Horse Racing Injuries and Horse Slaughter – Prevention Through Breeding Control

I have been aware of horse slaughter since I was a kid. It was a well known fact Thoroughbred ex-race horses that came through the barn had one shot to make it in the hunter/jumper ring (as riding horses). If a horse didn’t stay at the barn, we knew the horse would end up back at dealers, and dealer returns meant the horse was going to slaughter.

As a child, horse slaughter was simply a fact. Now, it’s almost a necessity. I don’t agree with slaughtering horses, nor do I want any horse to end up at a slaughterhouse, but our society produces far too many unwanted horses.

I receive emails on a weekly basis from several different horse industry and horse welfare news streams. Every time I read one of these legislative “updates”, I wonder: When is horse slaughter legislation going to start with the cause of unwanted horses?

Though anti horse slaughter groups have successfully shut down horse slaughterhouses in America, horse breeding has only increased. If horses at auction don’t wind up at slaughter, where are all the “unwanted” horses going to go? As with the millions of unwanted dogs and cats who are euthanased every year, it would be nice if we could say unwanted horses are “humanely destroyed.” But, horses are just not that easy to put down. Besides being big, difficult to transport, to house, and to feed, horses cost several hundred dollars to put down. For “humane” treatment, horses need not only feed, water, and vaccinations, but also farrier care and often special nutritional, veterinary, and stabling.

When is horse slaughter legislation going to start with the cause of unwanted horses?

Horses end up at auction if they can’t be sold privately, can’t be cared for, or are (simply) unwanted. If a horse owner sends an “unwanted” horse to auction and the horse doesn’t sell, what happens to the horse? If the previous owner can’t or won’t care for the horse, who will?

It’s the same with the overpopulation of dogs and cats. It’s better to have a humane society take an unwanted pet and euthanize it than have a pet return to a home where it isn’t wanted or cannot be cared for. But again, horses are extremely difficult and expensive to care for. Some say re-homing unwanted horses is not a big deal since the total number of American horses slaughtered per year “only” equals about 1% of the total American horse population. Based on current horse populations (about 9 million in the US), 90,000 “homeless” horses is still a lot of horses. With hay prices up, gas prices up, and affordable land becoming more scarce, most horse people in any part of the country will tell you; “you can’t even give ’em away these days.”

Some anti-slaughter activists like to claim horse “kill buyers” are outbidding nice families in search of a pet. Really? If a “nice family” is only willing to spend $100, maybe a $150 on a horse, will they be willing to spent another $150 on vaccines once the vet comes out? What about hoof care every six weeks? Hay, grain, shavings? Proper fencing? Does the nice family have money set aside for emergency transport and thousands of dollars worth of colic surgery? Kill buyers, yes, may be out bidding families (occasionally), but this does not mean the family has means to care for the long term health of the horse.

To minimize horse slaughter and unwanted horses, we need a better plan.

Currently, there are no horse slaughterhouses operating in the United States. Despite anti-slaughter group efforts, American horse slaughterhouses have been successfully shut down, but now horses are just sent over the border to Mexico and Canada where the treatment and killing of animals is even less humane than under American standards.

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