Horse Slaughter is Not a Humane End-of-Life Choice

This is a post copied from Josephine Ann Darcy’s FB page.   The horse slaughter issue is argued vehemently on both sides.  I personally don’t care what other people choose to eat – no more than I want someone telling me I have to eat certain kinds of meat, but I DO care passionately about animal welfare, and based upon the following discussion, then procedures at horse slaughter plants fall completely outside the realm of animal welfare (which is ultimately no surprise to me), and we indeed have nothing but a political agenda backing it.  The argument that “only old and sick/dying horses are taken to slaughter plants” never made sense to me.  Do people not understand that disease/aging affects the muscles??  Of course the meat buyers want healthy viable animals.  The thing I truly do not understand is that people overseas (from the US) that do consume horse meat don’t seem to care about all the drugs that are typically dumped into horses, at least in this country.  But then again, these same people probably don’t care about how many toxins they consume in their food anyway.

With the exception of feral herds, all breeding is human manipulated (and even those herds are mostly now manipulated by darting the mares with birth control).  It is simply a matter of controlling what humans already control that would affect the breeding numbers.  From what is being said here, IT IS BREEDING TO FULFILL THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE CONTRACTS that is generating the bulk of the so-called “over breeding” numbers.  In other words, remove the incentive (the slaughter plants) and you have automatically reduced the numbers.  There is no “over-breeding” situation that causes horses to be dumped by the thousands on streets.  It simply does not make sense.  It is a combination of greed and lack of responsibility that is the underlying cause of any “excess” horses.  I have spent the bulk of my horse life taking care of other peoples responsibilities.  Horses are animals of nature – they have thrived for millions of years without our help.  Do you really think that turning a horse loose is allowing it to suffer?  No.  Keeping the horse under human control is causing its suffering.  Ending its life in a slaughter house IS suffering (not to mention the trip there).

For those of you thinking about getting a horse:  Please THINK before you take on the responsibility of caring for a horse (or any animal)!!

I have heard horse slaughter called a “necessary evil”.  I wish someone would define “necessary evil” to me.


“Quoting Chuck Mintzlaff on the horse slaughter industry in the USA. If anyone had any doubts about wether [sic] it was an ethical choice for the end of a horses life, please read the below discussion.
We were discussing the slaughter problem on Linkedin.

The author asked that her name not be used to avoid further harassment if I posted
her comments on other lists.”

“True, backyard breeders add to the stream of slaughtered horses. What has not been discussed here is that it’s not actually “over” breeding. Canada and Mexico have huge contracts to fill with the EU and Japan for horse meat, just as for cattle, poultry, etc. They NEED the 200,000 horses they slaughter yearly. If that number dropped due to breeder inspection, they’d simply create more equine feedlots. In Canada, we have many equine feedlots. Land is cheap.

We also slaughter 5000 PMU foals annually. Without slaughter, PMU could not exist. Till recently, when Pfizer pulled back PMU production due to the outcry against both cruelty and the cancer risks inherent in their product, we slaughtered 70,000 annually.

The USDA and Ministry of Agriculture subsidize the breeding of horses, in order to create what seems to horse lovers as a surplus. It is not. It is purely intentional. Canada takes in $70 million annually from horse meat sales.

One specific way in which gov’t Ag subsidizes breeding is to help pro-slaughter groups like the AQHA, APHA and AHA along with “breeding incentives.” These are glamorous awards in which stallion owners are spotlighted for overbreeding. However a horse dies, the breed orgs keep the registration monies.

Your state Horse Council may be actively pro-slaughter. Our Canadian provincial ones are. They do pro-slaughter seminars, funded by Equine Canada, the same body that promotes our Olympic equestrian team. To Horse Councils, it is part of the Horse Industry.

Here’s an article in a national livestock producer magazine, about a prolific feedlot owner who still tries to maintain she is a breeder. Other feedlot owners don’t bother with the facade:

We have people like this all over the Canadian Prairies. They exist in the US, as well.

One problem in getting people excited and protesting horse mills, is that they don’t usually look as gross as puppy mills. No stacked cages or screaming, filthy puppies. Horses about to be butchered alive, look peaceful in the pasture.

As another parallel: did you know the reason thousands of puppy mills continue, is that once dogs are outside city limits, they’re livestock? [Note:  I am not aware of that and do not think, at least in my state – TN – that dogs are considered livestock.]   The USDA established puppy mills as a way to pull farmers out of the Depression. Pet stores became the distribution centres. In the same way, the government established and continues to protect and finance horse mills. Though it would be wonderful to stop irresponsible breeders, they’re just a drop in the bucket.

Though I speak up against irresponsible breeding as loudly as any advocate, it’s slaughter that needs to be stopped. It’s deliberate. It serves as a profitable garbage can for the irresponsible, but it is actually organized crime.

• Wanted to add: this is the clearest chart of how the slaughter industry is connected and deliberate. The Horse “Welfare” Alliance of Canada exists to promote slaughter. If you read this entire page, you’ll see whom is partnered with whom:

Agriculture Canada is self-explanatory; that’s our gov’t agency, same as USDA. Bouvry Exports is the Belgian co. that owns most of our slaughter plants. Nat’l Assoc of Equine Ranchers (NAERIC) is pee farmers. Woods Livestock Services is one of our largest kill buyers. Most of our Horse Councils are here, along with the Appaloosa Horse Club and the Canadian branch of the AQHA. The one SPCA listed actively has “rescues” slaughtered.

At the bottom, you’ll see they’re partnered with United Orgs. of the Horse, Slaughterhouse Sue and Dave Duquette’s US society that is trying to reopen US slaughter, wants to kill all the mustangs and feed them to school kids and seniors. Wallis made a media statement that HWAC, above, is “our partner to the North.” These people all participated in the Vegas pro-slaughter summit.

It’s a horrifying insight when you realize that it’s deliberate and these people are all in bed together. I still have a hard time attending ritzy dressage/jumper shows, knowing the same Councils sponsoring our Olympians are quietly facilitating the butchering alive of those less fortunate. I’ve been ranted at by elite sport horse people for speaking up against slaughter (I hold the Cdn. record, and persuaded my political Rep to read my petition in the House). They rely on their Horse Councils to sponsor our ‘A’ list shows, and so choose to believe the Councils’ BS about the necessity of slaughter.

It’s slaughter we need to shut down. One way I get pet owners to protest, is comparing it to puppy mill owners being able to not only dump their excess at shelters, but being paid $500 per dog/cat/rabbit/bird. The shelter then slaughters, and ships the pet carcasses to China. Animal abuse and abandonment is rampant enough without that incentive.

Animal cruelty increases when profitable garbage cans such as slaughter are available. Don’t want to call a vet? No problem. Not only can you dump your colicking or lame horse at auction—you get a cash reward. If you could do that with small pets, imagine the line ups at shelters!

The reality of horse slaughter is in the videos above.

The other thing to understand about horse racing: it’s not about horses. It’s the gambling industry, i.e. organized crime. The horses are simply by products. They mean nothing to most owners, except as trophies and investments. The horses mean as little as the Greyhounds who get thrown in dumpsters or electrocuted once they start losing. Or aging call girls, etc.

Even the many TB and STB owners who can afford to retire their horses, still slaughter nearly all their infertile broodmares. I managed a TB stud farm, and was staggered by how casual were the kill orders. And how pervasive the abuse. Babies who get hurt in training get killed, too. Major surgery is performed routinely without anesthetic (I refused). The slaughter truck comes quietly for the discards on a regular basis. You can’t stop that except by stopping slaughter. Unless you want to directly confront the Mafia who profit from racing.

Charles Mintzlaff • Reisa, that’s very enlightening. Also very sobering and disheartening.

Hi Charles, isn’t it? I’ve been working on this issue since my first PMU auction when I was 12. I grew up in the centre, in Winnipeg, MB. All those foals, whimpering and suckling on each other 😦 I was allowed to choose only one, and didn’t understand why the little thing was terrified of me. Weren’t foals supposed to be gentle and loving?

Here are the USDA transport photos Suzanne speaks of. You’ll notice that the gouged out eyes are usually both. This is because it is standard practice for kill buyers to slice out stallions’ or any unruly horses’ eyes with an Xacto knife. Some of the broken legs are from kicking in the trailer. Others are from the kill buyer trying to squeeze in “one more” (hey, its an extra $500!), and repeatedly slamming the trailer door on a horse’s hip till the leg tears off. I’ve seen the videos and heard eye witness testimony.  [Warning:  This site has some very graphic pictures.]

As Suzanne also says, the notion that transport is “worse” to Canada or Mexico is yet another lie of the pro-slaughter profiteers. It was no closer to ship horses from coastal states to Illinois or Texas, than it is now to ship north and south. It is also a bloody lie that US plants were more humane than Mexican.

Yes, Mexicans stab horses in the neck to stop limb movement. The US and Canadian plants NON-invasive bolt guns and .22 bullets stun for only 30 seconds. The horse then wakes up with a massive headache, and is fully conscious while amputated and butchered. In all places, foals not meaty enough for veal are stuffed into a gut barrel to suffocate, and/or slowly tortured by the violent ex cons who work in these places. We have photos of that, too.

I’m sorry to say this, because I enjoy my visits to the US and my American friends: but a plant being built in the US does not automatically make it more humane, more efficient or better regulated. Your plants were exactly the same as ours in Canada, and had the same brutally low standards of transport and care.

I don’t give a damn what Temple Grandin does or says, either. The slaughter industry blatantly exploits that woman’s disability to foster the lie that assembly line slaughter can ever be humane. I have a disability myself, so I understand the politics. If we were not tiptoeing around Ms. Grandin’s disability, do you think a woman who designs slaughter plants for a living would be a celebrity? Not a chance.”

Nurse Mare Foals – The “Dirty Secret” of High End Breeding Farms

Warning, the video is graphic and it is heartbreaking to watch.

Many people are captivated by the idyllic pictures of high end breeding farms, with horses grazing peacefully in lush pastures.  But one of the little known aspects of many of these breeding farms is the use of nurse mares.  What is a nurse mare (sometimes called a wet mare), and why would one be needed?  Can’t the breeding mare nurse her own foal?

The original purpose of a nurse mare was to provide a surrogate for a foal whose mother had either died during birthing or otherwise could not provide important nourishment to her own foal.  But as the sport horse industry began to grow breeders began the practice of breeding back mares during their foal heat in order to produce more annual crop, which ultimately means more money for the breeder.  In order to be registered as a Thoroughbred with the Jockey Club, the breeding must take place via live, in-hand cover and cannot be done through artificial insemination. [1]  And since many breedings are done off-farm with famous, high-end stallions, what this means is that the TB mare that just gave birth to an expensive foal is taken away to be bred again; and obviously her expensive foal needs a mother.  Enter the nurse mare.  Additionally, the sport horse industry doesn’t particularly care about the condition of the mare so long as she can produce a viable foal; they are bred young, old, lame, etc.  So even if the mare isn’t removed to be re-bred soon after foaling, she may not be able to nurse for various other reasons.  This has been an established breeding practice within the sport horse industry for decades.  Thus nurse mare farms became a rather profitable business for quite a few farmers supplying surrogate mares to high-end breeding farms that breed thousands of mares every year for the industry.

But there is a dark side to the business of nurse mare farms.  Obviously in order to be a surrogate mother, the nurse mare has to be lactating…and of course to accomplish that she has to be bred.  The nurse mare is bred solely for the purpose of providing milk to a foal other than her own; within a few days after foaling, she is taken away from her biological foal to another farm where she becomes a surrogate mother to a baby she has never seen before.  There is no consideration of the nurse mare’s breeding; that is unimportant so long as she produces milk, which of course decreases her own foal’s “market value”, and her own foal becomes a “waste product”.  These nurse mare foals were historically left to die on their own, killed, or taken to auction where they were generally purchased by kill buyers.  Some are now being rescued and adopted out.  But this is a huge industry in itself…a nurse mare farm can produce 50-100 foals per year, with hundreds of these farms in operation. [2]  There simply are not enough rescue operations that can take on all of these foals.  And this doesn’t even begin to address the emotional issues of the rescued foals.  Even if they are rescued and adopted out, they may go through several different homes before they find their “forever” home.

Is this an ethical practice?  I do not see how anyone can condone it.  It is the human centric breeding practice of the equine sport industry that is the primary underlying cause of the “unwanted horse population” – not people turning their horses out onto the streets.  And the unfortunate “catch 22” is that the very act of rescuing these “orphaned” foals does nothing to discourage the nurse mare industry.