Horse Abattoir

A Horse abattoir is the process of horse slaughter for meat. Horses that enter abattoirs are used for human consumption while horses unfit for consumption by humans enter rendering plants or knackeries. Similar to the abattoir of cattle, the horse abattoir incorporates a combination of machinery and human workers to herd, stun, slaughter, and butcher the meat for sale throughout the world. Horse meat is praised for its low fat and cholesterol and high iron content.

How is Horse Meat Used?

Horse meat is not commonly used in the United States and the United Kingdom, as horses are widely accepted as companion animals. Therefore, the horse abattoirs in these countries had widely been used to export to other European or Asian countries. The United States bans horse slaughter for human consumption, however, rendering horse meat for pet food is still considered allowable. In the year 2007, a ban on horse abattoirs was passed in the US. In the UK, horses are commonly slaughtered for export to other European nations including France, Belgium, and Italy, where horse meat is accepted.

How Do They Work?

Horse abattoirs are run similarly to cattle slaughterhouses. Horses that enter the abattoir are stunned before they are slaughtered. Using a captive bolt stunner, workers provide a high-voltage jolt to the back of the head, rendering the horse incapacitated. However, in the UK, abattoirs have adopted a different method, using a bell gun and a free bullet to administer the bolt. This is because a horses skull is so thick that often the captive bolt gun often-times cannot penetrate the skull and the danger of a ricocheting bolt to the administer is risked. Horses are very unpredictable and skittish and also have very long necks, which make the stunning process difficult and in some cases, multiple stuns are administered or the horse is strung up to be killed without being stunned. Horses, then are killed, or "bled out," by the severing of the carotid artery or jugular vein. This is the same process in which cattle, pork, and sheep are slaughtered, as well. To complete the bleeding out process, the horse is suspended by a rear leg by a chain so that the blood can flow out the vein and onto the abattoir floor. This process is identical to the cattle slaughter process and, save for the added two feet in height, the equipment is quite similar. The reason for the height difference is that many different types of horses enter abattoirs and this accounts for any size animal that comes through the plant, unlike cattle, which are roughly the same size when sent to slaughterhouses.


Although seldom used in the United States and United Kingdom, horse meat is a perfectly acceptable meat in many European countries. Horse abattoirs process the meat and follow guidelines to ensure the meat is properly and safely handled before it makes its way to the market.