Nat T. Messer IV, DVM
Associate Professor, Equine Medicine and Surgery
Scope of the Problem:
For the past 15 years approximately 1-2% (75-150,000 horses) of the domestic equine population, on average, in the United States is sent to slaughter each year, with another 10-20,000 horses being exported to Canada each year for slaughter during the same period of time, and, an unknown number of horses being sent to Mexico for that purpose as well ( 6,500 in 2005). In 1997, slightly more than 1% of the domestic equine population was sent to slaughter (approx. 72,000 horses). In comparison, according to the 1998 NAHMS Report, 1.3% of horses age 6 months to 20 years (approx 80,500 horses) on all premises surveyed either died or were euthanized in 1997, while 11.1% of horses greater than 20 years of age (approx. 55,000 horses) on all premises surveyed either died or were euthanatized in 1997. Assuming these numbers are at least somewhat representative of what occurs annually, then nearly 100 horses either die or are euthanatized for every 50 horses that go to slaughter and almost 200,000 equine carcasses must be disposed of annually, one-third of which are being processed for human consumption, with the remainder being cremated, buried, “digested”, disposed of in landfills, or rendered.