In 2006, the Humane Society shutdown the slaughterhouses in the USA by defunding the inspection of slaughter horses. They did not make it illegal to slaughter a horse in the USA. After the closing of the US slaughter facilities, the same number of horses were simply shipped to Canada and Mexico. On average between 100,000 – 150,000 American horses get shipped each year to Mexico, Canada and some even are shipped (live) by cargo to Japan.
Slaughter and the transportation of horses and meat is regulated state-by-state. The twists & turns and political maneuvers of anti-slaughter versus the pro-slaughter activist in each state is confusing. However, it is important to note that the act of slaughtering a horse remains legal in every state in the United States. Yet, the sale and distribution of horsemeat is illegal in many states. By eliminating the revenue opportunity from horsemeat sales (reducing demand) and legislators eliminate slaughter.
For example, Florida is one of the tougher states with strict laws against unlicensed slaughterhouses and prohibit the transportation and sale of horse meat that is not marked clearly as horsemeat. The fine print does not prohibit legal slaughter in Florida, instead the distinction is noted between “licensed and unlicensed.”
Further, it is perfectly legal for an owner to slaughter their horse for their own consumption in New Mexico, yet it is not legal to slaughter any horse for anyone to consume in Illinois. Texas, Oklahoma, California, Illinois and Mississippi skirt the issue by simply banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption. See Illinois example below:
It is illegal to sell horse meat in Texas, Oklahoma, California, Illinois and Mississippi. Yet, Cowley Fine Foods appears to sell their horse jerky to all 50 states in the USA despite these legal restrictions?
Another example is New Jersey, where the state prohibits the transportation of horses to slaughter, yet Bravo Meat Company slaughters horses from their plant in Penn’s Grove NJ. Bravo slaughters horses for zoo meat. In New Jersey, the fine print includes the restrictive wording of “for human consumption” – therefore slaughtering horses for zoo animals is legal.
The fundamental principles of economics apply. One one side we have SUPPLY: too many horses, not enough horse people creates excess inventory of unwanted horses. On the other side we have DEMAND: People want horses for showing, competitions, companions, and slaughter. Tax incentives and lack of governance over breeders creates an excess demand that will remain constant until some paradigm shift in the economic model creates a financial disincentive.
In the USA (founded on capitalism), there are many people who will pursue any opportunity that may lead to financial gains regardless of the inhumane suffering of horses. We need to eliminate the opportunities to eliminate the need for slaughter.