Each year an estimated 90,000 horses are slaughtered in the United States and processed for human consumption. In addition, many thousands of live horses are transported across the border to Canada for slaughter. After these horses are killed, their flesh is shipped to Europe and Asia for human consumption. Their owners are often totally unaware of the pain, fear, and suffering their horses endure before being slaughtered
Most horses destined for slaughter are sold at livestock auctions or sales. The cruelty of horse slaughter is not limited to the act of killing the animals. Horses bound for slaughter are shipped, frequently for long distances, in a manner that fails to accommodate their unique temperaments. They are usually not rested, fed, or watered during travel. Economics, not humane considerations, dictate the conditions, including crowding as many horses into trucks as possible.
Often, terrified horses and ponies are crammed together and transported to slaughter in double-deck trucks designed for cattle and pigs. The truck ceilings are so low that the horses are not able to hold their heads in a normal, balanced position. Inappropriate floor surfaces lead to slips and falls, and sometimes even trampling. Some horses arrive at the slaughterhouse seriously injured or dead. Although transportation accidents have largely escaped public scrutiny, several tragic incidents involving collapsed upper floors and overturned double-deckers have caused human fatalities, as well as suffering and death for the horses.
Under federal law, horses are required to be rendered unconscious prior to slaughter, usually with a device called a captive bolt gun, which shoots a metal rod into the horse's brain. Some horses, however, are improperly stunned and are conscious when they are hoisted by a rear leg to have their throats cut. In addition, conditions in the slaughterhouse are stressful and frightening for horses.