In March of this year, I helped rescue a horse for the first time. I didn’t have a farm, I didn’t have a trailer, and I never even saw the horse in person. I was able to help by donating online, and by coordinating getting the funds to a foster “mom” who went to pick him up and get him started in his new life. His name is Trooper, a stout and friendly chestnut gelding about 18 years old, and I feel bonded to this day to the people who participated in the joint effort to get him safely into foster care with quarantine and then placement to a new home at a riding camp for children.
Trooper had been sold for likely very little by his former owner to a feedlot owner in Zillah, Washington. It’s unfortunate but all too common that when hard financial times fall on horse owners, the owners don’t have many options. Feedlots and auctions are options, but the real business of these options is not necessarily widely known or understood.
Feedlot owners advertise that they “buy, sell and trade” horses. That is true. That is their business. But because a thriving business exists in the sale of horse meat for human consumption, at the end of almost every week, all the horses left on the lot will be loaded into large stock trailers and shipped across the border to either Canada or Mexico to slaughter houses.
The people who purchase horses to sell for meat are called “kill buyers,” and they work on contracts with slaughter houses which require them to provide a certain quantity in weight of horse meat to them in a given amount of time. Feedlot owners are guaranteed to receive a certain price per pound for their horses. They will offer the horses for sale to the public for a slightly higher, non-negotiable price, which covers the costs of the extra efforts to coordinate with individual buyers. These prices are usually under $1000, which is not relatively expensive for a horse.
The horses’ breeds, ages and levels of training vary widely.
There are many wonderful horses available, and it is well worth considering rescue as an option for acquiring your next horse. This option means that you will have to make a relatively quick decision, and be prepared for appropriate vet check bills and behavioral quirks that a brief assessment by an experienced rider may not uncover. It is highly recommended that you keep a rescue horse quarantined for the first month, just in case they have picked up strangles or any other contagious infection or illness.
Since March, I have been exploring ways to help publicize this process and get the facts out to people who are interested. Horse slaughter is a controversial and emotional issue. My personal opinion is that, to date, no form of killing en masse in a slaughter house has ever been humane for horses. Simply banning slaughter in the USA has not been enough. We are beginning to see laws passed around humane transport to slaughter, but that is not enough either.
I will do my best to provide links to websites and articles that provide current information, as I believe that the more awareness and involvement we can inspire, the better chance we have of shifting the paradigm and finding better alternatives for horses and horse owners in need. You don’t need to have a farm or a trailer to get involved and make a difference in our horses’ lives. Below are a couple of links that are just a start.
Information regarding the practice and methodology of slaughter can be found at the below link. Some material is graphic, and the author’s bias is very evident, but it is hard to find such a comprehensive explanation without a bias. http://www.respect4horses.com/truth.html
Dr. Temple Grandin, who was reportedly working in Wyoming on researching a more humane form of horse slaughter, determined that the key to solutions lies in (1) stop the overbreeding, (2) find ways to care for horses in need. http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horse-slaughter/article/1491
WASHINGTON RESCUE GROUPS:
And on Facebook, visit Another Sunrise Equine Fundraising Network to follow and contribute to the fundraising efforts for some of the horses that may be posted on my Horse Rescue Network Page.