Images and Description

Warning: Graphic Content

NOTE:  Scroll past thumbnail images for description and links to undercover investigations and videos.

L to R: Captive Bolt, Bleeding Out, Dismembering, Kill Chute, US Slaughterhouse © Humane Farming Association

Slaughterhouse Images from Croatia

Rendering Horses Unconscious for Slaughter
  • United States

The penetrating captive bolt is the most commonly used "stunning method" for horse slaughter in the U.S.

The penetrating captive bolt uses a pointed bolt which is propelled by pressurized air or a blank cartridge. The bolt itself is a heavy rod made of non-rusting alloys, such as stainless steel.

The bolt penetrates the skull, enters the cranium, and catastrophically damages the cerebrum and part of the cerebellum.

Due to concussion, destruction of vital centers of the brain, and an increase of intra-cranial pressure, the horses loses consciousness.

This method  physically destroys brain matter (increasing probability of a successful stun), while also leaving the brain stem intact, thus ensuring the heart continues to beat, facilitating a successful bleed out.

The captive bolt was designed for cattle and other food animals and not intended for horses.

Production lines must continue to move in order to meet quotas, workers regularly do not have time to strike the horses accurately enough to stun them.

Terrified horses have longer necks than cattle, and throw their heads around wildly, trying to avoid being struck by the captive bolt, causing workers to make hurried and repeated blows.

Severed heads recovered from slaughter plants butchering horses have shown as many as 8 to 10 blows in areas of the head, neck and even the shoulder, from the captive bolt.

Studies have shown that properly stunned horses often regain consciousness within minutes, able to feel pain and terror but little or not motor skills to respond physically.

Horses have not been slaughtered on U.S. soil since 2007. The remaining horse slaughter plants -- two in Texas and one in Illinois -- were shut down according to State law.

However, the same number of American horses are exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter for human consumption since those closures.

  • Canada

Gunshot is the most common method to render slaughter horses unconscious in plants where horses are killed for their meat.

Undercover footage taken at two abattoirs in 2010 exposed numerous instances of horses who were not rendered unconscious, even though some were shot several times.  Many showed signs of returning to consciousness during the butchering process.

Workers were caught standing at inappropriate angles, making inaccurate shots, some failing to strike their targets to the degree that the terrified horses were able to scramble to their feet to try to escape.

This occurred without mandatory supervision of slaughterhouse inspectors.

  • Mexico

Neither the captive bolt or gunship is always used in Mexico.

A 2007 investigation by The San Antonio News-Express revealed that slaughterhouses in Mexico use a "puntilla" knife to severe the spines of horses prior to slaughter.

Footage obtained by the paper shows horses being stabbed repeatedly in the neck with these knives.

This barbaric practice simply paralyzes the animal. The horse is still fully conscious during the slaughter process until he is bled out.

There are a number of plants slaughtering horses in Mexico, only two of which are EU regulated.

The horse meat is processed, frozen and pressure sealed before it is sent to Canada for inspection and export.

  • Other Countries

The prevailing method in the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, Japan and Latin America to render horses unconscious prior to slaughter is the gunshot, although the captive bolt has gained some popularity as it speeds up production.

Kill Chute

Once horses have been rendered unconscious (if done properly), they are dropped or lowered onto the kill floor through a kill chute.

Stunned horses can regain consciousness, and go through the bleeding out process fully aware and experiencing excruciating pain. 

Kill Floor

Horses arriving on the kill floor from the kill chute, they are hoisted by a chain attached to a hind leg, their throats slit and bled out. 


Once a horse is bled out, his hooves are sawed off or removed with cutters, decapitated, skinned, dismembered, and butchered. 

Fear, Cruelty and Terror are Inherent to Horse Slaughter

As you can see, the argument that slaughtering horses is done "better" or more humanely in some countries than others has no foundation.

The slaughter process shown and described here is the final act of betrayal of innocent horses by irresponsible owners and this cruel and predatory industry.

 The "horse slaughter pipeline" begins at auction and continues during transport.  All have their own horrors.

Horse slaughter is a brutal and terrifying end to a horse's life everywhere it occurs.

Horse slaughter is not humane, and clearly not euthanasia, as the pro-horse slaughter faction continues to claim.

Yes, there are alternatives.  Find out what they are on our Resources page.

Animals' Angels Investigations
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition Investigations