Why Are Horses Sent to Slaughter?

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Why are horses sent to slaughter? What are the reasons horses are slaughtered? Why do they kill horses in the United States? How to prevent horse slaughter and foal slaughter. How long do horses usually live? Learn the sad realities about what happen

There are many reasons why horses are sent to slaughter. Each area will have its own statistics, as such the order that the reasons are listed here is not specific, and will vary from area to area.

Note: In many cases the horses that go to slaughter are sold directly to the slaughter yard, in other cases they are sold at auctions where the meat buyers attend and buy the lower priced animals

The PMU Industry

The PMU industry uses pregnant mares to produce urine, which is collected to gather estrogen. The foals are a wasted by-product. Many are sold at auctions of which the “meat buyers” may attend and purchase the less expensive ones. Other PMU farms sell directly to the slaughter houses. Mares who fail to conceive are shipped for slaughter.

The Racehorse Industry

Only a few racehorses make money. Many are financial burdens to their owner.

A few, who are not crippled, are sold to hunter/jumper buyers and warmblood breeders. If they are still sound enough to race, many geldings are sold to be used in National Hunt Races (formerly know as Steeple chases) or for Chuckwagon races.

The racehorse industry still sees more horses produced than are needed, even sound horses are often discarded if they are not of breeding quality, if they cannot be sold for the purposes mentioned above, they are sold for slaughter rather than kept as “pets” by owners who are in it for profit and fame.

All in all - many former racehorses are sent directly to the slaughter yards, particularly if they are no longer sound or are a financial drain on their owner.

Poorly Bred – Unwanted – Low Value

Sadly there are many horse owners who breed their horses just because they can, having done nothing to ensure that they are breeding to produce a quality foal. These people also do nothing to ensure there is a market for their foals. This creates a glut of below average horses and anytime you have more animals than there are homes for, the surplus will be sent to slaughter. In most places this is probably the leading cause of horse slaughter.


When horses are lame to the point where they will not be sound enough for riding they are often sent to slaughter. This could be a broken down racehorse or a foundered pony. Note: Most slaughter plants will not accept horses with broken legs – these are typically shot or euthanized before rather than being sent to slaughter.


Horses can live into their 20's, but are seldom usable after 25. As they still require feed, and often need more feed due to teeth problems, some owners find it easier to send them to slaughter.

In contrast foals are often sent to slaughter because when auctioned off people know a foal still needs to be fed for several years before it can be ridden, as such few buyers, other than meat buyers, invest in average quality foals when they are at auction.

Wild Horses

In many areas the “wild” horse population is a problem. They are often seen as competition by ranchers with cattle on grazing land.


Horse are a luxury pet. They require a lot of care, veterinarian expenses, farrier (hoof) care, feed, and stabling. All these add up. Many horse owners find they cannot care for the horses financially and sell them at auction – as such many perfectly good horses may end up being purchase by the meat buyers who attend these auctions.

Illegal Profit

In a few cases horses are stolen and sold to slaughter houses simply for a quick buck. Brand inspectors would check identified animals, but it can be hard to verify ownership on non-identified animals.

Bred for It

Although it is not something people often consider, but some horses are bred with the intention that they be sent to slaughter. In many cases these horses are bred just like cattle, in some countries, such as Japan, they are treated even better than cattle and receive daily care prior to being slaughtered for consumption by humans.

*Why are Horses Slaughtered?

In many countries horse meat is considered a delicacy, as well horse meat is often used in pet foods (and may be listed as meatmeal), and is also used to feed carnivorous animals in zoos. The United States has banned horse slaughter for the purpose of human consumption (and closed down slaughter houses that were exclusively slaughtering horses for human consumption) however horses are still slaughtered in that country – or are sent to slaughter yards in Canada, or Mexico.


If you are concerned about horse slaughter and want to stop it the best way is by not supporting industries that contribute to the problem – petitioning against slaughter houses is not the solution, as they are simply dealing with the problem.

People should stop using drugs, such as Premarin, that come from pregnant mares, they should stop attending horse racing, and should not breed their own horses unless they have proven their horse is worth breeding and have buyers interested in the resulting foal.

People also need to consider when buying a horse, are they willing to give it a lifetime home? All financial considerations must be made here.

People could also attend the low quality horse auctions and buy horses that the meat buyers are interested in, starting a horse rescue of sorts.

1 comment

Jan Reid
Posted on Apr 29, 2011