Just got an e-mail from one of our volunteers, asking to clarify some information about slaughter. Here is an excerpt of what I sent- hopefully it can give you some good talking points:
1. Myth #1- Only old horses get sent to slaughter.
Fact: Old horses are not usually the ones sent to slaughter, plain and simple. Most horses who end up at the slaughterhouse are under the age of eight.
2. Myth #2- Horses are at the end of their career when they are sold to slaughter.
Fact: Horses of all breeds and training end up at the slaughterhouse- there have been racehorses that have made hundreds of thousands, Arabian stallions who have sired winning lines, dressage horses, hunters, etc.- any horse can end up at the slaughterhouse.
My horse (Cleo) was eleven when she was slated for the slaughterhouse. I bought her on Wednesday- the rest of the horses left to be killed on Friday. She competed in endurance competitions, dressage and western pleasure. She was definitely NOT at the END of her career.
3. Myth #3- Slaughterhouses are reputable businesses.
Fact: Not speaking to Canada, but in the United States, the slaughterhouses that killed horses were constantly being brought up for code violations not only for the inhumane treatment of the animals going in, but for the environmental conditions as well. You can read a letter from the mayor of Kaufman, TX, who was opposed to horse slaughter for her town.
4. Myth #4- Horse slaughter is humane.
Fact: There is only one way to humanely euthanize a horse, and that is with a lethal injection. In the slaughterhouse, horses are stunned with a bolt to the head, which is the same way they kill cows. There are two reasons this does not work on horses- number one, cows have little to no neck, so the bolt hits the cow right between the eyes, and kills him instantly. A horse, however, has a long neck, and they thrash back and forth, not wanting to die, and it often takes several blows before they are killed. The second reason is that the plate between the horse’s eyes, where the bolt goes, is the hardest part of the horse’s head… meaning the horse is often NOT DEAD when the bolting process is complete. This means that the horse can be merely stunned- ALIVE- when the vivisection process is started: the horse is literally skinned ALIVE. No one with any sense of compassion can call this humane.
5. Myth #5- Horses should be classified as livestock, not as pets.
Fact: Livestock are bred for the purpose of meat, skin or fur. Horses are not bred for this, but are bred to be human companions, and should be classifed as such. Whether they are bred for racing, dressage, trail, jumping, therapy, etc. doesn’t matter- the fact remains that they are bred for the pleasure and use for humans- ALIVE- not for their ultimate death.
On a side note, for their safety, and for the safety of other animals, all horses should be vaccinated and de-wormed. If a person cannot afford to care for their animals, then they shouldn’t have them.
6. Myth #6- Slaughter will reduce the number of unwanted horses.
Fact: Horse slaughter encourages breeders to continue to breed horses of poor quality and conformation. I often use the example that you will not see a Friesian in a slaughterhouse- why? Because people want pure Friesians. Why do people continue to breed horses that people don’t want? The simple fact- they can always turn a quick buck by selling them at auction, even for a few bucks.
The thought that the market will become “flooded” if there are too many horses is not thought out. RIGHT NOW THE MARKET IS FLOODED AND THERE ARE TOO MANY HORSES… and guess what? There is slaughter! Seriously- there is a problem… allowing people to continue to breed because there is always a place to send the horses if a reputable seller doesn’t come up is a lousy excuse to continue to allow horses to be brutalized.
Sometimes people will put up horses to auction because they are too lazy to find buyers for horses themselves. An example is of a Quarter Horse breeding farm who sent QUALITY horses, some of them winners in the show ring, to an auction where they were bought by killer buyers and then “rescued” by individuals who paid sometimes a hundred times more than they were sold for! Note- these people were continuing to breed!! Please show me how slaughter discouraged these individuals from flooding the market!
7. Myth #7: The United States has made slaughter illegal.
Fact: Until the U.S. passes a federal law tha makes it illegal to sell and transport horses for the purpose of slaughter, there will always be slaughter in the U.S. Take, for example, a well-known ranch in Chino, CA- the horses who are sickly and can no longer be sold or leased out to summer camps are shipped to Washington and then across the border for the purpose of slaughter. There is no one to stop them, nor is there anyone in Florida to stop them from shipping them up to Canada or across to Mexico. Without enforcement, the laws are meaningless.
8. Myth #8: Horsemeat is safe for humans.
Fact: There is no real regulation for horses who are sold to slaughterhouses. This past year, a new law was established that said an individual who was “thinking” about selling their horse for the purpose of slaughter had to write down any drug, wormer or vaccine that the horse had within the last six months, and that piece of paper had to be presented with the horse upon sale to a slaughterhouse. Now, if anyone really believes that the individual who will illegally ship a horse across state and federal lines to a slaughterhouse, or the individual who will pose as a “good home” to the people who are advertising their horse for free, or the indivdual who will steal a horse and sell it to the slaughterhouse will be a good samaritan and make sure to fill out the paperwork on the horse is a complete moron.
9. Myth #9- Horse rescues are in it for the money.
Fact: There are horrible people out there, but there are reputable horse rescues out there. The Humane Society, Unwanted Horse Coalition and other agencies can accredit horse rescues through the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practioners). I can only assume there is a similar organization for Canada. A good way to determine a good horse rescue- go down and volunteer! A rescue should be, but doesn’t always have to be, a non-profit, and should have a base adoption fee- not a “sale” fee. Rescues should have their horses in good condition, up to date on vaccines, farrier care and teeth care. There are people out there who want to make a buck and who will call themselves rescues- this goes for dogs, cats and even kids. It doesn’t mean my rescue is bad, and I take offense to people who can’t see beyond the proverbial rotten apples. I work very hard, and have literally put in tens of thousands of dollars on these horses- so have several people. Make money? I’d be happy if the rescue could break even!
10. Myth #10- Some horses “deserve” to be slaughtered.
Fact: Slaughter is a horrible, brutal end. I really have a problem with the term “dangerous” horse- I have taken on several horses who “oh, are so dangerous, we don’t know what to do with him- he is going to kill someone” and found that they were- but because they were owned by individuals who had NO RIGHT to be around a horse like that. My horse was deemed to be one of these- completely dangerous- even the vet said he was psycho… had to be manhandled to be worked with… kicked, bucked, reared, charged… the owner even had the vet do a test to see if he was proud cut. But no- the problem wasn’t really the horse, it was the owner and the trainer(s). This horse is a far cry from the crazy boy he was a few years ago… now, this is the same horse I can take to schools and have 30 kids mob him. This is the same horse I can give to the volunteer who is nervous, because I know he will be good for them. This is the same horse I can lead trail rides with because I know he is SAFE. Will he sometimes throw a small buck? Sure- but that doesn’t bother ME. Do I think he’s dangerous… well, let me note that, of the horses I’ve owned, as crazy as he has ever been, he is the only one who has never unseated me.
If a horse is so dangerous that an individual feels he is a threat to himself or others, he should be humanely euthanized- not sold for a hundred bucks so he can be terrorized and frightened and killed inhumanely. If a horse is sick or old, after all that they have done for humans, they should be put down humanely with their person next to them. And seriously- why would someone sell a sick horse for the purpose of human consumption… I mean, think about how wrong that is.
It cost me about $250 to put down my last horse- that was the vet call and the removal (it is against the law to bury a horse in California). That is not an outrageous fee, and the horse really deserves a more noble end than a bolt through his head.
Good luck, and I encourage any discussion on the topic. Most individuals are not as adamant as I am, but I believe the majority of people will agree that the end to slaughter would end a lot of unnecessary brutality, and would encourage breeders to take a better look at their own practices.