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The Slaughter Horse Rescue Controversy

Updated on June 7, 2019
Cat R profile image

I have spend the last 20 or so years in rescue and last 5 in horse rescue. Sometimes you feel surrounded by Death & Despair.

The last station before slaughter; holding lots to fatten them up a bit more.
The last station before slaughter; holding lots to fatten them up a bit more. | Source

Who's to blame?

In a recent article I spoke at length about many aspects of what rescuers call the 'slaughter pipeline'. Reading more and more articles I have found statistics that state that 2/3 of the horses in kill pens are Quarter Horses. With an estimated number of 120,000 that's over 80,000 Quarter Horses. Many articles on the subject state that the AQUA, the Quarter Horse registry, is considered pro-slaughter.
Other articles speak of the racehorse industry that has gained more and more bad publicity for the growing number of Thoroughbred Horses dying in training, races, on race tracks. Statistics state that an estimated 70% of the 36,000 TB foals bred a year end up in slaughter; that's 25,000. Many raced just days or weeks prior to appearing in feedlots.
Other horses often found in feedlots are many different breeds of sport horses and show horses. Many of the Quarter Horses come from ranches. Other 'working horses' such as Drafts and Standardbreds (often former racehorses) are dumped in large numbers by the Amish.
Donkeys, too often only used to breed or guard livestock, show up in feedlots and auction in large numbers and sell for practically nothing. They are shipped to Mexico, Asian dinner plates, African glue factories... Often overworked, neglected, abused!
Ponies, looking so 'cute', make 'good money' especially in the South. Often inbred to the point of crippling conditions, they show up in Mexican circuses, American fairs, Mexican bait sports.
No equine seems safe! And (registration) papers become just that: a piece of paper!

The 'ugly' business

Most of us rescuers agree that we dislike the slaughter 'business'. It doesn't help that many feedlot owners are 'ice-cold fish' and many feedlots have horror stories about abuse and neglect circulating. The nature of the beast is that killbuyers make money on the death of uncountable horses, mules & donkeys.
But while 'death' is a killbuyer's business, posting these horses on social media sites is often their absolutely last chance to make it out of a kill pen alive! Yes: the killbuyers make money on them, but if there is just one last chance to save a life, we take it.


The common misconception

The common misconception is that horses in kill pens are old, worn, sick nags that need to be slaughtered! Fact is that statistics show that 90% of the horses in kill pens are healthy, often well-bred and trained horses that simply ended up in the wrong hands.
And while 'snot noses', bruises and injuries can happen in often rough auctions and hours long trailer rides with 30+ other horses stuffed in livestock trailers, good quarantine (as in preventive) procedures and often minimal care that any horse should get can make these horses valued companions. Quarantine is also a perfect opportunity for a too often scared and stressed horse to find peace and trust; something that greatly influences their behavior.
Prices!? Compared to dealers, Craigslist and other 'private' sales, the horses are average to under-priced; at least in most cases.

A often fatal misconception in the Rescue World

Too many believe that one should not support a killbuyer and that slaughter will stop if people stop 'bailing out' kill pen horses. And that blind, injured, pregnant horses won't ship because it is illegal.
Answering to the 2nd believe first: They do! The enforcement of laws in the slaughter business is as weak as it is for any other 'livestock'! Young foals ripped from their Moms often end up in zoos as food or simply die in feedlots because they were too young to live without Mom or fight the not so healthy environment.

The bigger question: Will boycotting killbuyers stop slaughter!?

Will the Safe Act stop slaughter!?

Slaughter has existed since the early 1980s; long before social media like Facebook was invented! It will continue unless there are many changes made! The only thing that social media has done is giving those equines that once died unknown one last chance on life; yes: for a price! But to many of us it is worth it!

You can't cure the symptoms of a disease and expect the disease to heal itself! The Safe Act is an important law this country needs! But it has to come with restrictions on breeding and housing of livestock. It has to come with programs that make euthanasia, gelding them, vet care and such affordable. Breeders & 'users' have to very much 'clean up their act'! The mass 'production' and mass abandonment of any equine has to stop! The poor treatment of those equines has to stop!

120,000 horses a year send to slaughter! Not all of them could have found homes! As sad and heartbreaking as that fact is!

NO: slaughter is NOT necessary! It is as unnecessary as over-breeding! As over-using! As neglect & cruelty!

So now what?!

The only real solution for ending slaughter and running killbuyers out of business is to end the mass production and mass abandonment! But it would require a chance of heart in many breeders and owners! And as long as there is money involved in the breeding, show & sport, general using of horses, I don't foresee a good end to this in the near future! Lives have become expendable! A well-bred thoroughbred that once sold as a yearling for $100,000 can too often be found on a slaughter truck within days of losing a race! At that time there may not be anyone anymore that will give $800 the killbuyer requires to save that horse! Because now it has become a 'slaughter horse'!

Saving a unwanted horse before it ends up in a feedlot prevents a lot of things: injuries, diseases, death! But as often as I have been at auctions not many of the anti-feedlot advocates were seen to enact what they promote! Auctions almost always have mostly the major killbuyers present! Maybe a few private buyers or rescuers; sometimes some legit rescues. Sometimes some fake rescues and flippers. The same goes for Craigslist and such. A 23 yrs old horse for $200 was on Craigslist for 2 months; unwanted! The horse was actually healthy, broke and CHEAP!
But is it morally right to ignore those horses that didn't get intercepted before they ended up in a feedlot?! Or take their chance to be rescued away from them by boycotting killbuyers that will ship them either way?!

When I look at the issue I find similarities with my history lessons! Adolf Hitler gathered those he found unworthy to live in concentration camps and killed them!
Did they not deserve to live?! They did! And as horrible as that comparison is, it is true for both kill shelters and kill pens: It is not right to ignore them because, without fault of their own, they ended up in the wrong hands! ALL lives are worth saving!

I am just one person

But like the Domino Effect one will move another and move another! It is important to find a way to enact change, but to do it in a way one can believe in! Only then it will be effective!
If your venue is to speak up and voice your opinion: advocate, educate, make your need for reforms known!
If your venue is to share, crosspost, donate, adopt, rescue: Please do!

At the end the German/German Wall did not come down because of one person, one action! It came down because those that believed that it needed to be gone worked together! Because no matter their methods, they all believed it needed done and acted together!

Imagine the horses, donkeys, mules, dogs, cats and more that could be saved if we ALL would work together! Rather than fight each other!

The most important part is to not look away! Ignoring it will not fix it!

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Edmund Burke


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