California's Proposition 6, passed in 1998, criminalizes the slaughter of horses and the sale of horsemeat for human consumption within the state. It also prohibits the transport of horses out of California and to another state or country for slaughter and human consumption.
Despite this law, a CBS undercover investigation revealed that horse auctions in the state are going unmonitored, and that some of the equines on the auction block could wind up in the slaughter pipeline to become food in Asia and Europe.
CBS' San Francisco network, KPIX, went undercover at a Northern California horse auction to try and find out what is happening to these horses. What they discovered was shocking: Horses, including former thoroughbred racehorses, were being auctioned off for as little as $50. A local horse rescuer claims these auctions are populated by "killer buyers," individuals who snatch up horses on the cheap to be sold for slaughter.
“If they are lucky, they make it to an actual person that wants to help them and retrain them, but most times they go straight on to slaughter,” Tawney Preisner, of the Horse Plus Humane Society, told KPIX. The network found that, although the California Department of Agriculture requires auction houses to keep records, most documentation falls through the cracks. “It’s just swept under the rug, and no one cares," Preisner added. "We are a civil country. We don’t just butcher our pets, but we are doing it to our horses."
Shortly after KPIX aired its investigation, the Horse Plus Humane Society published a blog post on the troubling horse auctions and slaughter practices.
Most of the racing industry, owners, trainers and breeders don’t seem to care where their horses go once they are done with them. They just want their unprofitable horses to disappear and the easiest and most profitable way to make that problem disappear is to have the horse head into the slaughter pipeline, to disappear forever. We will continue to fight to bring awareness to this horrible little secret and save those precious lives that we can.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there are currently no U.S. slaughterhouses where horses are processed for human consumption, though these animals are shipped from some states to other countries to be killed for food.
In 2011, Congress lifted a federal ban on funding horsemeat inspections, as part of an agriculture spending bill signed by President Obama. According to ABC News, Congress attributed its decision to a Government Accountability Office report that claimed the ban led to abandoned horses, foreign export and depressed prices. No funding was allocated to the inspections. Animal rights activists told the Associated Press that the lifting of the ban could prompt the opening of new horsemeat slaughterhouses in states that have not specifically banned the practice.
The Humane Society of the U.S. highlights the abuse some horses endure during transport to slaughter: Horses are sometimes dragged, whipped and shipped without food or water in cargo vehicles that can hit 110 degrees. At some foreign slaughterhouses, horses are not euthanized, but rather stabbed in the neck, bled out and dismembered.
News of the oversights at California horse auctions comes on the heels of a horsemeat scandal in Europe, where horsemeat has been found in meat labeled 100% beef and has been sold for kebabs and burgers, the Associated Press reported. Some of the meat could also be contaminated with the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or "bute," which can cause the blood disorder aplastic anaemia in humans, according to CNN.
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