The Bloody Truth

Well over 100,000 of our American Horses (wild and domestic) are currently exported to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered for their meat and sold as a delicacy overseas. (this according to the USDA numbers 2011)

Horse slaughter cannot be called euthanasia. The journey in a fully crammed (and often double decker) truck, may take several days without food or water, regardless if the truck is going to Mexico, Canada or somewhere in the U.S.  Many are horrifically injured and some even dead upon arrival at the slaughter plant. The abuse these horses suffer in their final weeks, at the hands of both the kill buyers and the slaughter workers is so horrific, that footage or pictures of this intentional cruelty are generally too shocking for the majority of the American public.

It is the want and need for human attention and praise that gives the horse its incredible versatility and is a major factor in the assessment of the amount of mental and physical suffering involved with horse slaughter.

There are currently three different slaughter methods employed by different slaughter plants in different countries. A captive bolt, a shotgun, or a pontilla knife alone. The fact that the horse has an acute and high sense of fear attributes to the low level of success by any of these methods, and the high level of long drawn out cruelty.

Studies and investigations show that the horse will move at the exact moment that the bolt or gun is about to hit him in the head, making it near impossible for the worker to render the horse unconscious the first time. The bolt ends up in their eye or cheek and many videos prove that horses have to be hit approximately 5 to 10 times before they go down, even in the former U.S. facilities. Recent footage by the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition, shows long drawn out suffering of conscious horses and intentional unnecessary extreme cruelty, at the Canadian Horse Slaughter plants Bouvry and Richelieu. If you would like to see this click here, WARNING: very graphic.

In Mexico the horses are simply stabbed in the spine with a knife (as documented by the Humane Society of the US) until they are paralyzed, but still fully conscious for the rest of the slaughter process where they get hung upside down and their throat gets slid. The careless process is barbaric torture of the worst kind for many a horse, who’s former owner would be traumatized and devastated by the needless suffering of a once loved companion. See footage, click here, WARNING: very graphic.

“The myth that horse slaughter is quick or in any way humane, is a wish full, far fetched stretch of the truth to say the very least”, states veterinary doctor Elliot Katz.

Many of the unlucky ones are also wild horses who have been rounded up by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or by the Forest Service. While there were still over 1,000,000 (one million) Wild Horses only a few decades ago, there are now approximately only 20,000 left in the wild in America! It is more than puzzling why our Government continues to see the need to spend our tax dollars on rounding up more this year, just to have to spend more tax dollars on keeping them in holding pens and feeding them. “Consider that they are costing no one a dime while they are taking care of themselves peacefully on public lands where they have a legal right to be since 1971”, states Ginger Kathrens of the Cloud Foundation.

Because of the Burns rider adopted into the 1971 wild horse and burro protection Act, the BLM can sell wild horses for 10 dollars to anyone, without restrictions, as long as they have been tried for adoption three times, or they are over the age of 10. Unfortunately there is no oversight over the BLM at all (except for the few brave humane observers.) and therefore they need not prove to anyone if a particular horse was actually offered for adoption three times. The majority of buyers who are looking for large amounts of untrained wild horses for 10 dollars are more than likely killer buyers. “The BLM has full sale authority and no obligation to check out the buyers”, states Nick Allias, former contractor for the BLM.

The wild horses have been ripped from their families and peaceful lives on public lands, where they have beautifully survived for hundreds of years, just to end up in the foreign owned slaughter plants.

The reasons the BLM gives for the continuation of the roundups even when they already have over 40,000 in holding, is that the wild horses are starving and causing deterioration to the land. Are they truly spending our tax dollars because they care so much about the welfare of the wild horses? This seems in contradiction to their proposal in 2008 to kill all 33,000 horses they had in holding at that time. They have not managed to back up their claims by any evidence or even by one picture of a starving wild horse. If this was truly the case wouldn’t one think that the “radical animal activists” as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar calls them, would be the first ones to be upset about this? The “radical animal activists” however, (who are in reality wild horse advocates), have thousands of pictures of Wild Horses dying in Round-Ups and BLM pens.  And if they cared about deterioration to the range land one wonders why they feel that letting over 2 million cattle graze on those same lands is a good idea.

“While the ecosystems of our public lands are certainly being deteriorated by grazing, we can hardly take anyone serious when they claim this is caused by the 20,000 horses as apposed to the 2 million cows with grazing permits on that same land”, states wild life ecologist Craig Downer.

Our wild horses are however not the only innocent victims of the Horse slaughter industry. Many of the slaughtered horses were someone’s pet once and many are horses who have fulfilled a service all of their lives (like “retired” dude ranch horses, race horses, performance horses, work horses, kid horses etc.). In addition to those sad circumstances, many more are horses that were bred; just to be discarded because their color or conformation did not turn out as the breeder had hoped.

When we look at the USDA horse slaughter data we see that 92% of all slaughtered horses are perfectly healthy and in the prime of their lives. We also see that quarter horses make up the largest percentage, with thoroughbreds (race horses) coming in at a close second. Could it be a coincidence that the American Quarter Horse Association (the AQHA) is the strongest supporter of horse slaughter? The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is the exception to the rule and proclaims itself neutral on the issue. “However, about one third of ALL race horses, winners or not, end up in the slaughter house”, states race horse excercise rider and internet entrepreneur Alex Brown.

Why does all this still go on when the vast majority (over 80%) of Americans feel this is not an acceptable way to treat an intelligent and kind animal such as the horse? (Documented by thousands and thousands of petition signatures and census statistics and a very recent independent poll commissioned by the ASPCA.)

The answers are obvious to horse advocates who have been involved in this for a long time, but not so obvious to most, and especially unbelievable to those who think that horse abuse is illegal in this country.

Pro-slaughter lobbyists and pro-slaughter legislator’s claims are, that the slaughter of horses for human consumption is humane and “necessary” because of a huge overpopulation or unwanted horse problem. This sounds like a reasonable argument, however the reason for this widespread deception of the public, is easily deciphered.

The truth is that the business of Horse slaughter is NOT a business simply developed to help America solve any “unwanted” horse problem; it is a FOR-profit, demand-driven business, like any other business. The amount of horses slaughtered per year, is determined by the demand of horse meat abroad and by the contracts that the kill buyers have to fulfill, NOT by the amount of unwanted horses. There is no evidence whatsoever that the numbers of horses slaughtered are actually unwanted horses at all. They are simply horses unlucky enough to be purchased by killer buyers with contracts to fulfill, instead of by good new owners.

The demand of the horse slaughter plants is for healthy, muscled, young flesh as this is the tenderest and fetches the highest price per pound.

The kill buyers are in search of the young, large, strong and healthy and snatch them up before good homes ever have the opportunity to take a look at them. Consequently this leaves society with the meek, weak and unhealthy; the truly unwanted. The horses that were perfectly adoptable end up in the kill buyer”s cattle trucks, and the horse rescue organizations and the horse auction houses, are left with the rest after the kill buyers drive off.

It is very difficult for horse rescuers to scramble enough money together to save a good horse, because they have to compete with the kill buyers who get a premium price for the weight of their flesh. Just because a certain buyer buys up a lot of a certain product, doesn”t mean that those products are unwanted by everyone else, explains professor of Economics, Dr. Caroline Betts.

In addition to the obvious motives of the slaughter industry, the option of horse slaughter in itself in fact has created, is creating and will continue to create the unwanted horse problem, by enabling over breeding, encouraging the dumping of horses, and by taking the strong, large, adoptable horses out of society and leaving the unwanted.

As a convenient and lucrative means of disposal, horse slaughter allows huge breeding industries to dispose of horses that do not have the perfect conformation or color or strength necessary for their discipline. The larger the quantities they breed, the larger their chances of a winner. The youngster that disappoints simply gets discarded.

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) -which is one of the biggest supporters of horse slaughter- celebrated their 7 millionth foal, and reported over 140,000 foals in 2010. This is approximately the same number as the number of U.S. horses slaughtered! Would it be possible that their motives be related to the fact that they need that same amount of horses to go to slaughter in order to make way for their new stock and keep prices falsely inflated? In any case, they seem to be morbidly afraid of a bill that will stand in their way of making their fortunes.

“We have had horse slaughter for over 50 years and anyone can see that it has not solved any supposed “unwanted” horse problem so far”, says John Holland of the Equine Welfare Alliance. Au contraire, the lucrative option has taught many people to treat horses like nothing more than a product that can be discarded as soon as it has outlived its profitability. “If we didn’t have horse slaughter, some people will have to adopt a new mentality of making sure a horse lasts longer to increase profitability instead of replacing him”, says Nancy Perry of the Humane Society of the United States.

A non- horse person might be surprised to learn that the breeding farms receive both huge breeding incentives from their perspective breeding associations as well as  tax advantages and write-offs from the IRS. This further encourages breeding strategies that are not consistent with demand. These industries continue to promote breeding in large numbers, even while the demand for these horses does not exist! When you throw in the current state of the economy on top of the overpopulation problem and add in the breeding plans for coming years, the future seems rather bleak for American horses.

The Lexington Herald-Leader (newspaper) published the Kentucky Horse Breeders Incentives Awards. The fund generated 19.2 Million Dollars ($19,220,007) (!!) The money comes from taxes from the horse races. If these associations were truly concerned with the welfare of the horse and the horse overpopulation problem as they say they are, would these funds still be distributed to horse breeders? The more ethical thing to do would be to make humane euthanasia funds out of these taxes instead, for injured and sick horses who’s owners cannot afford it.

The stakes are becoming so high in the breeding industry that the dubious practice of replacing a mare’s own foal, with a foal that is more valuable, is also increasing. These mares are called “nurse mares” and the foals are “nurse mare foals”. The biological foal gets ripped away from its mother and left to die, while the valuable foal gets ripped away from its mother just to get a different one, while the last mare gets her foal ripped away from her and gets put back to work. In both humans and animals, the separation or death of parents from babies is the number one most devastating and traumatizing event in life. It is estimated that in the thoroughbred industry alone, the numbers of unwanted foals produced in this way, are approximately 20,000 per year. These foals face cruel deaths unless they get very lucky like these three, and are rescued by Horse Rescue Organizations.

It is an outrage for our Government to allow breeding incentives, while never having made any moneys available for Horse Rescues and Sanctuaries. It is an outrage for our government to condone the actions of the BLM. and the Forest Service. Horse Advocates say it is a conspiracy against horses and a betrayal of the American Public.

Even in the federal stimulus Bill there is money to “help” horse breeders: “The new law contains two important tax incentives that would allow a much bigger write-off for horses and other depreciable property purchased and placed in service”, said Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council. In addition, bonus depreciation has also been reinstated in the new stimulus bill. This second incentive allows a horse owner to take first-year bonus depreciation equal to 50% of the cost of horses. Basically a horse can be written off within three years, while his life span is about 25 years.

To top off the atrociousness of it all, a dead horse is a tax write of as well; even for kill buyers. “This might explain why the skinny horses without much meat, die under mysterious circumstances on their lots many times”, states Sandra Graf, a volunteer for Respect4horses.

Horse meat at the markets, on the menu’s and in restaurants in Europe.

Large breeders and Breed associations have an enormous economic incentive to promote horse slaughter, coincidently (not), together with the cattlemen’s industries and associations, they are the most active lobbyists for horse slaughter, for more breeder tax incentives and for new slaughter plants in America.

The Bureau of Land Management has enormous pressure from large cattle ranchers and mining interests to remove the wild horses from the public lands, they therefore continue to ignore the public outcries and continue to manage our wild horses into extinction.

The most creative part of this well funded scam on Americans is that the very businesses creating the overpopulation problem turn around and use this same problem to convince the public to side with their cause. Campaigns are led by Representative Sue Wallis of Wyoming and Dave Duquette of the United Organizations of the (“dead”) Horse, convincing good hearted people that Horse Slaughter is a necessary evil, so that these businesses may continue to produce “unwanted” horses and keep selling them pound for pound.

Is it noticeable how many articles have come out recently in publications and in the news, emphasizing the large unwanted horse problem and the increased cases of abandonment, and what to do about it? These reports jump to quick conclusions and are subconsciously suggestive to the fact that we need horse slaughter in America to prevent abandonment and neglect. Even Ken Salazar himself (secretary of the Interior) wrote a piece in the LA times about how the wild horses are starving and it is for their own good to be taken out of their natural environment. Jane Valez Mitchell of CNN is however not fooled and recently invited him to come on her show Issues to defend his position. He has not responded so far.

While we are certainly going through harsh economic times, and nobody denies that we have an overpopulation problem either big or small, when you stop to consider the facts more realistically, it becomes clear that horse slaughter is the anti-solution to any “unwanted horse” problem. The truth is that the abandoned and starving horses are not the ones that end up in the slaughter plants in the first place, for the simple fact that their owners chose to abandon them rather than send them to slaughter.

Other large and powerful participants with a motive in the fight to preserve and promote horse slaughter and support the BLM, include the cattleman’s associations and of course the other farming and meat Industries. Believe it or not, they are planning to sell horse meat for human consumption here in America as a lower cholesterol substitute for beef. Their expressed fear is of a vegan movement and of humane policies concerning all animals. They believe that if we stop slaughtering horses, that we will soon stop slaughtering cows and pigs. According to a persuasive letter from Representative Sue Wallis of Wyoming: “if we allow an end to horse slaughter, vegans will become so powerful that human babies will start dying from being on vegan diets”.

No, it is not a mystery why certain industries might be willing to “invest” quit a bit of capitol in order to preserve and promote their very lucrative convenience of horse slaughter.

If horse slaughter was no longer an option, another cruel industry, the very powerful pharmaceutical PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) Industry, (Wyeth-Ayerst) would be extremely inconvenienced as well. They impregnate mares and make them stand on their feet hooked up to a to a urine harvesting device 24/7. They use the hormones in the urine to make Premarin (as well as other brands), and sell this drug to millions of American women in menopause. The byproducts of this billion dollar Industry are day old foals who were ripped away from their mothers and older mares who are no longer producing. It would not be feasible for this industry to find a humane solutions for their “by products”, and in addition no one demands this from them.

Sadly, this is still only the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong with those who continue to sell out the American horse, on whose back we built this country.

The USDA, has tried desperately for years, to cover up pages and pages of violations depicting the cruelty of the transport and the procedures in US slaughter plants. Finally a three year long probe (through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)) by animal cruelty investigator Julie Caramante resulted in the release of photos and reports from investigations of the department that clearly depict the cruelty and abuse inherent with the entire horse killing process. The three year cover-up by the USDA has been dubbed by some in the media as “Slaughtergate”.

What about the opinion that horses are much better off being slaughtered in America? Certainly we would all like to think that our country has the decency and ability to kill horses humanely? Unfortunately this turns out to be nothing more than an illusion. The sad fact is that horses were tortured in the same ways here, as they are in Canada and Mexico. This is very evident in the undercover video’s of the last three U.S. slaughter houses that were closed in 2007. Footage of the plant workers cheering and applauding when a horse struggled extra hard for its life, can turn one’s stomach.

The Velda Company, referred to as “The Belgians” are waiting for an opportunity to open another slaughter plant as soon as they can. Pro-slaughter Lobbying organizations like the Unwanted horse coalition (deception is apparent in the name) are successfully lobbying individual states to make way for new slaughter plants in America. They are also targeting Native American tribes as potential hosts for their slaughter plants. This is the same Velda that had owned the Cavel plant in DeKalb, Illinois; a plant that had accumulated hundreds and hundreds of USDA violations including; sewer discharge violations, (illegal dumping of blood into the water supply), food safety violations, (too many carcinogens in the meat) and animal cruelty violations (needs no explanation). Interestingly enough, to this date no one has held them accountable for any of it.

The environmental effects of horse slaughter plants are disastrous, mainly because of the many carcinogenic drugs in horse meat and the dumping of the tainted blood. Yet unsuspecting consumers in Europe and Japan are eating this cancer causing horse meat that is often labeled by the factories as ORGANIC!

Is there not one goal that both horse advocates and the breeding industries can agree on? One would think so. We all want values of horses to go up. If we are ever going to see this happen, according to very simple economic principals, the supply of horses needs to decrease. Irresponsible breeding needs to come to a screeching halt immediately in order to stop flooding the market and for horses to regain their values. “Is this a fact that can even be disputed by anyone?” Questions R.T. Fitch, writer of “Straight from the Horses Heart”.

Alternative ways for individuals wanting to send their horse to slaughter would be placing an ad in the paper or giving the horse away to a friend, bringing it to a horse rescue or sanctuary, or putting it down humanely, states Christine Goodreault, volunteer for respect4horses. The cost of putting a horse down humanely is equivalent to the cost to feed a horse for one month. Therefore this cost is recuperated immediately the next month after the horse is gone.

What is apparent is that the slaughter advocates and the BLM are blatantly lacking facts supported by evidence. They throw wild assumptions and accusations out into the media hoping that the American people will fall for it. The lobbyists and legislators fighting so hard to preserve horse slaughter and wild horse round ups, use arguments that, when exposed to any kind of examination, fall apart like a well roasted piece of horse meat.

Change is needed. Certain questions need to be asked. Breeders need to take responsibility for the life and humane death of every horse they breed and they need to change their mindset that it is too expensive to euthanize their horse. Euthanasia amounts to approximately the same as it costs to feed a horse for one month. Wouldn’t this amount be immediately recuperated the next month after the horse is gone?

In this battle between horse lovers and horse users, the most unfortunate fact is that groups of volunteers against Horse Slaughter and volunteers for the wild horses are small and they do what they can, purely out of the goodness of their hearts. They stand to loose or gain nothing personally, except for a victory for horses. Volunteer organizations do not have the manpower, or the funds to get information out to the public, this in stark contrast to the pro-slaughter side, who are professional, powerful and wealthy lobbyists who stand to loose a buck.

We as Americans gain nothing by it. Horse slaughter plants are all foreign owned and profits go abroad. Every argument for preserving the barbaric practice of horse slaughter as well as every argument for removing the last of America’s remaining wild horses, is greed motivated, un-factual and clearly deceptive. Horse slaughter is beyond un-necessary, both for our wild horses and our domestic horses. Round ups of our wild horses are un-necessary. It is time to stand up for the humane treatment of all horses and stop compromising our humanity.

These are the very important bills on this subject

-The Horse Slaughter Prevention act; House bill H.R.2699 and Senate bill S.1176
This bill would make it illegal to export horses for the purpose of slaughter for human consumption

-Horse transportation safety Act; House bill H.R.1281
This bill would make it illegal to transport horses in double decker cattle trucks with low ceilings and holes in  the sides which horse legs get stuck in.

It should be noted that without the horse, human civilization would not be where it is today. The greatest conquests in history have been won because of the endurance, bravery and loyalty of the horse. The horse spends its entire life in service to ours. The question is: do we not owe the horse a grain of gratitude and respect?

Examine the motives of the pro-slaughter side as well as the motives of the anti-horse-slaughter volunteer movement. Look up the factual evidence of the needless cruelty, and decide for yourself. Ask yourself if you are willing to stand up for horses, either a lot or just a little, for your support could be the drop that tips the bucket.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

Click here to find out what You can do.

Association of phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk

Protestors in front of the office of Majority leader Harry Reid in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Written by Simone Netherlands. Copyright © 2009 Respect 4 horses. All rights reserved. Several data sources were used for this article, including the AZ Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the KY Department of Agriculture. With thanks to the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Americans Against Horse Slaughter (AAHS) and the Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA).