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Horse Slaughter - The Conflict

Updated on May 23, 2017

The Problem

Horses are amazing creatures. But due to the cost for upkeep, the World of Horses is not as well-known as the World of Dogs, Cats and other smaller ‘pets’. This lack of inside has brought a horrible problem with it: Inhumane Horse Slaughter! Like with dogs and cats, there is an overpopulation due to overbreeding and irresponsible breeding that has so far been ‘solved’ with the annual death of an estimated 130,000-150,000 horses!

The issue with inhumane euthanasia of 5-9 million dogs & cats annually has had much more publicity. Many shelters were forced to shut down their gas champers or replace heart-stick euthanasia with more humane methods. While horses, like dogs & cats originated as ‘work’ animals and evolved into mostly pets, in many ways they are still not considered a ‘life’ worth consideration. In most countries equines in general have very little protection. And even in a country as evolved as the U.S., our horses are not safe!

Most horses (including other equines such as donkeys, mules and similar) that end up in feedlots were send there by either uncaring or uneducated owners. What can be said about dogs & cats, also applies here: “Don’t be foolish thinking the local animal shelter for sure will find your Fido a loving new home!” The average kill-rate in NC has been 70-80% for dogs and much more for cats! Horses sold to auctions are often bought by so-called kill buyers for as little as $100-$200 dollars or even less. After too much time spend traveling from auction to auction, often treated harshly, or given up for being ‘damaged’ or old, many horses are in such bad condition that they are no-sales or direct-ships.
- No-Sale: A horse that doesn’t sell at an auction and usually ships directly to a feedlot from there.
- Direct-Ship: A horse in such emaciated condition or poor health that is not offered for resale and is shipped directly to a slaughter house.

Where do they come from?

Irresponsible breeders are known to often send their used up breeders or imperfect offspring to sales and auctions. This happens also with many other species.
In the race horse industries many Thoroughbred breeders make use of nurse-mares. These mares foal, have their foals taken (some sold to auctions, some sold for feed, some disposed of in unimaginable ways), and then are used to raise expensive Thoroughbred foals.
Races horses that are too slow, injured, or too old are said to make up 10% of the horses send to slaughter. Famous examples are Exceller, Ferdinand & the close-call of a 26 year old son of the famous Harness sport legend Niatross who was found just days ago at a feedlot and saved.
Premarin is a drug (used in the human health system) that produced using urine of pregnant horses. The foals born to these horses are often sold to auctions or disposed of like the foals mentioned above.
Riding Camps and Academies are well known to send horses to slaughter that are too old and worn or they are unwilling to feed longer for other reasons.
The show- and competition business (both Western & English competitions such as show jumping, barrel racing, roping and such) is well-known to have owners discard their horses when they are no longer able to compete or become otherwise ‘useless’. A related and huge controversy is the use of harsh methods to make horses look/walk in a certain way. This has caused severe uproar and the damage done seems to be proven by many gaited horses such as the Tennessee Walkers that are seen at auctions and feedlots.
With the slow disappearance of land available to the American Mustang (and the Australian Brumby), a very important part of both American and Australian history is found in feedlots and at slaughter hubs.
Former ranch horses or Amish work horses are often found at auctions and eventually at feedlots.
Due to the cost of euthanizing and disposing of an old or injured horse, many people send them to auctions or slaughter.
A lot of times it’s simply an owner that either doesn’t care or wasn’t aware that if he/she doesn’t research a new owner thoroughly, that the horse may end up in the slaughter system. Some knowingly send their horses to slaughter when they are unwanted or ‘useless’.

The Journey & The Stations

Shipping is often a harsh and unforgiving environment, very similar to how cattle, pigs and poultry is shipped. If the horse is healthy, it may stand a chance to make it through the shipping. Especially the day-long trips to the Canadian or Mexican border. But many horses are old or injured and rather than humanly euthanize them, they are herded into trucks full with as many as 35 horses and are in danger of overheating or being trampled.

Feedlots are often the last chapter in a horse’s life. Some feedlots are better known for their horrible reputation based on many horror stories that leaked out to the public in one way or another. Others are much more honest and humane. And while not all feedlots have a contract with a slaughter house, for many horses the next trip is not always to a good place.
Shipping, auctions, harsh treatment leaves many of these horses ‘damaged’, traumatized or injured. There have also been reports of horses being drugged to sell better at auctions or were ridden extensively to be worn out enough to look well behaved. Those horses that are so traumatized that they can’t be sold (and those injured, emaciated, old, else) are usually marked for direct ship.
Others that seem sellable are offered to rescues and private owners for adoption. Sadly many of the now traumatized or injured horses may have been a happy, gentle, healthy horse at the begin of their journey! But at the end, they are too broken to have that last chance.

The Destination - Death

Those destined for slaughter are inserted with a micro-ship as identification. If they survive the shipping, their outlook is beyond bleak! While Canada may have some form of rules and regulations for slaughter, they are still treated just as bad as any other livestock or poultry. Those that are shipped to Mexico are most likely facing much less consideration for their suffering! There are accusations of life-shipping of especially donkeys to Asian countries that consider donkey meat as a delicacy! These transports are said to have a high death toll.

Slaughter is a horrible thing! To see more about the way how these once magnificent animals die research the word slaughter and look at the images. It’s not something that can be described to an open audience. It’s a death that, if done to humans, would rate up there with the Holocaust. And for some animal lovers the faith of 130,000-150,000 horses and 5-9 million dogs & cats annually comes very close.

Not always Old Nags

The common misconception is that all these horses are ‘damaged’. In a humane World horses in really bad shape would be humanely euthanized to spare them that fate! But many are young, healthy horses. Many have registration papers unless the owner or breeder pulled them to avoid being contacted to save the horse or explain. There are very few breeders that step up and are horrified when they find out that one of their foals almost died! The Niatross son was one that was saved by his breeder. Many other horses that once sold for $200,000 as foals can’t find a savior willing to spend $800. Recently a National Show-Horse was rescued from a North Carolina Feedlot; just hours away from shipping!

Many of these horses are not lame old nags only fit for slaughter. They are also not automatically all sick and require hundreds of dollars of vet care. They are every bit as good as any horse available at breeders, sales barns, on websites. Some may have been until they were worn down by the slaughter pipeline! But even the worst ones deserve a humane death! Slaughter is not humane!

Who's at Fault?

The shippers and dealers are only at fault if they use inhumane practices that should be punished as cruelty or neglect. While it is a business, it isn’t too much different than the purpose of a kill shelter: the control of overpopulation created by others!

The true fault lies with the breeders and owners that overbreed and/or discard of a living creature with the same lack of concern than they may have for an old pair of socks. And with the legislators that do not provide better guidance and restrictions on breeding, ‘use’ and humane methods to end a living creature’s life!

The even sadder truth is that even one year of crossposting and rescuing slaughter horses may give somebody a good idea of the horrors of horse slaughter. But the never-ending articles and reports that bring to light some of the horrors paint a picture that leads one to believe that behind the scene the problem is much worse!

The Last Station - The Slaughter-House Hub
The Last Station - The Slaughter-House Hub
Horses being shipped alive to Japan
Horses being shipped alive to Japan

The HRT Horses (Premarin)

Horses Saved from Slaughter Feedlot

Buy or Rescue?

Where would you/will you buy your horse/next horse?

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