Animal Welfare Groups to New Mexico Regulators: Horsemeat May Be a Risk to Human Health

The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue filed a legal petition with the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board requesting that it adopt a rule that renders any horse “unqualified” for use as food for human consumption. The petition states that horses are different than traditional food animals because Americans generally do not raise horses as food, and horses are often treated during their lifetimes with drugs that are banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and/or potentially dangerous to humans.

These substances—to which virtually all American horses have been exposed—create the potential for great danger to humans if they are eaten, including cancer, life-threatening autoimmune diseases, and other illnesses. The petition alleges that the only way to protect the food supply and the consuming public is for the Board to declare horse meat to be unqualified, unless the slaughterhouse (or its agent) receiving or buying the horse can unequivocally demonstrate that the horses have not ever received substances prohibited for use in food animals. 

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of animal protection litigation for The HSUS, said: “The killer-buyers who acquire horses for slaughter from random sources typically have no concern or knowledge about the horses’ prior history before shipping them off to inhumane deaths in slaughter facilities. Slaughtering horses in New Mexico would not only put horses through a gruesome and traumatic death, but it would put consumers at risk of consuming tainted meat.”

Hilary Wood, president of Front Range Equine Rescue, said:  “American horses are generally not raised for human consumption, and horse owners give them a variety of medications and products making them unfit for consumption. Horse slaughter does nothing to eliminate the abandonment or abuse of horses; in fact, it allows for increased cruelty as no horse can be humanely slaughtered.” 

The requested action is especially timely because in November 2011, Congress authorized the inspection of horses for slaughter in the United States, something that had been prohibited since 2006. Last month, the Obama administration agreed to process an application for inspecting horse slaughter at Valley Meat Company LLC in Roswell, N.M.

Businesses looking to start American horse slaughterhouses have been actively promoting horse meat, even though in this country the animals are generally not raised as food.


  • More than 100,000 American horses are sent to slaughter each year, mainly for consumption in Europe and Asia.
  • The slaughter pipeline is horribly cruel, with many of the horses suffering immensely during transport and the misguided and often repeated attempts to render them unconscious. USDA documented the abuse and misery horses suffered at slaughterhouses in the U.S. before they closed in 2007.
  • Virtually all the horses used for meat spend most of their lives as work, competition or sport horses, companion animals, or wild horses.
  • Under the current rules and regulations, there is no safeguard in place that can protect against the consumption of unsafe toxins in horse meat.
  • Consumers do not know of the inherent dangers because there is no control over the drug residues.

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