ORLANDO, Fla. – After horses in three Florida counties were slaughtered law enforcement officers are investigating a potential black market for horse meat, reports CBS affiliate WTSP, and animal rights groups warn horses in the U.S. are not safe to eat because they are not raised to be food.
Most recently, Tamara Weaver, of Sumterville, said her 10-year-old horse, Jayda, was found dead Wednesday across the street from where she was boarded. Weaver said the fence had been cut and evidence at the scene suggested that whoever was responsible was seeking the horse’s meat.
In November, News 6 spoke with a family in Marion County after their horse was found dead. The family believes their horse was also slaughtered for its meat.
A third horse death was reported Dec. 1 in Manatee County.
It’s unconfirmed at this point if the horse deaths are related, however, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office put out a warning to equestrian owners this week.
“We are currently investigating an animal cruelty case that involved a horse being stolen and harvested for meat, from the Sumterville area,” the post said. “Although this is the only incident in Sumter County, through the investigation we have learned it is on the rise throughout the state.”
‘Horses are NOT food,’ SPCA warns
While some countries raise horses as food that is not the case in the U.S., according to the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“(Horses) are routinely administered numerous drugs, including phenylbutazone (bute, aka horse aspirin),” the SPCA said. “The claim that the levels are too low to be dangerous have no basis in fact. Furthermore, bute is a known carcinogen with serious, long-term health effects. These drugs are so toxic to humans that the FDA bans their use for food animals.”
According to the U.S. Humane Society, “there is no system in the U.S. to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption.”
The SPCA says slaughtering a horse is cruel because methods typically used to stun cows or pigs were not designed to be used on horses and are often ineffective.
The U.S. has a long-complicated history with horse meat consumption, according to a 2017 report in The Atlantic published after President Donald Trump proposed lifting restrictions on the sale of American mustangs to international horse meat dealers.
In 2006, the U.S. House passed the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. While that didn’t make horse slaughtering illegal it did ban the U.S. Department of Agriculture from spending money on horse meat inspections, ending the U.S. industry because meat plants require USDA inspections.
The temporary ban was set to expire last year but the House Animal Protection Caucus convinced congressional leaders to add it to the $1.3 trillion spending bill, reports USA Today.
The last U.S. horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007, however, more than 100,000 horses continue to be shipped to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses each year, according to the Humane Society.
Groups including the Humane Society are advocating for legislation that would ban both horse slaughter and the export of horses for slaughter altogether.