Reality Check: Horses and Slaughter

It's Time to Face Reality

I’ve had horses for a long time.  I love horses.  It’s fair to say that I know a good deal about them, and have successfully bred and raised them, and also taken mercy on horses by relieving them of undue suffering.  It’s also fair to say that one of the things I have learned in all my time with horses is that some people, most of whom have never owned a horse, have no idea what is entailed in the ownership, maintenance, and medical demands of a horse.  Too many people have a “happy-talk” view of horses that does not match reality.  Too many people believe that they shouldn’t ever be slaughtered, because it’s a fate too cruel to contemplate as some of the same people wolf down hamburgers or buckets of chicken.

The Congress has finally lifted an effective ban enacted five years ago on the slaughter of horses for human consumption here in the US, and the lifting  of this folly in law will finally permit some hope for an industry that has suffered grave harm because some in government have been listening to the well-meaning, but uninformed folks who believe that horses should be exempt from the same fate as other livestock.  Some of you are going to hate me after this post, but so be it.  If you’ve not yet tackled this truth, today is your day.  The truth is that with the glut of unwanted horses now flooding the market, all horses are suffering as a result.  More are being abandoned, and more are slowly starving, because owners have been deprived of one method of disposal because some people don’t like it.

People talk about the cruelty of horse slaughter, as if it is any more cruel for a horse than for a cow, pig, or sheep.  Newsflash:  It’s no different.  If you like bacon dressing your plate of eggs and hash, you’d better grip reality.  Slaughter is what it is.  I make no excuses for it, because it is necessary.  If you’re one of those “vegans” who believe that eating all meat is bad, congratulations on your philosophical consistency, but at the same time, I offer you my condolences since growing children need meat proteins and if you’re not providing them to children in your care because of your beliefs on slaughter or meat, I think you’re a blooming idiot.  The simple fact of the matter is that humans need meat in their diets.  You can murmur and whine all you like, and you can call me names until you’re blue in the face, but our nature is not that of a herbivore. Nature didn’t give you incisors to slice through veggies.  Deal with it.

Now as to the particulars of horses, let’s get something straight:  Long before mankind saddled up on horseback, early man was rubbing his belly after a fine meal of horse meat.  Horse is leaner than beef from cattle, and is every bit as nutritious.  In World War I, when most of the world still fought wars on foot and on horseback, the United States sent more than a million head of horse to Europe to fight the war.  None came home.  Most of the surviving horses went to feed a starving continent in the aftermath of that war, and millions of Frenchmen and Germans, among others, owed their survival to a diet of horse stew.  This was less than one-hundred years ago, meaning there are many still around who remember those days.  Check in with them before condemning horse slaughter.  It wasn’t only the meat that the Europeans used.  As in any such calamitous circumstance, almost every part of the horse was used, including the coats, from which winter clothing was made.  My wife still has a coat passed down to her through generations that finds its origin in that period.  She doesn’t wear it, but it remains as a reminder of her heritage and how her family like so many in Europe were forced to survive.

Having covered the purely practical questions, let’s move on to the economic ones.  Horse slaughter fulfills a vital function in the horse industry:  It puts to good use animals that would otherwise be dumped in landfills or buried in massive pits.  As it stands, we have a surplus of horses since the prohibition on federal funding of inspections of horses slaughtered for human consumption enacted through Congress five years ago.  It has long been true that excess horses found their way to slaughter because only the most useful animals are kept.  There are a few organizations that run horse rescue operations, but the truth is that those subsist almost entirely on charity, and in these hard economic times, they’ve been suffering, and a few have even gotten themselves into trouble, unable to feed or care for the growing number of discarded horses.  Too many people have come to the irrational view of horses as pets, but this is a nonsensical view that cannot be sustained in the real world.  Horses are livestock, and when treated as such in the market, the market handles the problems associated.

In days gone by, but thankfully perhaps now returning, horses past their usefulness went to “the glue factory,” as the euphemism promised.  Only the rare horse, perhaps famous for racing or other equestrian endeavor managed to avoid this fate.  The reason is simple enough to understand, and I know a thing or two about it:  Horses are expensive to maintain, feed, and pasture or stable, and because they are no longer a necessity of our culture, the demand for them comes only from entertainment, sports, and yes, that practice of slaughter for food and other byproducts. As a matter of economics, the lack of slaughter has devalued all  horses, because we now have a glut of unwanted horses too infirm from old injuries and old age to ever be of use other than as pasture ornaments.  Let’s conduct an economic exercise:  When slaughter was legal, we saw prices of nearly $0.60/lb. for horse on the hoof.  This meant that a 1000lb. horse could be expected to bring six-hundred dollars.  While that’s not a great deal of money, if the horse is fit for no other use, that’s the most the horse is worth.  You can attempt to attach non-market emotional value to the horse, but that’s a matter of subjective considerations that has nothing to do with the market.  Now, let’s take that same horse, and rather than slaughter, let’s euthanize the horse.  Depending on the veterinarian, that may cost anywhere from $100 to $300, or more.  Then you must dispose of the carcass.  Yes, horses go somewhere, and most of them end up in a landfill.  You can expect to pay between $200 and $300 for that.  Let’s stay on the cheap side of this argument. Let’s assume you euthanize and dispose of the horse for a grand total of $300.  As compared to taking that same horse to slaughter, you’re out $900.  Math is hard.  Nature is harder.

Let’s imagine that this animal is going to be kept as a pasture ornament.  Let’s just say we’re going to keep the animal around indefinitely.  You will spend an average of $1500 annually on veterinary care, and another $600 on farriers’ services, and you will feed the horse hay and some sort of bulk protein in the form of grain or pelletized feed products.  The average one-thousand pound horse is going to consume $40 in hay and $20 in feed for a week.  Do the math.  You’re going to spend a load of money on a horse that isn’t doing anything else.  It’s not at all difficult to suggest that with the average horse, even bargain-shopping on all the necessities, you’re going to spend $5000 per year to maintain the existence of the animal.   At present, the average healthy young horse does not fetch $1000 at a sale in my home state.  I want you to think about that reality: On average, in my state, if you can give a horse away, you’re doing well.  Texas has some particular problems in its horse market brought about by politicians, but nationwide, the industry has suffered from this horse slaughter ban.  Too many unfit, infirm animals are taking up too many resources, because for the last five years, we have been prevented from slaughtering the excess.  While horses haven’t been going to slaughter, many horse farms have been killed off, because they can no longer sell their product at a profit for all the useless animals stacking up all over the country.

Now, before some PETA-minded “animals have rights too” whack-job starts in on me, no, I have never personally shipped a horse to slaughter.  Every horse we’ve ever had that became seriously injured or sick was euthanized.  Yes, I paid the freight to haul off their carcasses, but understand that in all but one hopeless case, we tried to save the horse first, meaning its meat was unfit for human consumption anyway due to the medications that were used in the animal’s treatment.  With perhaps all but one of them, if I had known that the treatments would have been futile, and that they were going to die irrespective of our veterinary efforts, I would rather they had gone to slaughter than spend untold thousands on treatments that were ultimately followed by euthanasia and disposal.  At least that way, some good would have come of them.

I realize that seems harsh to some people.  Part of this sense is born of the fact that some people mistake livestock for pets.  Pets live indoors. Pets are generally in some manner housebroken.  If you’ve managed that with an equine, you’ve one serious horse-whisperer.  The simple fact is that the bias in favor of horses on the part of some resides purely in their minds, much like any other bias.  I mentioned “all but one of them,” and that was such a case, where my bias in favor of the horse would have caused me to expend a good deal more if the veterinarians had not convinced me it would be fruitless.  It had nothing to do with the horse’s market worth, but his worth to me personally, but the fact that one particular horse was especially valuable to me doesn’t change the fact that horses are livestock.

I also think with the shape of things in our world, the time is quickly coming when we will have no room for purely sentimental legislation that effectively leads to asinine bans on the slaughter of horses for human consumption.  The simple truth that none of the do-gooders ever address is that horses will die. All horses will die.  How they will die comes down in many cases to human choice, but the only end accomplished by slaughter bans is to deny to horse owners a residual, token amount for the tens of thousands of dollars they will have spent over the life of a horse, and to make those owners slaves to animals long beyond their use.  You can call me a mean and ruthless bastard if you like, but the truth of the matter is something else entirely.

I love horses, but  I know that the only way we will preserve them is that if they are maintained as private property.  A thing is defined as property in part by the right of its owner to use and dispose of it.  If the argument of the anti-slaughter advocates is that I should be denied the use and disposal of my property, they are merely communists acting under another claim of “the public interest,” or “the public good.”  If I knew who inserted that provision into the bill that eliminated the ban, I would give them a big sloppy kiss and $100 toward their re-election.  So would most others in the horse husbandry business.   It’s not that any of us in the horse industry seek to slaughter horses, but we know so long as they exist, this will be necessary, if unpleasant.

Follow-up: A Note to Horsemen

38 thoughts on “Reality Check: Horses and Slaughter”

  1. When I saw another article on the lift of this ban I really didn't want to read it. Slaughter and any kind of animal in the same sentence is pretty much is a dagger in my heart. When I saw you were writing about it I thought I'd give it a shot. I do absolutely agree with you in regards that the horse population needs to be controlled and if this is the way to do it then so be it. I would rather see an animal euthanized than to see it suffer. In this economy I imagine there are quite a few horses and other animals going without. I know how much these animals cost to keep and that's why I have never gotten one. I live on 15 acres and would have loved to have a horse but logic won out. Finances dictated that I would not be able to care for one properly.
    I'm not a hunter and never could shoot an animal (I'm sure that would change if I was starving) but I see the necessity of controlling the deer and other animal population. It's hard for people to understand in regards to horses though. They are looked upon as pets and I guess I have looked at them like that too. It's hard to get out of that mindset. I probably won't ever. I see where you're coming from and have no judgement. Just try to tell my heart that.

    Excellent writing. Thank you.

    1. Tracy, Thank you. I don't expect everybody to agree with me, but I am very glad so many of my readers are open-minded enough to consider it all the way through. As I said in my article, I have never slaughtered a horse, and have never thought of them in those terms except as a distant last recourse that has never really been much of a consideration, but given the state of our world, I have to suppose could become one. I have been in the industry a long while now, roughly half of my adult life, and I have learned so much more that was wrong in my preconceptions that I've had to reconsider a number of things. One of them is horse slaughter.

      It's a hard thing for people who live in a city, or never have been around a farm. To them, beef, pork and chickens are things they see in packages at the grocery store. It's far-removed from the factual process that filled those packages. Horses have always been a part of the American culture, but so has horse slaughter. The notion that horses were somehow exempt from this process is a relatively recent development in America, probably because we were the first to adopt the widespread use of automobiles and so on, and because in our popular culture for most of the last century, horses have been a thing of cowboy movies and horse races and rodeos.

      I listened to Mark Levin, and he couldn't understand why if this ban was lifted, farms wouldn't begin to raise horses for slaughter and export. Worse, some shrill nut put something up on his FB page that he understood to support his theory, and his big heart for animals led him to believe it.

      Here are the facts: Horse meat has never brought more than $0.50-0.60 per pound on the hoof in all my time in the industry. A foal is born weighing around 100lbs, some larger, some smaller, but that's probably a fair average. Of that weight at birth, I would estimate that 60lbs of it is bone. They are born frail and skinny because if they were any bigger, their dam couldn't deliver them through her relatively narrow pelvic structure. I have seen large foals being delivered by small to medium mares become hopelessly entrapped because their shoulders were simply too big to exit, to the loss of both mare and foal.

      An adult horse probably averages around 1000 lbs. Of his mass, roughly 25% is bone. Horses are terrible at converting food to energy and energy stores. Cattle is twice or three times as efficient. This is why horse crap is probably the most innocuous of them all, because they barely scratch the surface of the potential of the food they eat. Cattle are walking fermentation tanks by comparison, and they convert food to energy and energy stores as horses. For this reason alone, it makes no economic sense to raise horses for slaughter despite what some people may think.

      Another reason is that horses are much more apt to spontaneously abort a pregnancy(miscarriage, in human terms.) If the mare comes under significant stress, she can dump that foal in minutes long before it's ready for the world. Mares are terrible if you wish to breed for food.

      People then ask: Then why do we need slaughter at all? Here's the answer, and you can do with it what you will, but it's true: A horse is unusable in any practical sense until its at least(bare minimum) two years old. More reasonably, three, although there are a few exceptional individuals that mature early. This means that including the 340-ish day pregnancy of a mare, the foal is basically 3-4 years along in his life cycle before he's good for anything but rudimentary training. A few rare horses live into their 30s, but most don't make 20. (Even WITH slaughter, the average age of a horse in human care in the US has been around 16 years, while in nature, in a wild or feral herd, that is more like 11 years.) What makes that difference is people tend to take care of property particularly if they believe it has ongoing value.

      If we figure a lame 15 year-old horse weighing 1000 lbs going to slaughter, historically you might have done well to get $600 at the auctions. It may not be much, but it is some residual value. A horse of the same condition in the slaughter-ban regime has a value of exactly zero. Worse, because the horse isn't good for much of anything, it can't be sold, so it's a resource hog. It stands there and eats. And eats. And get sick, and requires treatments. Ongoing hoofcare. Dental care. All of these things. The horse very quickly becomes a money pit. Add insult to injury, and in most jurisdictions, you can't bury them even on your farm property, and even when they die, they're an additional expense. Here comes the reality: In those conditions, owning the horse is punishment.

      Now, let a large number of such horses stack up, and what you realize is that they begin to destroy the value of other horses, and they also compete for the same resources(feed, veterinary care, hay, etc) all for an animal you may love, and that love would be the only reason remaining to keep them alive. Let me ask you: If you were being punished for your love, how long would your love last? That is the question that has confronted many horsemen these last five years.

      You see, most horses are bred for racing. That's true of at least half of quarterhorses, and probably 99% of thoroughbreds. Standardbreds are somewhere in between, (for harness racing.) The problem is that of the 35-40 thousand thoroughbreds that are foaled each year in the US, more than half will never step into the gate for an actual race. Most are found to be too slow even for the lower class races, some are injured, or sick, or die of disease, but among all of them, maybe thirty or forty will ever consistently compete in graded stakes races. Thin of the Kentucky Derby, where maybe at most, twenty horses compete. They're 3yos, only. 20 out of 40 thousand… Now to be sure, thousands of thoroughbred horses race around the country in any given year, but there will be horses from 2yo all the way up to 10 or so, occasionally older. Most are 3-5 years old. Unless they earned a lot of money, once their racing career is over, they're finished unless they are also a mare or a stallion, and have some potential for breeding. If they are a gelding (a castrated male,) they can be a riding horse, or "glue." Their racing career leaves many of them "hot-tempered" from the high-strung training for competition in which they engage. Most are left turned out for a time to calm down in hope of making of them a decent riding horse, or a sport horse of some sort. Many never do.

      For the stallions, it comes down to this: How well did he race? If he didn't race, or didn't race well, is he at least a good looking animal with a good pedigree and a better excuse? If so, he may get to do some breeding, until either his own foals fail to perform, or until he becomes too much trouble. Mares have probably the best post-racing chance, because any mare that is sound enough to walk can still carry a foal. The question is: Was she a good racehorse? does she have a good pedigree?

      Still, most will take at least two years worth of chances with a mare in breeding if she has anything at all going for her.

      You see, here's something I bet most people don't know: I know the birthday of every thoroughbred horse ever born. I do. Yep. It's easy: January First, whatever year they were born. This is true of most breeds to my knowledge. It's called the "universal birthday." Why? Well, remember above I mentioned that various races are limited in the entries by age? This is why. Here's hell. If your foal is born December 31st and mine is born January first, though in fact they are only one day apart, as far as the Jockey Club(that registers foals) is concerned, yours turned 1yo the same day mine was born. Yours, to compete in the Kentucky Derby, would be running as a horse that is 28 months and a couple days old. Mine would be 40 months old. See the difference?

      For this reason, breeders try to have their mares bred in mid February to early March. This means they'll get a foal born safely and advantageously in January. This means that the entire thoroughbred industry(and others) goes through a busy cycle starting after the first of the year. Foals are being born, and mares are being bred, and then suddenly, come the first of June or so, it all stops except for the odd late foal or the late re-breed on a stud contract that didn't result in a pregnancy earlier in the season. In fall, foals are weaned(taken from their dams) and this is a good deal of work too. Neither mother nor baby is very happy about this. By now, junior may be 350-500lbs or more, depending on the actual date of his birth. Ever fight with a 450lb kicking machine that wants to run to Momma? You feel badly for them, but you shake it off. It's one more step on the road to their purpose. When they make it through their first winter, you begin to bulk them up if you intend them for the sales ring. Yearlings that are dappled and in spirited good flesh bring more than shabby ones that meekly follow into the ring. People are looking for winners.

      Maybe they sell, and maybe they don't. If they don't, you try to sell them again and again. By this time, you'll probably have $10k in them, or more, because you paid some stallion owner a stud fee, and your mare is depreciating with each passing year, and these critters don't arrive at the sales ring on a wing and a prayer.

      The highest price horses are in Kentucky. That state has done an excellent job of marketing itself as the home of the American thoroughbred, so almost all the best Stallions and mares gravitate there. That doesn't mean good horses don't come from elsewhere. Man O'War was from Maryland, and Secretariat was from Virginia, to name the two most famous racehorses most people know by name. The truth is, however, that while both of those horses were born in their respective states, the actual breeding both occurred in Kentucky where their respective sires(Fair Play and Bold Ruler) stood at stud. The mares were carted there for breeding.

      Now, outside Kentucky, there are a fair number of thoroughbreds foaled each year in various states, almost all 50, most years. Still, the big prices on yearlings come at the big Keeneland sale, and buyers come in from around the globe to cherry-pick the most promising youngsters from the most famous parents. They spend millions, and many of those horses come out to be nothing. I don't know now, but I think back in 1987, a son of Nijinsky II, the last winner of the British Triple Crown, went for 17 million, perhaps still the all-time record. He never raced.

      Now, what all of this means, and the point of my meandering response is that we produce many horses in search of a few very fast ones. The remainder are re-purposed when its practical, and traditionally, "glue" when its not. That's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In other breeds, it works differently, because there are more disciplines in which those horses compete than just racing. For instance, one famous racing quarterhorse, Doc Bar, went on to be a sire of great cutting horses. (He, like many racing quarterhorses, was more than half thoroughbred in truth.)

      Anyway, thank you for reading, and thank you for thinking it through. One of these days, I'm going to write something about what has happened to horseracing in this country. That's a whole other story. As I said, I don't know a soul who ever bred a horse thinking it would go to slaughter, but it's part of the clean-up, and while some may not like it, as long as they don't belly up to the bar and sponsor an old ex-racer or buy one outright, their laments tend to fall on deaf ears among those who know the truth.

      1. Mark, Many of my friends and associates were surprised to see me come out in favor of humane horse slaughter. Several of my reasons are the same as your own. I have been a lifetime owner/trainer and understand the different sides of the issue perhaps better than some who had a "knee Jerk" reaction to the news that the slaughter ban has been lifted. I would honestly rather see hungry Americans (of whom there are too many) eat than to watch neglected and abandoned animals starve to death. Rescues are at capacity and unable to extend themselves any further, and even friends of mine have had to choose to feed their horses or pay their bills. It's not getting any better anytime soon. I have rescued fine horses off the killer truck that were only on it due to financial woes or divorce, etc. back when slaughter was an option years ago. Many of the owners had no other choice but to send their horses away. With the state of the economy now, this is happening again. I would rather see slaughter restored and regulated than to have horses hauled overland to Mexico and Canada to meet the same fate after an exhausting trip with no food or water. A dead horse is just meat. The essence of the horse is gone once it's gone. People have to see that this harsh reality is preferable to a life lived in agony.
        Thank you for your insightful piece.

  2. While I agree with much of the sentiment and some of the facts in your article I think it is flawed on several points. First, although I am a meat eater, I think your attack on vegans is an unfortunate red herring. Those who oppose all animal slaughter, consumption of meat, etc. and actually don't eat meat, at least have the courage of their convictions, Whether their diet is adequate is another topic and has little to do with the question of horse slaughter.

    Second, your figures for the annual expense of keeping a horse are wildly inflated. I have a number of well cared for horses, and my costs for feed and vet care do not even approach this. Even with hay being at record prices this year. Your arguments would have been sound without doctoring them.

    Finally, your distinction between "pets" and "livestock" is just so much semantics. This is dictated by cultural perception rather than species. In a culture where horse meat is consumed by at least a large minority of the populace, then at least some classes of horses are "livestock". But can not the same be said of cats or dogs in some cultures? An animal is a "pet" or "livestock" based on it's role in the life of the humans around it, not based on your definition.

    The human race needs to clean up its act regarding the manner of slaughter of the animals we eat. Much more importantly, we need to clean up our act regarding the manner in which these animals live their lives. For their death is only a short final event, which could be made more humane – particularly through reducing travel by encouraging quality, local slaughter facilities. However, the life of a meat animal may last for a number of years, and it is here that we animal lovers, and meat lovers, need to concentrate our efforts for a more humane meat industry.

    I agree that inability to slaughter horses in the US is making life difficult for a large percentage of the horse population in general, by devaluing them and by creating financial hardship for those in the horse breeding industry. However, many of these problems are also self created to a degree, due to overbreeding at all levels, from the classiest breeder of competition horses to the backyard horse owner who allows his poor quality stock to reproduce simply because he can. Allowing slaughter will provide a short term relief for some, but it fails to address the underlying problems of horses in the 21st century.

    1. Kris,

      A few things. I pointed out the vegans because many of the anti-horse-slaughter people are of that mindset. It's not a red herring. It's the reality I see expressed daily by a group of people who have an agenda.

      Second, I don't know where you live, but with square bales topping $15 for coastal bermuda here, being trucked in from elsewhere in the country, feeding a horse $40 worth of hay per week is no problem. Most of the bulk protein feeds, whether pelletized or in grain form are over $12/50 lbs, and that's just a general use feed. Don't get something special. Part of our problem is that our pastures are all dead. To date, at my location, we've had 4-1/2 inches of rain since 1 January, almost half of that in the last week. Vaccinations, dental care, and similar add up quickly. In a herd of a dozen, you're bound to have one or more become sick or get injured, and a few trips to the vet's, or a few barn calls to our place add up quickly. Then you have parasite control, and farriers, and yeah, it adds up fast. Don't confuse what you can "get by with in a pinch" with the sustained longterm costs, year after year. I'm not doctoring anything, and I have all the receipts and outlays to prove it, and we've gone basically as cheap as I'm comfortable in going where possible. It's true we've had a calamity of bad circumstances accumulate all at one time with the drought, the idiotic legislature, the ban and a number of other local and global factors conspiring against us, but the truth is what it is.

      You can say the question of pets vs livestock is just semantics, but if so, bring your horses indoors. Really. In my book, if it won't fit easily through your front door and can't be left loose in your home, it's not a pet. I admit that's my definition, but it's as good as any. Of course, I admit you may come from a culture different than mine. You may have 8 foot tall doors, forty inches wide, no carpets, and no concern for the mess. You might be Bobby Boucher's Mama with the mule drinking from the toilet, for all I know. Where I live, and in the culture of which I'm a part, horses are not pets. Semantics or not, in my world, they're not pets. That's a nifty dismissal of a concept, but it doesn't change the facts.

      I have no problem with more widespread slaughter facilities. I'm all for it. I too would like to see that trip reduced for the sake of the animals sent to slaughter.

      Overbreeding is what happens when there's no market for the get. You want to address the real problem for horses in the 21st century? It's the same problem horses faced increasingly in the 20th: Apart from a few admittedly recreational/sporting uses, and an even smaller number of working horses(as used traditionally on farms and ranches,) most of them have no purpose. And then there's this: Take thoroughbreds, the product of the industry with which I am most familiar in the wider scope of all things equine: They are bred to be raced, and at best, they will see the tracks for just a couple of years on average. The average number of lifetime starts is now down around 4, assuming the animal ever starts at all. This ignores all those that never do. 4 races, for an animal that may live (under optimal conditions) into its 30s.

      Put another way, 98% of thoroughbreds are obsolete before their fifth birthday, except if they have value in breeding, when measured against the purpose for which they were bred.

      I also don't think there are very many "backyard breeders" left, at least not in my area. We've had very large farms go under. Two months ago, a guy in my county liquidated what had been some fairly expensive stock by giving away as many as he could on Craigslist. Meanwhile, we've stopped producing foals four years ago when it became clear that the market in our state was dying off. If we had continued, it would have been worse for us than it has been.

    2. Kris, yours is a well thought out letter and I couldn't agree with you more regarding the cost of caring for a horse. So much depends on the horse, the facility it's kept in, its use, size…And I agree that slaughter may be a necessary thing. But I do not believe that Congress will adequately fund inspection and here is where the problem lies. They have done a very, very poor job managing the wild horse population and have injured and destroyed many horses in the roundups. So my argument is with the process and who will be overseeing it. I have absolutely NO confidence that Congress will take care of this properly and so I am at this time against it.

  3. I agree with everything you said but I still have a major concern.Sadly the fact is that not everybody is an intelligent and responsible person who thinks with both their head and heart,there are a number of cases (large enough for the humane society to cosnsider it a problem) of people who raise livestock animals specifically for human consumption who abuse and neglect the animals.What is to stop neglectful owners from selling their unwanted horses to a slaughterhouse that doesn't care? for that matter what about peopleand rounding up wild
    horses for the slaughterhouse?

    1. Saber- the point is, if horse slaughter becomes legal again, it will be federally reguated just as cattle/pig slaughter is. As it stands, horses are MORE prone to neglectful/in-humane slaughterhouse treatments when horse slaughter is illegal, as it is not regulated, and many are shipped to Mexico where they may beat the horse to death to save money.

  4. Mark, check out this article on Homeland Security spending $770,000 to monitor jaguars along the US Mex border. Just got an email from Gov. Jan Brewer of AZ.

  5. Mark:

    Here in AZ, our state is over burdened with people turning horses out in the desert where they slowly starve to death.

    As a horse person, and horse lover, I'm in agreement with you. This is needed.

    I have a horse boarded out here right now, that is unusable to its owner. Not because she is old, but because she is mean. He cannot ride her and he cannot put her in with any other animal. The stall she lives in has literally been kicked apart and repaired several times. I've often said to my husband over the last 3 yrs that this man has been stuck with feeding this worthless animal, how much we needed a slaughter house for animals such as this one. And no, to my knowledge, this horse has not been abused or mistreated. She just has a nasty personality. Now my boarder has an option other than just turning her loose. He has fed this horse through unemployment and financial hardship with no reward other than good character.

    I've seen bad mules and horses that were sent to auction and ultimately to the killer. Unfortunately, for the sake and safety of others, it's not just the old and crippled horses that need to go to slaughter.

  6. You have written an informative and balanced blog. So many people that object to the processing of some animals fail to realize the impact of not having an option regarding disposal of the "unusable" horses. I am a horse person, a daughter of a horse person who, at one time had 30+ animals. He worked a day job to support his habit. This horse passion courses through my veins. We have 9 that are broke, wormed, vaccinated and well fed during the winter. I walk in your shoes.
    There is a point that has been overlooked by the articles I have read and that is the condition of many horses in April following a winter of $160.00+ hay. In my location, one can drive the county roads in from now until about June and see many pasture ornaments in various states of starvation. Winter here is harsh, livestock (and I included my horses in this category) must be supplemented hay and liquid water. Many people think their horses are in high heaven with the 3' tall weeds in their pen and they can eat snow for water. Of course this is not correct.
    My question to the opponents is this: is it any more humane to close the processing plants and keep these horses 'breathing' through a winter, then come the green grass of spring their back-bones exposed 4" with hip bones protruding, eyes sunken, ribs obvious? I've seen plenty of "breathing" horses that depend on their owners for care, yet haven't seen a flake of hay or water bucket without ice.
    In my opinion, being held by a buyer of 'shipper's' for a month (all while being fed and watered) on a truck for a day or two and humanely killed beats a 6 month sentence of starving a little more each day during the cold winter. There ARE things worse than death.

  7. I will keep this short . I do not see your point at all , or agree . I am a realist myself and have tried to find a place for horse slaughter but have been unable to really justify it . That said , if I was a big horse breeder and my lively hood depended on it then yes slaughter would most likely be the best route if some won't sell on market . We do not have a influx of unwanted horses that are old or infirm . I bought two yearlings this year from a slaughter auction who are very nicely bred with very nice conformation . I paid $350 each , and plan on turning them into reiners as there pedigree suggest they have potential . I have had horses all my life , it's been a family thing . I do not breed . There is only a need for slaughter to fill the pockets of those who breed horses . The government should look into how many babies were registered this year and follow where they have landed , most are headed to slaughter in canada and mexico .Horses can be maintained for far less then you mention above , there are lots of alternatives in horse nutrition and medical care for those who have been educated . Clearly you rely on misinformation yourself to come to create your own opinion . For every 300 thoroughbreds born a year 100 make it to the track and out of that 100 maybe ten get a name and go on to become anything . The rest are shipped of for slaughter but maybe a lucky few find homes . I don't even want to think how many quarterhorses end up at slaughter because they just weren't viable to you ! I am not totally against slaughter , but I am against it if the only REAL reason it exist is to make sure all those big breeders can line the fat pockets . I think it is a selfish trade made at the animals expense .

    1. "Selfish trade made at the animals expense" Ever eat a hamburger? You know how it arrives on your plate? "Selfish trade made at the animals expense." What about those two yearlings you purchased for $350 each. Do you think that is more or less than the breeder had in each of them? Sounds to me like a selfish trade made at the breeder's expense. Get real. You obviously live in dream-world. We economize as much as possible. Do you really believe 2/3s of all thoroughbreds raised in America each year go directly to slaughter? If you do, you're a dupe. There's no way that's true, not even close. Here's the thing, and I want you to consider it: You got two healthy yearlings at $350 each. Do you really believe the economic conditions prevailing in the industry are good if that price is possible? So, you're against profit. You bought two horses for $700 and hope to turn them into reiners, but you're against profit. Do you read your own words here? Are you serious? Why do you want to turn them into reiners? Do you use them as such yourself, or do you train them for others to buy, already trained for such? What do you do with them if they don't work out as reining horses? What?

      Now you want government involved in investigating the horse industry?

      1. Actually, Kirsteen's ROM on the amount of thorough breds that go to slaughter are quite accurate. I am very familiar with that business and at LEAST 2/3 end up at the slaughter houses and on the plates of Europeans!

        1. Tonny, Two things: 1.) Substantiate the claim of 2/3s. 2.) Kirsteen's claim on the matter was that 2/3 of those bred are sent there. The suggestion was that thoroughbreds were going directly from the breeding farms to the slaughterhouses, which is a preposterous claim in any case.

    2. Even PETA could agree that the ban needed to be lifted. Horse market aside, go watch a youtube video of what horses endure when they are slaughtered in Mexico. Even the most narrow-minded person with no affiliation to horses would choose humane over inhumane. Kirsteen, after reading your reply… I am glad to hear that you "don't breed." Great article Mark.

      1. My point exactly, Kelly! It's not regulated in Mexico, but if done here you know it'd be regulated just like pig/cattle slaughter is.

  8. Good article mate, I have horses & commercial livestock & it's definitely important to have a market for unwanted horses.
    However your grave lack of knowledge in the area of human diet concerns me. If you are going to make statements to the public on such an issue you need to make sure you are presenting facts not propaganda.
    After years of research in health I can tell you humans are designed to eat plant based foods only. Animal protein is absolutely not necessary and is actually very harmful and has been proven to be the leading cause of Diabetes, heart disease & cancer.
    I appreciate that you (as I did) have grown up being told otherwise, but I strongly recommend that if you want to put forward your opinion on the subject you do some serious research first.
    Dr T. Colin Cambell's book 'The China Study' is a great place to start.

    Sincerely Jessie.

    1. Actually, Jessie, I thank you for your kind words, but there are plenty of studies that contradict Dr. Campbell. Like Global Warming, the science is not so settled as some would pretend. One can find evidence of this in many bits of physiological evidence, for instance, the ability of the liver to convert dietary animal fats directly into sugars if no other sources are available. Your thesis also conflicts with plenty of archeological evidence that shows humans enjoying a diet rich in meats in every culture. I'm sorry, but I simply don't have any reason to doubt what science has shown in contradiction of your claims.


    2. I think you should do more research in the knowledge of human diet. Fact…humans need protein in order to live. Protien does not cause diabetes…carbohydrates cause diabetes. It's carbs that turn into blood sugar and when you get to much in your system it shuts down the body from making insulin. What are carbs…fruits, vegetables and grains. What is protein…meat and dairy. Tell me this, if man is not supposed to eat meat why have they eaten it way before Christ!!
      Mark, it's refreshing to hear your words. I agee with you 100%.

  9. Well, I own horses as well. Have had them most of my life. I don't disaggree that the economy has in some ways caused some very, ignorant , heartless people to "dump" their horses leaving them to starve and suffer. It's cruel and it breaks my heart to think about it. We love our horses and sacrifice much to keep them cared for and living a good life. Who knows what the future will bring and possibly we won't be able to care for them in this way. At that point I would humanely euthanize them if I had no other choice. Certainly the last thing I would ever do is sell them at auction or to someone else where they would inevitably end up suffering or at the slaughter house.

    What I DO wholeheartedly disaggree with is sending a horse-any horse to a slaughter house. Horses aren't the dumb animals many make them out to be. They are intelligent and capable of forming relationships with those that give them love and understanding. From the first step onto the transport to a slaughter house, a horse is terrified and is suffering. Once they get there, they are herded and beat and horribly mistreated for their last few minutes or hours of life. If you don't believe that, there are plenty of undercover videos out there you can view. It is a horrible, cruel and wretched way to die-for any creature. If there were a humane way to end an unwanted horse's life, I'd be all for it. But NO ONE will ever sell me on this "slaughter is necessary" bunk.

    As for chickens, cows, etc. I feel the same. I choose not to eat beef or meat of any kind. And no, I'm not a tree hugging, raw meat wearing, fur coat ripping maniac. But I've got a heart and love the creatures we have been blessed with. I cannot fathom those that shrug their shoulders and throw up their hands at something like this.

    But then again we are a society that is okay with "disposing" of a lot of our so-called "unwanted".

    1. LOL… POOR blades of wheat! What a horrible way for them to die!!

      Who are you to define horses as intelligent animals?? Pigs are, too (supposedly), but I still LOVE some Christmas ham. My neighbor purposely bred two pigs to create more pigs, raised them and worked hard to earn the money to fatten them up, and then they were peacefully slaughtered.

      Perhaps grain is intelligent, too.

      Inhumane? Look, more horses get clubbed to death, slowly starve over the course of many years with slaughter being illegal. Many are legally shipped to Mexico for slaughter, where there is no regulation in how they are killed. Why is it such an issue to everyone that slaughtering your horse is an option rather than letting it starve to death or die of illness?

  10. Mark–good article and I understand it. However, I substituted "people" for horses and came to the end of the article understanding how the Patients Affordable Care Act got passed as it did, and what the reasoning behind it is. After all, it seems we are now "property" of the government. Very scary.

      1. I understand that, Mark, as well as you. But does the government any longer? After all, the made the "non slaughter" law, then they reversed it. They do whatever they want…

        1. Mary, you get no argument from me on that point, as many of our own citizens seem not to recognize there is a substantial difference as they scream for new government interventions. It's frightening indeed.

  11. I own horses and understand that slaughter is not an option for everyone, however I do not understand the anti slaughter persons need to force their beliefs on other horse owners. If you don't consider slaughter an option then just don't do it , but please leave me to make my own decisions thank you.
    It seems we in the home of the free are not so free to live our lives without interference from zealots.

  12. I for one have six horses that I compete on and we give them all the supplements and bute. Well if u haven't noticed all the competors use bute and it says right on the container not for animals of human consumption. So why the heck should all those horses go to the slaughter if they can't we be eaten that ridiculous!!!

  13. I have to laugh at the person who said protein based meat is the main cause of diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc……to acuse someone of blatant lack of knowledge and then to declare such an improper fact as that is just hilarious to me. NEWSFLASH…the LEADING cause of diabetes is LACK OF EXCERSISE ie: movement that causes your heart rate to increase, and body fat to decrease…. given, that some people are genetically cursed with diseases such as above, is gravely unfortunate. HOwever, most cases are preventable and all it takes is some movement. This country has become far to inactive, thats a proven fact and you cant argue that. I just wonder why everyone is so damn worried horses are going to be consumed in mass production by humans…THEIR NOT!! I have already had too many argumentive interactions with some local people on another post, the ignorance gets so tiring…

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