Horses being slaughtered for meat is nothing new in many countries. But for those of us who keep horses because we enjoy riding and just being around then, it’s very difficult to accept that an increasing number of horses are being taken to slaughter.
In the present difficult financial climate, it’s becoming an all too frequent option for people strapped for cash, and desperate to release themselves from the huge costs of keeping a horse. For years, this has been the fate of some racehorses, bred for racing and business purposes, and often disposed of at the abattoir at the end of short racing life. Racehorses are often over breed in any case in the hunt for that ‘special’ horse, the ordinary and surplus ones being simply disposed off in the abattoir. Some might even argue that a highly-strung racehorse, trained only for racing and with no schooling for everyday riding, will always be difficult to handle, and perhaps this is a kinder option in the long run. The current credit crunch has made this an all too common ending for young, healthy horses, were places at rescue centers are becoming increasingly hard to find because of high demand.
Then there are the horses kept as pets or to ride, bought in better times, and now a huge drain on the owner’s resources when jobs can be lost, and money is hard to come by. Slaughter houses offer carcass disposal, an otherwise expensive service, hence making it an economic option that some are forced by circumstances to choose. Maybe it could be argued that to humanly slaughter a horse is better than leaving it neglected in a field. But if this is necessary, surely it should be carried out as far as possible in a way that removes suffering and ensures the welfare of the horse.
So, you might say, if it’s ok to slaughter a sheep or a cow, what’s so special about a horse? Well, horses are more aware of their environment. Horse owners will say that their horses are almost mind readers, and the bond between horse and rider is close. But what happens to a horse kept waiting at an abattoir? Surely horses will be easily distressed, and is this really always taken into account? In addition to this suffering, horses often have to make a long and arduous journey before they even reach the slaughter house. Many of these horses are reported by World Horse Welfare to be dehydrated, exhausted, and injured on arrival, sometimes traveling for more than 24 hours without rest.
Owning a horse is a huge responsibility, and should be thought about carefully – as should breeding horses. Yes, foals are cute, but can you guarantee a future for an animal in today’s financial climate? And would you be able to lead your horse to slaughter?