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March 15, 2013

185 Reasons to Stop Horse Slaughter

Many of the horses at the Duchess Sanctuary in Oregon were saved from the incredible cruelty of slaughter

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • Felina, shown in July 2011, is one of the horses who escaped the fate of slaughter. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

  • Maddie, shown in Oct. 2011, lives in safely among the herd at Duchess. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

by Jennifer Kunz

Many of the 185 horses at Duchess Sanctuary were saved from the incredible cruelty of slaughter. A herd of 89 former PMU mares were 15 minutes from being loaded onto a truck heading to a sale in Iowa, where the majority of them would have been purchased by meat buyers, when they were rescued.

Today those mares and some of their offspring live at Duchess. Horses like Felina, Maddie or the many others who are so admired by fans on our Facebook page every single day.

Abandoned horses like Waldo, from northern Oregon, sold at auction by the Department of Agriculture for $5, live here too. As do mustangs, owner surrendered horses, and horses in need brought in from other rescues. These horses have a wonderful life here now, but it could have been much different had they been inextricably caught in the slaughter pipeline.

The slaughter journey: a grim fate

The typical slaughter journey starts when an owner sends their horse to auction, or sells their horse (knowingly or not) to a meat buyer. Buyers gather horses from private owners and auctions and collect them in feedlots, where they will often be subject to more inhumane treatment before being loaded on a truck headed to the slaughter plant. Legally the horses can be hauled for more than 24 hours without a break for food or water. All sizes and sexes of horses mixed together, causing atrocious injury and even death in the trailer. We’ve documented plenty of photo and video evidence of these injuries and deaths.

"Our horses, our trusted companions and friends, deserve better than the slaughter house..."

Once at the slaughter plant, horses are run up a chute into a kill box where they are shot with a penetrating bolt gun to render them unconscious prior to being hoisted by a hind leg and having their throats slit. Sometimes the bolt gun fails, and the horse is not unconscious. Sometimes it takes multiple shots, or a rifle is brought in to shoot the horse with a bullet. All of this inside a loud, blood-spattered metal box with other horses waiting in line and screaming in terror.

Exporting the problem to Canada, Mexico

This process is not humane, it can never be made humane, and it needs to stop. Right now (because we’ve helped shut down horse slaughter plants in the U.S.), American horses are shipped across the borders into Canada and Mexico for slaughter in the tens of thousands each year. But that may be about to change.

In 2011, Congress passed a bill that reverses six years of U.S. policy against subsidizing foreign-owned horse slaughter plants, and it paves the way for the resumption of equine slaughter here in the United States.

Working towards humane solutions

There's no single fix to the problem of homeless or neglected horses, just like there is no single fix to the pet overpopulation problem. These challenges can be solved only with a blend of wise policy solutions, rescue and sanctuary work, and a large dose of personal responsibility.

But the fact is that our horses, our trusted companions and friends, deserve better than the slaughter house. They deserve a truly humane end to their lives when the time is right.

Take action now

On behalf of the 185 horses here at Duchess, please learn about the issue of horse slaughter if you haven’t done so already. Then share the information with your friends and family. Read about responsible horse ownership, consider donating to Duchess Sanctuary or your local GFAS-Accredited Horse Rescue facility, and, most importantly, take action.

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 1094/S. 541 that will prohibit horse slaughter from returning to the U.S. and end the export of American horses for slaughter.

Jennifer Kunz is the ranch manager of Duchess Sanctuary, a 1,120-acre facility south of Eugene, Ore., that was established in 2008 as an oasis for formerly abused, abandoned, neglected and homeless horses.

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