One of the arguments trotted out from time to time by proponents of horse slaughter sounds good and goes like this: Slaughter offered a viable option for keeping the domestic horse population in check; the number of horses in the United States went up when processing plants in Illinois and Texas closed and the number of horses slaughtered went down; the resulting population boom and the economic downturn worked together to increase the number of unwanted and neglected horses.

Problem is that the numbers don’t support the argument.

According to the Government Accounting Office’s reportÑHorse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic SlaughterÑthe number of horses slaughtered in North America actually went up a bit, not down, since the U.S. processing plants closed in 2007. In 2006, the last full year before U.S. plants closed, 137,688 horses were slaughtered for human consumption in North America, the majority (104,899) in this country, the rest in Mexico and Canada. By 2010, the number of U.S. horses slaughtered had increased slightly, to an estimated 137,884 (all of them exported to Mexico and Canada for processing).

Take a wider look at the numbers and you get the same result. From 2004-2006, the last three full years of horse slaughter in the United States, the figure for North America (the U.S., Mexico, and Canada) totaled 346,835 animals. From 2008-2010, the number of horses slaughtered was almost identical, 346,420 (Mexico and Canada).

An overabundance of horses and the ongoing recession are obvious contributors to a slide in prices for horses and an