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A Timeline of Horse Slaughter Legislation in the United States

The complicated legal issue of horse slaughter for human consumption has been debated in U.S. courts and Congress for years.

By Leslie Potter | March 2012 Extra

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The horse slaughter argument has heated up in recent months since the 2012 appropriations bill was approved without a ban for horse meat inspections. But this isn't the first time the horse slaughter debate has been a hot topic. The timeline below lists some of the key dates in the United States horse slaughter industry.

Updated January 2014

Nov. 3, 1998:
California voters passed Proposition 6 which banned the slaughter of horses, donkeys and mules and sale of horse meat for human consumption.

June 8, 2005: Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) proposes an amendment to the 2005-2006 appropriations bill that prohibits the use of federal funding for inspections of horses for meat. The amendment passed on a vote of 269-158.:

Sept. 20, 2005:
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), a veterinarian, and nine co-sponsors proposed a companion amendment to the Sweeney amendment that had passed the House of Representatives. The Senate amendment passed 69-28.

Nov. 10, 2005:
The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005-2006 was signed into law. This appropriation bill included the following paragraph that ultimately led to the closure of horse slaughterhouses in the United States.

H. R. 2744—45
SEC. 794. Effective 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, none of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to inspect horses under section 3 of the Federal Meat inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603) or under the guidelines issued under section 903 the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 1901 note; Public Law 104–127). (full text)

Feb. 8, 2006:
The USDA issued a regulation (CFR 352.19) that allowed the remaining slaughterhouses to circumvent the horse inspection funding ban by paying for their own inspections.

Sept. 7, 2006:
The House of Representatives passes the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would ban the sale and transport of American horses for human consumption. The Senate bill died in committee.

Jan. 7, 2007:
Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduced the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503). The bill was referred to the House Agriculture Committee and never moved to a full vote.

Jan 17, 2007:
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced S. 311, the senate version of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. It never reached a full vote of the Senate.

January 19, 2007:
The a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit upheld Chapter 149 of the Texas Agriculture Code banning the sale, transfer or possession of horse meat for human consumption. This decision was upheld by the 19 judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 6, 2007. The statute had been in effect since 1949 but had not been enforced during the years that the Texas slaughterhouses were operational. This decision was upheld by the 19 judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 6, 2007.

March 23, 2007:
The Dallas Crown slaughterhouse of Kaufman, Texas shut down operations. The mayor and residents of Kaufman had fought a long and expensive battle in an effort to shutter the plant, which had a long list of environmental complaints and was considered a public nuisance.

March 28, 2007:
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that it was illegal for horse slaughterhouses to pay the USDA for their own horse meat inspections, closing the loophole that had allowed horse slaughter to continue around the federal law. USDA inspectors were pulled from Cavel International, the equine slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Ill. the following day, and operations were shut down.

However, Cavel appealed the decision and argued for an injunction in July 2007, and were able to resume slaughter while the case was still under consideration.

May 24, 2007:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed H.B. 1711 into law, banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state. The bill had been sponsored by Rep Robert Molaro (D-Chicago) and Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) in February 2007. The bill was appealed by the operators of Belgian-owned Cavel International slaughterhouse in DeKalb, Ill.

Sept. 21, 2007:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Illinois horse slaughter ban was constitutional, putting the final nail in the coffin of the last operational horse slaughterhouse in the U.S.

July 9, 2011:
Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and cosponsor Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reintroduced the American Horse Slaughter Protection Act (S. 1176).

Sept. 9, 2011:
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a version of the agriculture appropriations bill that no longer contained the ban on funding for horse meat inspections.

Nov. 17, 2011:
The agriculture appropriations bill for 2012 was passed by Congress and signed into law without the wording that had prohibited horse meat inspections since 2006.

March 2013:
The Safeguard American Food Exports Act was introduced in both the House and Senate. If passed into law, the Act would declare horsemeat unsafe and ban the sale of horses to slaughter and of horsemeat for human consumption.

April 2013:
The White House released a budget proposal for 2014 that would once again prohibit federal funding of horse meat inspections.

January 2014:
A new federal budget with the horse slaughter prohibition language included was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

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Reader Comments

Lisa    Rancho Cordova, CA

10/23/2014 11:14:13 AM

The removal of the horse's should be prohibited. Why are cattle allowed to graze on the land, but not the horse's.? Horse slaughter anywhere should be illegal, if the horse's must be removed they should be relocated to a national park where they are protected or made available for adoption thru any one of many agencies.

Debbie    mayfield, KY

4/16/2014 1:00:56 PM

Just so everyone is CLEAR,, The U.S. cannot slaughter horses but we allow our horses to be shipped to Canada & Mexico to be slaughtered,,, so to say the U.S is stopped horse slaughter is really NOT TRUE...

The Safe Guard American Food Export Act 2013 H.R.1094/S,541 IF PASSED would STOP ALL HORSE SLAUGHTER once and for all...

Please push your Rep's to Co-Sponsor if they have not...

Our horses are not Breed for human consumption, and we all know the drugs our horses ingest that are NOT for Human Consumption...

Time for BREEDERS, ALL HORSSES OWNERS to take responsibility, to take ownership...

Throwing horses to these Auctions then snapped up by kill buyers for slaughter is NOT EXCEPTABLE any longer...

ARE WE not suppose to be a Guardian for our animal's


judy    west plains, MO

2/18/2014 10:41:13 AM

Carol of new york should put her money where her mouth is and volunteer to care for the horses that others are not able to care for any more. But, of course she will not, because she is just all mouth and no brains!

Karin Hauenstein    International

12/10/2013 6:18:57 PM

Horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia!

With the captive-bolt, which was developed for use on cattle, stunning is ineffective over 40% of the time when applied to domestic, trained horses (the ones full of prohibited drugs and medications.) This is due to the fact that horses' heads cannot be restrained as cattle are and accuracy is very difficult. Horses will routinely break their own necks if restrained. The captive-bolt is ineffective at stunning wild, untrained or under-trained horses nearly 100% of the time. Everyone who knows horses and has any experience at all with wild horses knows that it is near impossible to get anywhere near their poll which is a very vulnerable area to every horse. To get near a wild horse's poll with a captive-bolt apparatus and have an accurate shot is technically, practically and virtually impossible. This is the reason why we find so much carcass evidence documentation of severe abuse to slaughtered horses. The captive-bolt process itself is so ineffective that many horses are shot multiple times or vivisected while conscious. This is a definite violation of the Humane Slaughter Act which mandates slaughtered animals to be rendered "senseless with one (1) shot."

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