Gov. Kathy Hochul marked this year’s National Day of the Horse Wednesday by signing a bill banning the slaughter of horses for consumption in New York.
The bill signed by the governor makes it a misdemeanor offense for an individual or corporation to slaughter a horse for human or animal consumption. The ban broadly covers purchasing, selling, importing, exporting, transporting, or giving away an equine to be slaughtered for its meat. Fines for violating the law start at $1,000 per horse for individuals and $2,500 for corporations, rising to $2,000 and $5,000 per horse respectively on additional raps.
“Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S. Congress declared Dec. 13 to be National Day of the Horse,” Hochul said in a statement. “Here in New York, we are marking this occasion by signing new laws to address animal cruelty and the mistreatment of horses in our state.”
The law not only protects horses from slaughter, but also other members of the equine family, like donkeys and mules.
“Today is a great day for New York State and for the horses who deserve better than the fate so many have faced in the past,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the legislation. “I want to thank Gov. Hochul for her support of this critical humane legislation.”
Horse slaughter was de facto banned in the United States in 2007, when Congress approved a budget prohibiting the federal Department of Agriculture from funding inspections for horse meat, causing all horse slaughter facilities to close. The budget provision was stripped from federal law in 2011.
A 2022 survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Lake Research Partners found that 83% of Americans oppose slaughtering horses for their meat, a proportion that has grown over the past decade.
That, however, hasn’t been much protection to America’s horses, who can still be transported to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. Horse meat is sometimes consumed in Canada, and Canadian slaughterhouses also export the meat around the world. The pipeline to transport horses for slaughter into Canada runs right through New York, with truckers using New York’s highways to get to the northern border.
Horses in New York can find themselves endangered at typical livestock auctions, where so-called “killer buyers” purchase them on behalf of slaughterhouses, before transporting them in revolting conditions across the border to their gruesome deaths. Even by slaughter standards, horses endure a grisly death due to their skittish nature, often needing multiple blows to the head to be knocked out. Some horses remain conscious as they are slaughtered.
The animal rights group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) lauded the enactment of the bill, but contends horses still face a rash of other legal abusive practices.
Horse deaths at racetracks are stunningly common, while activists’ calls to ban the horse carriage industry from Central Park have intensified since the dramatic collapse and death of Ryder last year.
“This bill will at least shut down the slaughter pipeline for these magnificent creatures who are often so terribly mistreated by industries that commodify their bodies until their last breath is taken,” said Edita Birnkrant, NYCLASS’s executive director. “NYCLASS rescued a former NYC carriage horse from slaughter in 2010, and this bill will help prevent more horses from the tragedy of ending up in a slaughterhouse after years of exploitation.”