You’ve probably heard that horses are killed in order to be made into glue. Sounds really cruel, but what are the facts?
Let’s take a closer look at when and how horses are made into glue.
Are Horses Killed To Make Glue?
Horses are in fact killed in order to make glue. Horses contain high levels of collagen which is a key ingredient in most animal-based glue. It is made into gelatin that is sticky when it is wet and hard when it has dried up.
Why Are Horses Used For Glue? (Facts & Myths)
Historically, horses have been sent to the glued fabric when they die. This is because the horses contain collagen which is turned into gelatin.
There are some really good benefits from this type of glue compared to artificially made glue (which we will come back to).
Here are some of the main advantages of glue made from animals:
- The surfaces can be separated again with clean surfaces
- You can apply a new layer of glue on top of an old layer
- You can correct an irregular fit by heating up the glue
- It produces a tight joint that does not bend over time
As you can see, there are some really good advantages that make animal glue better in some aspects compared to glue made from alternative sources.
When you’re working with glue that isn’t made from animals you will typically not have these advantages.
You have probably tried to glue two surfaces together just to experience how hard it is to put them together again once they have torn apart. This is because other types of glue do not work the same way. When the glue is hardened and you cannot separate the two parts without tearing the glue.
Do we actively kill horses to make glue?
Some factories might kill a perfectly good horse in order to turn it into the glue.
But mostly we only use dead animals and sick animals to make glue. So you don’t need to worry that your horse will suddenly be caught and turned into glue. It typically doesn’t work this way.
It’s actually a fine way to utilize all the fine materials inside a dead animal after it’s no longer alive. This way the animal is being put to great use after it can no longer live a good life.
This is also why the old saying goes: “The horse has been taken to the glued fabric”. This was a way to say that the animal had died. This wasn’t something people gave a lot of thought back in the days. All the different parts of the animals were being used for different purposes.
We would eat the meat and try to think of other ways to utilize the bones, teeth, hoves, etc. and glue was one brilliant way to use these materials.
Which animals are used to produce glue?
The most common animals used for glue production are:
You can even feel this on your fingers when you are eating the chicken or another animal. Sometimes your fingers will stick together and this sticky substance is partly the collagen that is being used in the animal glue.
We mostly use the hooves from horses and cattle for finer glue but there is also a lot of glue being produced from fish and rabbits. Fish glue has been used for more than 10 years and it is used for glass, ceramics, wood, paper leather, and metals.
This is because the animal’s skin and bones contain collagen. The Greek word for “collagen” is “κόλλα” which actually means “glue”. These are proteins that can bond with several materials in order to bind them together.
Are Horses Still Being Made Into Glue?
Today we mostly don’t use as many animals for making glue. There are still several factories around the world where animals are being used to produce glue.
In fact, several factories in Canada are using dead animals to produce sticky substances in the glue.
This is because the glue made from animals does have certain qualities that are hard to reproduce artificially. These are the advantages we mentioned above.
So, what is the horse glue used for today?
- Antiques that needs to be put back together
- Glass art
- Assembling pipe organs
As you can see, these are pretty specific areas of work. The vast majority of glue being used today is produced artificially. So we do not kill animals in large quantities in order to make glue.
It’s typically the hoof glue that is used for wooden surfaces. This type of glue is made from hoofs of horses and cattle. It has some very special properties. You can glue two pieces of wood together without leaving any visible marks. This is especially great for art projects and finer woodwork like cabinetry and furniture.
The horse glue is typically being produced in France and other countries in Europe. But there are also several factories in Canada.
But for many years man didn’t know any other way of making glue. So if we wanted to glue together two pieces of material we would have to use the collagen from dead animals.
What else are dead horses used for?
Well, it’s actually illegal to eat horse meat in the United States. So oftentimes the dead horses are sold to foreign countries to be eaten.
But more often the dead horses are being delivered to a zoo in order to feed animals. The predators in the zoo need fresh meat and this is a great way to get that meat.
Gelatin from animals (e.g. the hooves of horses) is also being used in Jell-O and gummy bears. That’s why they are so soft and sticky. The gummy bears are made from bones and muscles from dead animals. So there something to think about the next time you put a gummy bear in your mouth. Yummy!
Alternative Ways To Make Glue (without using horses)
As we mentioned above, we don’t use animals to produce glue to the same extent as earlier. We have found much more effective ways of producing glue artificially.
Today the factories will typically produce glue called “polyvinyl acetate” (also known as PVA). It’s a very strong and durable type of glue that can be used on multiple surfaces.
This type of glue is cheaper to produce and also easier to work with. You can store it at several different temperatures and it will not harden until it leaves the bottle. This was a problem with the animal glue. It would harden at specific temperatures which was a good thing when you wanted to separate the two pieces. But it was not ideal when you wanted the two pieces to stay together.
Is Elmer’s glue made from horses?
Elmer’s glue is not made from horses today. It used to be made from horses but today they are made from synthetic materials. The ingredient mix is secret but they have specifically stated that they do not use animal collagen anymore.
So, why is there a cow on Elmer’s glue if they are using horses?
The cow on the glue bottles from Elmer’s glue factory is a company mascot called Elsie the cow. It’s simply a symbol of how glue used to be made back in the days.
Other people argue that the laughing cow on Elmer’s glue bottles is a symbol of happy animals that got to live. Because they found other and better ways of producing glue more efficiently the cattle can now keep smiling.