Federal legislation has been proposed to amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be humanely slaughtered (processed) for human consumption, and for other purposes. The intent of the legislation is to enact a ban in the United States on processing horses for human consumption. The legislation does not provide fiscal support that would likely be needed to respond to an ever increasing number of unwanted, neglected, and abused horses. Often times horse neglect and abuse cases originate from a lack of economic resources needed to adequately maintain a horse’s health. While everyone fully supports and is committed to the humane treatment of all horses, there are unintended consequences of banning horse processing.

The purpose of this paper is to identify and review the unintended consequences of a ban in the United States on the processing of horses for human consumption:

1. The potential for a large number of abandoned or unwanted horses is substantial.

2. Public animal rescue facilities are currently saturated with unwanted horses. No funding has been allocated to manage a large increase in horses that will likely become the responsibility of these facilities.

3. Cost of maintaining unwanted horses accumulates over time:

  • A conservative estimate of the total cost of caring for unwanted horses, based upon 2005 statistics, is $220 million;
  • Cumulative annual maintenance costs of otherwise processed horses, since the year 2000, would have exceeded more than $513 million in 2005.

4. The export value of horse meat for human consumption was approximately $26 million. A ban on processing would eliminate these annual revenues.

5. The option of rendering equine carcasses is decreasing. Private-land burial and disposal in landfills have a negative impact on the environment.

6. The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program may be negatively impacted by a ban on horse processing. BLM horses and an increasing number of unwanted horses will be competing for adoption homes.

Horse processing facilities offer a humane end-of-life option for approximately 1% of the United States horse population. Tens of thousands of horses could be neglected or abandoned if a processing ban were imposed.

The direct economic impact and future unintended–and currently unaccounted for–economic impact of banning horse processing for human consumption are substantial. Proponents have not addressed the inevitable costs of such a ban. Horse owners will realize a direct impact from lower horse sale prices. Local and state governments will be adversely impacted by increased costs of regulation and care of unwanted or neglected horses.



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