Landmark Field Investigation of Horse Slaughter Released

(Washington, D.C) – A joint investigation and analysis released February 9, 2023 and conducted by the Center for a Humane Economy, Animal Wellness Action, and Animals’ Angels reveals that the extraterritorial slaughter of American horses is rapidly waning, but it’s still a merciless journey for around 20,000 American horses.

The report is available on request or available online here.

The report shows that horses are opportunistically obtained by “kill buyers,” kept in bare-minimum survival conditions at holding facilities and transported as standing cargo in trucks jam-packed animals. The horses are butchered at slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico. destined for small and shrinking pockets of foreign markets. The number of American horses destined for slaughterhouses has gone from 350,000 in 1990 to 140,000 in 2007 to 20,000 in 2022.

“The good news is that foreign demand has cratered for the North American horse slaughter industry and horse slaughter has been in free fall,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Center for a Humane Economy.

The report finds that the instant a horse is designated a “kill horse,” handling and treatment deteriorate from horses previously treated as companions or working animals. The kill horses have limited value while alive, and inputs in the form of feeding, watering, and care only diminish.

“If the ‘kill horses’ were under the care of a different type of owner, humane officers and police would require, in keeping with state animal cruelty laws, proper veterinary care and sufficient access to food, water and shelter,” said Scott Beckstead, campaigns director for the Center for a Humane Economy and a national instructor on horse cruelty investigations.


The report summarizes independent findings from investigations carried out at auctions, feedlots, and slaughter plants. All locations selected for this report were chosen based on 15 years of investigating the horse slaughter industry.

“The results of the recent investigations confirm what Animals’ Angels has documented again and again over the 15 years: Horse slaughter is a predatory business that allows a select few to profit on our horses while ignoring animal protection laws and jeopardizing public health and safety,” said Sonja Meadows, president and founder of Animals’ Angels.

In October 2016, EU Regulation 2016/1832 was implemented, which includes a provision requiring that all horses from the United States be kept in a Canadian feedlot for six months prior to slaughter, and that a monitoring system be put into place to track residues and substances referred to in Annex I to Directive 96/23/EC.

Combined with greater awareness of food safety problems and animal cruelty concerns, foreign demand has decreased, especially in Europe.

“Our investigation clinches the case for Congressional action to ban the live export of horses for slaughter for human consumption,” said Marty Irby, executive director Animal Wellness Action and an 8-time world champion equestrian. “There are anti-horse slaughter super-majorities in the House and Senate already, and with the findings in this report, those numbers will only swell.”

Killing and butchering horses for human consumption was halted in the United States in 2007 through a series of legislative and judicial actions and has not resumed, but no similar national rules apply in Canada or Mexico.

In broad terms, there is no enforcement structure to ensure compliance with state anti-cruelty laws and federal transport regulations, with the intermediate players in the industry having no rules for themselves and little to no government oversight. Mistreatment of horses throughout the slaughter pipeline is well documented in the report (photos, cases, and reports)

“This is a loose network of kill buyers, transporters, holding facility operators, and foreign slaughterhouses,” said Manda Kalimian of the CANA Foundation, a partner with the Center for a Humane Economy. “This band of modern-day horse robbers has no heart and or soul.”

The field work for the investigation lasted six months and wrapped up in late January.



Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all.

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more humane economic order. The Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both. The Center believes helping animals helps us all.

Animals’ Angels is a non-profit organization that carries out undercover investigations in the United States, Canada and Mexico to document the way animals are treated at auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants. Its focus is on raising awareness about the cruelty animals in commercial operations face every single day and on holding those responsible accountable for their actions.



Marty Irby
Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy

Sonja Meadows, president and founder
Animals’ Angels