The fight to end live animal export is a common one in places like Australia, where living cows are regularly crowded onto ships to endure long, torturous trips abroad where they will be brutally slaughtered. It isn’t one you always hear about here in the States, even though similar activities take place in our own backyard all the time. Here, though, it’s most often the beloved horse that gets the short end of this stick.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that 130,000 American horses are shipped to Mexico and Canada every year in order to be slaughtered for human consumption. Like Australia’s cows, they “often suffer long journeys to slaughter plants without adequate food, water or rest.” HSUS explains that once at the slaughterhouse, horses are brutally forced into a “kill box” and shot in the head with a captive bolt gun in an attempt to stun them before slaughter. This is a horrific fate to endure.

These horses are sourced in various ways. Some are thoroughbred racehorses who have since stopped winning. Some are just cruelly dumped by their owners for being old. Many, though, are wild horses, or at least they were prior to being rounded up by government officials – usually the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – using low-flying helicopters and lots of taxpayer dollars (though not always legally).

Freedom is ripped away from these wild hearts to make way for commercial developments, or because people have complained that the horses were destroying private property. They’re also victimized because ranchers object to the small fraction of public land that wild horses currently occupy, which industry feels should be reserved solely for grazing cattle. This federal wild horse program costs taxpayers in the area of $80 million dollars per year.

Once captured, these horses are sent to auction houses, where they are subsequently sold to the highest bidding slaughterhouse. A few may be saved by concerned citizens or sanctuaries, and to date, one brave and fortunate soul is known to have escaped on his own accord. Most, however, go on to experience the brutality of live export and slaughter, even pregnant mares.

Recently, a few Federal lawmakers, including Representatives Buchanan, Schakowsky, Royce, and Grisham, introduced legislation to end horse export for slaughter abroad and also prohibit horse slaughter operations from being established here in the States. Dubbed the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 113, HSUS explains that this act would also protect consumers from dangerous American horse meat, which can be toxic to humans due to the unregulated administration of drugs to horses. Horses are also routinely given hundreds of toxic drugs and chemical treatments over their lifetimes, as they are not raised for food like other livestock.

The fact is, the majority of Americans oppose the slaughter and consumption of horse meat, but this is being ignored by legislation.  Lend your support by signing this petition on Care2 and urge all members of Congress to get on board and pass H.R. 113: the SAFE Act – for horses, and for human health.

Image source: dezi/Shutterstock