Monday, May 19, 2008


As a horse owner, I have been following the horse slaughter ban in the US for quite some time. It just seems to me that there is always that group way out in left field that gets to decide how things are run down there. So far, the slaughter-ban faction has been winning the battle... and the horses are losing big time.

There are non-profit horse rescue organizations all over the States that are so overloaded with unwanted horses that they can't take any more. People are neglecting their horses and letting them suffer and starve, with no basic health care, no food, water or shelter.

The crash of the PMU (pregnant mare's urine) industry in both Canada and the US has flooded the market with horses, both young and mature, purebred and grade. There is no real way to sell your everyday horse and get a decent price and a good home for it - there are just way too many out there. A horse that is well-trained and experienced will still sell and fetch a decent price. But with no training, no handling and often no registration papers, the horses coming on the market are worthless. So they don't sell.

There are numerous reasons why the horse slaughter industry is necessary for the well-being of the horse population in both Canada and the US. (This is, of course, my opinion but it is shared by many others.) This is just a listing of some of the reasons why I think it is a necessary part of the horse industry:
1) old or broken down horses that can no longer work and are suffering
2) horses that are dangerous to handle and/or ride and are not worth (or can't be) rehabilitating with further training
3) irresponsible backyard (and even professional) breeders who continue to perpetuate poorly conformed and ill-tempered horses (she's registered, he's such a pretty colour, he's fast, she's so cute I want her to have at least one baby, etc....)

I have had the experience of having a yearling put down due to colic and a twisted gut. Without a trip to Saskatoon and $5000 surgery (if he even made it to SK), he was in intense pain and was going to die anyway. So euthanasia was my only option for the little guy. He was going to be my next show horse, was a sweetheart and was a baby. I couldn't let him suffer more. In 24 hours I had the vet out twice to treat his colic, but by the next afternoon it was obviously nothing was working. So he was put down.

And then I did something that is actually against the municipality by-laws: I hired a friend with a backhoe to dig a hole on the farm and bury him. The reason that is illegal is fear of contaminating the ground water, which is the drinking water supply. But we had 80 acres, he was small and he was buried far from the well.

You can no longer take a horse's body to the landfill for disposal. And I believe in this area, there is only one company that will come and haul the carcass away for you. Given the circumstances, what I did was the best I could do. I could have called that company to take him away, and if I had been boarding at a stable, that is what I would have had to do. And I would have. I am not sure what they do with the ones that are euthanized because they now have lethal amounts of a drug in their systems.

So this topic will be a hot one for a long time. The US is finding that people are just letting their horses loose to fend for themselves. Horses that are used to human handling, hay and feed, without the smarts to survive in the wild. So a good portion of them will suffer and die slowly, starving, loaded with parasites, wandering onto roads and highways (which is another horrible danger - no one wants to hit a 1000 lb horse in the dead of night on a highway - because then you both may die).

Euthanizing your horse when necessary is definitely something I believe in, but there has to be a way to dispose of the carcass. And if you can't do that, then the only other option is to take the horse to a sale where there are meat buyers. Even with conditions not always optimum in those facilities, at least the horse suffers for a much shorter period of time than if left, neglected (which in my mind is abuse) and possibly abandoned.

1 comment:

  1. oh my, we really must love horses. thank you for this informative and sometimes sad piece.


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