared when the Bureau of Land Management intervened. Wild horses and burros are clearly freeze branded.

“It is obvious that brand inspections are not effective,” observes Vivian Farrell, President of the Int’l Fund for Horses based in Houston, Texas. “Statements made that horses are inspected and checked against stolen horse reports by on-site law enforcement officials before they are slaughtered are grossly misleading.”

Theft is not the only threat to horse owners. Horses obtained through fraud are also delivered for slaughter to plants operating in the U.S., or shipped across the border to Canada to horse slaughter plants there. Unscrupulous horse traders place ads fronting as rescue organizations offering to take horses and find an adoptive home for them. The horses are picked up and trailered, not to a rescue facility, but to local auctions and placed in killpens. Others are taken directly to a slaughter facility. Horse slaughter plants pay 15 to 30 cents a pound, depending on the condition of the horse.

Senator Cornyn of Texas, where two of the three horse slaughter plants operate, and who has been openly hostile to a federal bill to ban horse slaughter, asserts that banning horse slaughter interferes with a horse owner’s right to dispose of their private property any way they wish to.

“This bill doesn’t interfere with a property owner’s rights. It protects those who don’t wish their horses to be disposed of in such a way,” states Farrell.

Available records indicate that only a handful of the 2,000 plus horses butchered each week at U.S. horse slaughter plants are “walk ins.” “If horse slaughter plants are providing a service, why are such a minute number of horses taken directly to plants by their owners?” Farrell asks.

Horse slaughter plants rely almost entirely on killer buyers to provide them with young, healthy horses to meet production quotas.

“The existence of horse slaughter is a threat to the property rights of horse owners and should be made illegal,” adds Farrell. “Passage of the bill currently pending before Congress banning the slaughter of our horses will eliminate that threat and protect the private property rights of horse owners,” Farrell concludes.

The bill to ban horse slaughter passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 263-146. It now awaits a similar vote in the Senate. Congress reconvenes November 13.

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