The ultimate betrayal of the horse


I felt nauseated as I read a story this morning on this site about the “equine house of horrors” at two Canadian horse slaughter plants.

The whole issue of horse slaughter nauseates me, full stop. I find it unfathomable that people who supposedly care for and about an animal would betray it by sending it to slaughter.

A butcher shop specializing in horse meat in Pezenas, Languedoc, France. (Wikipedia)
A butcher shop specializing in horse meat in Pezenas, Languedoc, France. (Wikipedia)

But then not all horse lovers care about horses.

As I read through the Canadian story, I felt saddened for the horses involved, and anger at the people who had sent them to their deaths.

I also felt anger at the idiots in the world (yes, there are plenty) who seem to think that horse slaughter is a convenient form of euthanasia – not only do they get the ‘problem’ out of sight and out of mind – but – bonus – they make a few bucks, too.

Now, the devil’s-advocate types out there jump up and say they see no difference between eating a cow, sheep, or deer, than eating a horse.

Well, there are two main differences that these people fail to consider.

One is that there are rigorously inspected facilities for cattle, sheep and deer where they are treated humanely when they are slaughtered.

As outlined in the Canadian story, the facilities that horses end up in are generally not like that:

“Problems include failure to restrain each animal’s head properly before shooting, shooting from too great a distance, shooting in the wrong part of the head or body, failure to follow up with an immediate second shot in animals that were not killed by the first, hoisting apparently conscious animals, and – in the case of [one] plant – cruel handling and treatment of the horses, including excessive whipping and overuse of an electric prod, as well as an apparent callous disregard for the animals’ suffering.
“An additional cause of very major concern is the presence of what appear to be either plant supervisors or inspectors who observe the employees’ actions and yet do nothing.”

Two, is that horses have been selectively bred for hundreds of years for many things, and slaughter isn’t one of them. They have been bred to carry a soldier to war, or to plough a field, to pull a cart as transport, or to be gentle enough for a child to ride, or to run fast for entertainment and as a money-earner, or to jump high or look pretty, and so on.

Most also have names.

In simple terms, there are (to me) two main types of people who send horses to slaughter.
1 – those who breed or buy them just for the purpose. [known as kill buyers or breeders]
2 – those who have used the horse until it has outlived its usefulness to them and they don’t care about providing another home or providing another option for the horse. It’s all about the money.

Type 2 can be split further:
a. those who have the horse disposed of by someone else – think of a racehorse owner whose trainer says the horse is no good, but they’ll find them another one. The owner doesn’t know where the old one went, and doesn’t care because he has another ‘prospect’.
b. those who sell a horse (usually cheap or at auction) for whatever reason yet fail to properly place the horse in a new suitable home, or check the buyer out.
c. those who knowingly send their horse to slaughter as a form of euthanasia.

Fast food shop selling horse Leberkäse (Pferdeleberkäse) in Vienna. (Wikipedia)

How any of these people could have missed the unpalatable facts in the media about horse slaughter in the past few years is another question. Heads buried in the sand? Which leads me to type c – the worst kind of traitors to the equine. They say they are horse lovers and make their money from or get pleasure from the horse, yet betray them at the very end.

These “c” people keep telling themselves and anyone else misguided enough to listen that slaughter plants are necessary because it is so expensive to have a horse killed when they don’t want it any more. If they don’t exist, these people argue, horses will be mistreated and neglected. Sad to say that horses were being mistreated and neglected long before slaughter plants in the US closed. I’ve read a lot about this  on this website over the past few years.

The misinformation being spread knows no limits.

Don’t get me started on the silly people who think it is great that the meat of horses is used to feed the poor. It isn’t. Horse meat sells as a delicacy  so it takes a special kind of ignorance to consider sophisticated diners in Belgium, France and Japan as paupers.

Never mind the fact that many horses are pumped full of toxic (to humans) chemicals. This proves that people will eat anything they can shove down their throats, and believe what is shoved down their throats by those promoting it.

A horse at a livestock auction in Pennsylvania.

The biggie drug here is phenylbutzone, or Bute, which is a carcinogen (that means cancer causing) and causes bone marrow toxicity in humans. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set no safe levels of the drug and bans its use food-producing animals, including horses. Yet still horses are killed for their meat and people eat it. ‘It’s safe’, say the kill buyers, and the European Union believes them when they say the horses are free of key drugs.

Reading through the Canadian story I felt so bad for the horses who ended up being sold down the road, only to find a lonely, painful, and frightening end.

We have bred horses for many generations to be easy to handle and put their trust in us. They have been pampered and loved, groomed and shown, and handled with care.

Slaughter is the ultimate betrayal.


This article has been written by a contributor to

15 thoughts on “The ultimate betrayal of the horse

  • April 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    What an incredible piece Thank you. I am sharing it everywhere. Well said .

  • April 7, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I too felt nauseated on reading about the treatment of horses in canada george, but cant agree with your sentiments regarding what you call types of people, I own and love horses also and also own a racehorse who was bred to race, here in NZ, im sure all over the world race horses are put down after their racing careers which at times can be very short routinely, as often these horses are so highly strung that they can not be re-homed and the numbers in any event makes re-homing even quiet horses very difficult at times, I dont personally see a problem with horses as meat animals and your comments regarding chemicals are simply inaccurate and untrue, animals that have been treated with any medicines would have a strict withholding period before they could be slaughtered for human consumption, also Bute is used as a pain killer therefore if all of these terrible slaughter houses are as bad as you seem to think why would they be conscientious enough to make sure that the animals were not in any pain?

    your comments regarding breeding for specific purposes may be accurate however cattle deer pigs have all been bred for different purposes other than to be eaten cows for milk steers as beasts of Burden etc, It seems your objection is to the killing of horses for the purpose of eating them on the grounds of them being more intelligent than other animals so what about pigs, or deer they are at least as intelligent if not more so,

    I consider that shooting a horse as humanely as possible to be far more humane than allowing animals to become neglected and suffer for a great deal longer,

    I absolutely agree that long distance transport to slaughterhouses where they are cruelly treated is absolutely Barabaric and should be outlawed, but time and time again it has been demonstrated that prohibition leads to practices going underground or in this case over the border, Having humane slaughter facilities local to where the horses are has to be the best practice where they can be supervised to ensure that they comply with the law.

    If your next question was, would i humanely slaughter my own horses that also have “names” the answer is a definite yes i would and have done for humane reasons in the past in order to avoid a horse going to an unsuitable home or because it was dangerous and not going to be of any useful purpose so would certainly end up neglected , yes money plays a part of course it does, when my dog gets sick i pay for it to see the vet the same applies to my horses i am legally obliged to care adequately for my livestock but if the cost of treatment is beyond my means with which to pay what alternative do i have? the SPCA puts down, slaughters or kills tens of thousands of animals the world over every day just because they cant find homes for them how is that different when it comes to horses?

    I can only say that its a real shame that we cant show the same compassion for our fellow humans as should i suffer a debilitating illness or disease in the future i sure as hell would like to be humanely destroyed and not allowed to needlessly suffer but there is no hope of that>

    • April 14, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      Mike ~ You just commented that what George posted about toxic drugs in American horses was “simply inaccurate and untrue, animals that have been treated with any medicines would have a strict withholding period before they could be slaughtered for human consumption, also Bute is used as a pain killer therefore if all of these terrible slaughter houses are as bad as you seem to think why would they be conscientious enough to make sure that the animals were not in any pain?”

      I am an American, and I’ve owned horses for over 30 years. George has it RIGHT. I don’t know who YOU have been listening to, but they were either lying or as misinformed as you are.

      For what are called “essential” veterinary drugs, there IS a waiting period of 6 months. If you think for a moment that kill buyers give a flip about that, you need a reality check. How can they know what a horse they just bought at auction – or a stolen horse, of which there are many – has been given? They can’t know, and they don’t care. If Canada doesn’t require more than a certificate from them, well, why bother?

      However, the REAL problem with American horses are the substances that state on the label: Not for use in horses intended for human consumption. This means they are banned. Forever. If the horse has had one of these substances EVER in his/her ENTIRE LIFE they are permanently OUT of the human food chain.

      Bute is one of these substances. The SLAUGHTER people don’t give the horse bute! The owner(s) have probably, at SOME TIME in the horse’s life, given it some bute for a bruise or muscle strain or whatever. That means that horse is NEVER safe for humans to eat. Get it now? George is quite correct.

      There are many, many of these banned substances in common use here. Banamine as well as bute; all the wormers I’ve ever heard of – including ivermectin and moxidectin – topicals like Nitrofurazone and SWAT, just a couple of examples. Many antibiotics; the most commonly used drug for heaves; heck, even all the fly sprays have that on the label! Our horses are indeed LOADED with substances that have been determined to be unsafe for humans to eat. NO American horse can be considered safe and meeting the requirements of the EU. We don’t eat horses and none of them are INTENDED for human consumption. We medicate and spray them accordingly.

      As for sending your horses to slaughter – well… there is NO SUCH thing as “humane” slaughter for horses. The transportation and slaughter equipment were designed for cattle, and they just DO NOT work for horses. Watch the videos if you dare, and then tell us that what you’ve seen is humane.

      And don’t try the old “this is fake” crap, because it’s not fake. See, I lived and owned horses in Dallas, Texas for 15 years during the time Dallas Crown and Beltex were in operation. That’s how I learned the ropes. Oh, yes. From the auction to the kill floor, I learned.

      Horse theft was absolutely rampant, and I went to the slaughter houses with several of my friends whose horses had been stolen, trying desperately to find their beloved horses before it was too late. We didn’t ever find any of them. It was just too easy. In 15 years, FOUR of my personal friends had horses stolen. It still hurts when I think about all that.

      So, you need to find a new source of information. You can always ask me – I’ve been there, done that. And it’s not an experience you forget.

  • April 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    As a Canadian horse lover, I am deeply ashamed of the fact that my beautiful country is also the world’s horse slaughter capital.

    Mr. McDonald’s editorial is well-written and accurate.

    I am very, very sorry that my country is allowing this to happen, and that our national equestrian federation is not doing anything to protect the horses, the very centre of its existence.


  • July 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Great article. I agree with every aspect of your argument. I have a 16-yr old horse with a lameness issue that cannot be diagnosed, but after four wonderful years of riding him, not to mention the kindness and love he has shown me, I cannot even imagine sending him to a kill yard. I mean seriously, is it that much to expect a horse owner to kindly put a horse out of their misery if it is their time to go? I know that when the day comes to say goodbye to my loyal equine friend (hopefully when he is 30 and has enjoyed a happy retirement), it will be a humane visit from the vet. Not everyone has the luxury to keep their horses in retirement, but we owe it to our animals to show them respect and keep their best interests at heart.

  • November 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    To those of you who have convinced yourselves that it’s “OK” to slaughter horses- one day you too will be old, ill, or in a lot of pain, and downright useless, if you aren’t already- just remember that it;s “OK” for all of this to happen to you- just as it happened to your horses. The Bible and other holy books specifically states that – YOUR BEASTS FATE WILL BE YOUR FATE.

  • April 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    I think that your heart is in the right place, but overall the general tone of the piece was rather biased and slightly hysterical, as in a well balanced article one would expect there to be at least an acknowledgement of the flipside of their opinion.
    Because horse slaughter isn’t just about torturing the poor creature as much as possible before killing it, as you infer in your article. I think I can safely say that everyone was horrified by the “House of Horrors” story, but in my opinion horse slaughter is an unpleasant but necessary part of the horse world. It is, in most legit cases I am sure, akin to sending an unrideable or permanently injured horse to the Hunt Club to feed it to the hounds. Huntsmen truly do love horses, and I think it is better to send a horse to a quick painless death than leave it to rot in a paddock somewhere or go to a home that doesn’t accept how time consuming a permanently damaged horse can be.
    Like I said before, I think the aim of the article was in the right direction, but it doesn’t pay to let emotion override the writers goal when writing an article.

    • April 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Why has emotion suddenly become unclean? Caitlyn, you say that “in my opinion horse slaughter is an unpleasant but necessary part of the horse world” Not only are you wrong about horse slaughter being necessary, you are DEAD wrong about what horse slaughter is like. It IS a House of Horrors. You have never seen it. I HAVE. You never had to search in one of these hell-holes for your stolen horse, only to find out it’s too late. I HAVE.

      Keep your “opinions” to yourself until you’ve studied the FACTS. And, lose that condescending attitude too. You have already proven that you know nothing. Don’t keep putting your other foot in your mouth.

      From Pasture To Plate:

    • December 9, 2013 at 5:58 am

      What makes you think that death by slaughter is a “quick, painless death”? What about the haul to the slaughter house in a crowded trailer with other frightened horses? What about the wait in the kill pens? What about the horse being whipped into the death chute and then pushed into the kill box where the captive bolt may or may not work the first few times? What about being yanked up by the back legs and slit at the throat, often while still kicking, to bleed out? What part of this is quick and painless, in your opinion? Is it also your opinion that if we don’t slaughter horses they rot in pastures? Better to rot in a pasture where you at least have a fighting chance, than to go through the series of torture that is horse slaughter. The notion that horses starve it they are not slaughtered has been disproven many times and is nothing more than pro slaughter propaganda. Horses are left to “rot in pastures” by irresponsible, ignorant, uncaring humans. The existence of horse slaughter plants gives those ignorant, uncaring, irresponsible humans a disposal so that they may continue to breed and neglect horses. Anyone who supports horse slaughter is no friend to horses.

  • July 4, 2013 at 2:30 am

    It´s ignorant and folish to say, eating horseflesh is something other than eating beef, pork or chicken. People in europe eat horsemeat since “ever”. It´s a much leaner meat than pork and it has a “spicy” flavor to it. And horses are not in any way endangered of extinction or something.
    Just because for example americans are not “used” to the idea of eating horsemeat, or seeing the horse just as a pet/friend makes eating horse to “CRIME” ? If you would have grown up eating horse, if your mommy would have told you it´s okay and good you wouldn´t bitch around like that. get your minds together people! Ps: I´m from austria and i love “pferdeleberkäse”… which has, by the way, nothing to do with liver! -> the word derives from Leib = loaf (because of it´s shape) you could compare it a bit with spam

    here is the article about leberkäse:

    and an interesting article about horsemeat eating in history:

    • December 9, 2013 at 6:07 am

      This isn’t Austria. This is America and 80% of us oppose horse slaughter. We don’t eat horse meat in this country. If you eat it in yours, slaughter your own horses, Leave ours alone. Their meat is likely contaminated with substances that are banned in our country and yours, anyway. You shouldn’t look to America to provide you with horse meat. By the way, what you call “spicy” is probably some banned substance administered to the horse when he was alive and well and not intended for slaughter. Coming here and bragging about your disgusting culinary habits will not win us over. We’ve researched this for many years and have learned the sad truth about the torture, deception, criminality, environmental unsoundness and cruelty that is horse slaughter.

  • December 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    This is so very wrong and must be stopped. I wrote a book The Wild Horse Conspiracy that also exposes this and similar abuses and trespasses against horses and burros. It’s on amazon in print or as ebook with many color illustrations. Together we can stop this!

  • December 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    It makes me sick that anyone would even think horse slaughter is humane! In this country no slaughter house is humane for any animal. I couldn’t even imagine considering sending my Rachel-Angel to a slaughter house. Would do that to any member of your family?! The human race sometimes make me sick!

  • December 9, 2013 at 3:43 am

    Thank you for your truthful article!


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