Horse Slaughter and the SAFE act

Banning horse slaughter in the USA needs a Federal Law like the John Stringer Rainey SAFE Act H.R. 961The business of horse slaughter benefits those catering to such a vile market and lining their pockets with the blood money of horses.  

Editor’s Note / Content Warning: Even though it’s as uncomfortable and upsetting for us to write about as it is for you to read, Horse & Rider Living is committed to keeping a floodlight on the horrible practice of horse slaughter until decisive steps are taken to stop it. This article concludes with actions YOU can take to make that happen, including signing petitions and contacting your legislators, but we can’t avoid that in many cases the content of these articles is as gruesome as the practice itself. So please consider this your official Content Warning, and skip to “What Can I Do?” at the bottom of this page if you want to get right to work.


What is the John Stringer Rainey SAFE Act H.R. 961, and why is it important?  SAFE is the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in February 2019 by USA Rep. Janice “Jan” Schakowsky (D- ILLl),  to end the slaughter of horses in America as well as make it illegal to transport them outside of the USA borders for slaughter.  It was titled in memoriam of John Rainey, a Camden lawyer, as he was a tireless advocate to end the slaughter of horses and an activist in education.

The bill was again reintroduced in June of 2019  by Sens. Bob Menedez (D-NJ), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Susan Collins (R-ME) which is the newest version S. 2006.   

It seems that every new Congress introduces another version of this bill, and yet it proceeds no further even though it has widespread bipartisan support.  Rep Vern Buchanan (R-Fl) introduced much the same bill in 2017, HR 113.

Certainly a bill we would like to see passed, some powers would rather see it fail, claiming it is more humane to send equines “at their end life” to slaughterhouses than to have them wasting away in neglect, unwanted, and perhaps starving. While no one wants to see a horse suffer, the idea that slaughterhouses are humane is a fantasy they are selling and want you to buy. The USDA shut down the plants in 2006 and made it illegal in 2007.  However, neglecting to make transporting them to borders for slaughter illegal left a gruesome loophole. Horses packed into hot metal trailers, traveling for days without food or water with no regard for safety or welfare.

The Animal Welfare Council and various other organizations are working to see the SAFE act fail; they also want to pass legislation to reopen slaughterhouses back in the good ole USA.  

…they fail to address the real problem that keeps those death trailers packed and rolling: the over-breeding of our four-legged friends. The equine factory farming results in horses with no future because they aren’t truly given one.  


While they do make a point that rescues and other organizations dedicated to the horse’s welfare have excessive burden, they fail to address the real problem that keeps those death trailers packed and rolling: the over-breeding of our four-legged friends. The equine factory farming results in horses with no future because they aren’t truly given one.  

The rolling pastures of Florida’s thoroughbred farms may be pleasing to the eye, but can blind you to the reality of a business that can be ugly and far from the idea of “the sport of kings.”  For every 20,000 foals that hit the ground each year, data indicates 10,000 of them will end up at a slaughterhouse. There is nothing royal about that. The “Horse Capital of the World,” a title that Florida owns, means Floridians should take responsibility for that which is a big part of their local economies.  

The truth of the matter is that while there are racehorse owners and trainers out there that love the sport and all that goes with it and treat their horses with respect and care they deserve, for many, it is just another corporate business. We all know the bottom line of any business is, and that is money. Sometimes no matter the real cost.

Even worse is the quarter horse industry.  Data shows that 70% of all horses shipped to slaughter are quarter horses. Again, it is big business.  While data indicates that these horses are the result of being overly bred for sports and show, this versatile breed is popular in many areas of the horse world. But it is also my belief it represents selfishness in people who claim to love horses.  How often have you read horses for sale ads on Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace telling how they have owned a horse for 20 years But, they are looking for a “forever home” for it as they want a newer model. Most likely, those horses thought they already had a forever home.   


The Animal Welfare Council would have you believe that the horses shipped to these meat processing plants have no future, and are at the end of their days.  But according to the US  Department of Agriculture and their guidelines for handling and transporting equines for slaughter, over 92% of horses shipped for slaughter in recent years were in “good” condition.  No surprise there as a well-fed horse is going to bring more money than one which is skin and bones.

They would also have you believe that the method of slaughter, the captive bolt, is humane. It is not.  There have been horses hit as many as 11 times before they collapsed.  Some are still conscious during the actual slaughter – protruding eyeballs, broken bones, all documented.  A horse’s physiology is not the same as cattle. 

The slaughter of horses benefits few and does not support a local economy.  Nor does the opposite happen; the lack of slaughterhouses for horses has not caused a significant increase in rescues. 

There are many articles regarding the slaughter of horses, and it suggests that it doesn’t matter how famous their bloodlines may be or how beautiful or how young.  It doesn’t matter that they served as a child’s companion or raced to the finish line winning big bucks for their owners – when it comes to money, none of it matters. 

The  SAFE Act had a 3% chance of being signed into law, according to Skopos Lab statistics cited on in November of 2019. It tells me that we can applaud those who sponsor these bills, but ultimately, we citizens who bear the responsibility of seeing them to the finish line. 

There are many agencies providing information regarding horse slaughter.  PETA has a video that I believe every horse owner, and those that profess to love horses, should watch. It is horrid, and I will not link to it here – but it brings the reality of what happens every day to those horses who are subject to a loophole that says it is okay to ship them to borders for slaughter.  ASPCA, The Humane Societies, PETA: they are all on board in enlightening those who care enough to check out their sites.  

Especially now, with the pandemic in full motion and personal economies suffering, we need legislation more than ever.  While the business of horse slaughter may not add to your local economy, it will undoubtedly benefit those catering to such a vile market and lining their pockets with the blood money of horses.  

We need a Federal law.  It is up to you to contact your legislators and demand that they pass the bill, and if they don’t support it, vote them out. 

What Can I Do?

Contact your legislators. Visit and encourage them – in writing, by phone, or both – to support the John Stringer Rainey SAFE Act H.R. 961. This is especially important for Floridians, as residents of The Horse Capital Of The World; we need to do our best for our beautiful equine friends when they make up such a significant part of our economy.

Sign the ASPCA’s #NotWhatIOrdered Petition. It takes less than a minute and requires no further commitment! 

SHARE this information! When you’ve done one or both of these action items, tell the world – your friends, family, social media, coworkers. You might inspire another signature, another share, another contact, and it might just be the one that makes the difference!

Barb currently resides in Central Florida with her three horses; when she’s not writing or riding for HRL, she loves to read and travel.