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The Slaughter of Racehorses





Racing Cruelties:  The Horror behind the Glamour

Racing Cruelties: Photos & Videos

The Slaughter of Racehorses

In Memory of Ruffian



Campaign against the Expansion of Racing in Israel

Help Stop Expansion of Racing in Israel

Horse Abuse & Rescue: Overview

Help Stop Horse Abuse in Israel

Premarin Horses



Slaughter at the Racetrack

Slaughterhouse: Exposé of Horse Slaughter in the UK

Slaughterhouse: Photos

Racehorse slaughter in Australia




UPDATE: The American government has made it possible, starting in 2012, to slaughter horses for human consumption within the United States. All horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. had been closed in 2007, and horses were shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.
The SAFE Act (Safeguard American Food Exports) 2013—2014 is the only hope to stop both the slaughter of horses within the U.S. and also their transport for slaughter outside the U.S. Please contact your Representative and your two Senators and urge them to become cosponsors of this crucial bill. Representatives who are currently cosponsors: H.R.1094. Senators who are currently cosponsors: S.541.


The final walk before death



The British media focus attention on one aspect of the racing industry that racegoers and the general public rarely consider: the slaughter of racehorses. In 2007, Animal Aid, an organization in the UK, released footage secretly filmed in an English abattoir. The exposé was covered in the British press.


  Animal Aid September 18, 2007

  The Daily Mail September 19, 2007


Other articles and videos also highlight this tragedy in England and elsewhere.


  Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses undercover video of shooting racehorses in Australia, 2013

  Sky News HD January 19, 2013

  The Sydney Morning Herald February 3, 2008

  The Guardian/Observer October 1, 2006

  The First Post July 19, 2006


British Members of Parliament have also addressed this issue.


  Horse Passports (England) Regulations 2003


  Read about the slaughter of American horses

  Read about American racing's "dirty little secret" — the nurse-mare foal


From Animal Aid:

Secretly filmed in an English abattoir... HEALTHY HORSES AND PONIES BUTCHERED FOR MEAT EXPORTS


Animal Aid today (Thursday, September 20, 2007) releases footage secretly filmed in an English abattoir. It shows discarded children's riding ponies and unprofitable race horses being shot in the head with a rifle and then butchered for human consumption....


Covertly recorded last month at Potter’s abattoir in Taunton, the Animal Aid footage shows the killing of a succession of apparently fit and healthy horses. One conspicuous exception was a seriously injured chestnut mare who was brought to the killing factory on the evening of August 14. After a long delay, she was finally shot while lying in a yard....


About 20 of the roughly 50 horses Animal Aid filmed over just two days and one evening were Thoroughbreds [horses bred for racing]. [Note: Defra, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says the Taunton operation, together with another in Cheshire, kills 6,000-10,000 horses a year for consumption abroad.]


Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

'The fundamental problem at the heart of the horse slaughter scandal that we have uncovered is that these horses are bred to excess. They are produced for commercial reasons, by both the Thoroughbred racing industry and by those servicing the pet horse and pony market. When an animal is no longer useful, he or she is often simply disposed of. This is the fate of thousands of healthy horses and ponies every year.'

Read the complete article on the Animal Aid website.

Read the complete article in PDF format.

See videos and photos from the exposé.


From The Daily Mail:

The ponies abandoned by British children and sent to France as horse meat


The slaughterman precariously balances a rifle against the small grey pony's head.


Seconds later a shot rings out, the pony flails on the ground and is then winched onto a production line.


This is the reality of the slaughter and butchering of thousands of unwanted riding ponies and racehorses at a British abattoir....


The remains of this pony, like much of the meat that passes through Potter's abattoir in Taunton, Somerset, each year will be sent to France as there is no taste for horse meat in Britain....


Its latest annual report says it is engaged in the "elective euthanasia of equines and export of horse meat"....


The food and farming department, Defra, says the Taunton operation, together with another in Cheshire, kills 6,000-10,000 horses a year for consumption abroad.


Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler said: "What all the former owners have in common is the transient use of their animal. They feel that their responsibility is relinquished once the horse or pony is of no further use to them.

Read the complete article in PDF format. Article © Associated Newspapers Ltd


From Sky News HD (United Kingdom):

Horse Abattoir Film Reveals Welfare Breaches


FSA (Food Standards Agency) statistics released to Sky News show a dramatic increase in the number of UK horses slaughtered every year, from 3,859 in 2007 to 8,426 in 2012.


Depending on the size and breed they are bought for anything between £100 to £300 and can fetch around 700 euro on the European meat markets.


The animals come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are former pets, others come from show jumping or the race track.


A report last year from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) found: "The number of thoroughbreds reported dead to the Horse Passport Issuing Authority rose by 580—an increase of 29%—from 1994 to 2574 horses.


"Of these, 1127 horses either in training, breeding or out of training were reported as killed in abattoirs—and reported to the Government Meat Hygiene Service —from 499 horses in 2010, an increase of 126%."


However, in a statement to Sky News, the BHA added: "This is a wider equine issue and not an issue for the British racing industry, which is one of the country's most highly regulated equine pursuits.


"However, if there are allegations that any horse, whether thoroughbred or not, is being inhumanely treated in an abattoir we would fully support any investigation and subsequent action, if appropriate."


During the investigation, Hillside Animal Sanctuary rescued one racehorse called Underwriter by bidding against the abattoir at auction. They discovered it had a distinguished career.


John Watson, from Hillside, said: "It's not just ill and old horses being killed. There are very many fit and healthy horses, horses with foals, pregnant mares, and thoroughbreds that are being treated badly.


"It blows away the myth of humane slaughter, and there is a misery in that place that is palpable."

Watch the video and read the complete article on the Sky News website.


From The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia):

Racehorses for dinner


Racehorses are ending up on dinner plates overseas as the gruesome trade in horse flesh booms.


"You can literally be watching a racehorse run at Randwick [Australia] on the Sunday and the next week it is on its way to a dinner table in Japan," horse welfare advocate Laura Stoikos said....


Of the 17,000 thoroughbreds born last year, only about two-thirds will ever make it to the racetrack.


Of those, most suffer injuries or do not run fast enough and only about 1 to 3 per cent make it to top events....


As with cattle and other livestock, the most desired horse meat comes from younger animals in good condition and with quality muscle, and that means young thoroughbreds.


Queensland vet Eva Berriman said young horses still in their prime were being killed for human consumption.


"...The finger must be pointed firmly at the racing industry, which has a very high attrition rate of fine quality, well-muscled horses still in their prime, often with no road open to them except to a horsemeat abattoir," Ms Berriman said.


There is only one organised horse welfare group in Australia, Cedar Springs Horses Inc, that rescues thoroughbreds destined for the slaughterhouse.


Miss Stoikos [Cedar Springs Horses Inc] said the treatment of the doomed horses was horrific. "They can smell the blood and they are killed one after another and they can see the horse in front of them killed so they know what is going on.


"People get upset when they see a racehorse break down on the track that has to be shot, but for every one of those horses there are thousands before it that never make it that far....


"The racing industry really turns its back on what happens to the horses."

Read the complete article on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

Read the complete article in PDF format.


From The Guardian/Observer:

An undercover Observer investigation has revealed the shocking fate of thousands of British racehorses.


It is known as 'the sport of kings', full of glamour, effort and thrilling competition. But few of the thoroughbred racehorses that gallop their elegant way around the racecourses of Britain every week are left to see out their days grazing in golden pastures.


For thousands of British thoroughbreds that are too old, too slow or not good enough jumpers, the end is brutal: a bullet through the temple or a metal bolt into the side of the brain. Then their carcasses are loaded on to freezer lorries and driven to France, where their flesh is sold as gourmet meat.


This mass disposal of thoroughbreds is the side of the multi-billion-pound British racing industry that is rarely mentioned and even more rarely seen. It is not illegal. But animal welfare charities are demanding that more money be spent to provide sanctuaries where horses can live in retirement, and that the massive breeding programme that provides the sport with its horses be scaled back. Most of the animals, which could live on average more than 30 years, are killed before their fifth birthday.


This weekend an Observer investigation shines a light on this grisly underbelly of the sport. We reveal the two British slaughterhouses whose 'knackermen' kill more than 5,000 horses a year, many of which were bred to entertain punters and racegoers. We also reveal that a director of one of the horse abattoirs claims to have killed horses for leading names in the industry and that another is a judge at the Horse of the Year Show.


There has always been a mystery about what happens to the 4,000 British racehorses that are 'retired' each year from the sport or the hundreds of young thoroughbreds not good enough to make the starting post. Even the sport's official body, the Horseracing Regulatory Authority, admitted to The Observer that 'racing doesn't really know what definitely happens to the horses when they stop racing'. Some will be retrained for hunting or eventing; others will be used for breeding. But the physical make-up of racehorses means that many are not suitable for riders who want a gentle hack on a Sunday afternoon.

Read the complete article on the Guardian/Observer website.

Read the complete article in PDF format.


From The First Post:

Thousands of race horses are slaughtered every year — and they're the lucky ones.


Five thousand racehorses end their careers each year. This excludes the 375 in an average year which are raced to death and the 4,000 foals which are considered not worth the expense of training.


The owners of the 5,000 horses, which are increasingly often syndicates, usually sell up after the glory days end. Retirees meet several fates: leisure, neglect, or slaughter for pet food.


What happens to thoroughbreds when they don't make the grade, or when owners and trainers judge them unfit for the track? This is about six years old for flat race horses, and about 12 for steeplechasers. "So few racehorses are heard of again after their careers are over," says John Francome, racing commentator and champion jockey.

Read the complete article in PDF format. 


From Horse Passports (England) Regulations 2003
House of Commons Publications, Parliamentary copyright

James Gray, MP:

The fact is that we in this country do not eat horses. Many Committee members would not eat dogs or cats. Personally, I view eating horses as a revolting practice. Horses are companion animals, and we should not encourage that revolting practice in any shape, size or form. However, each year approximately 10,000 horses—a small proportion of the UK's one million horses—are killed in the UK and exported abroad to be eaten.


Nearly all the horses that go for slaughter are two or three-year-old racehorses that have been injured.

James Gray is Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Back Bench Agriculture Committee, and the Conservative Back Bench Department of the Environment, Horse and Pony Taxation Committee. President of the Association of British Riding Schools, Honorary Associate of the British Veterinary Association, Consultant (unpaid) to British Horse Industry Confederation.



Although it does not focus exclusively on racehorses, an article of interest about the slaughter of horses for meat throughout the world is Horse slaughter and horsemeat: the facts, by Dr. Eva Berriman.



The slaughter of American horses


In the United States, horse slaughter has been banned — the last remaining horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. were closed in 2007. However, it is still legal to transport horses, many of them former racehorses, across the borders to Canada and Mexico, in brutal conditions, for slaughter there. One American horse is killed every five minutes for human consumption in Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses.


On 20 May 2008, Fox News aired a report on TV about the transport of horses from the U.S. to Mexico and their death in Mexican slaughterhouses. Included in the program was an interview with a Mexican veterinarian: "The method used to kill horses in most of the clandestine plants in Mexico, (all over the country) is by stabbing them in the spine until they are disabled. Then they are strung up from their hind legs and their throats are slit. Some others are killed by hitting them with a hammer on their heads, as well as donkeys and mules and most of them are skinned even if they are still alive."

Read the complete interview in PDF format. 


One horse's experience of transport to slaughter: "Big winner nearly dies on the way to slaughter"

"All that money, nearly a half million dollars worth of racetrack winnings, couldn't help her as she thrashed in panic and fear. Flailing beneath the hooves of 30 other terrified horses, last December in a tractor-trailer heading for a Canadian slaughterhouse, once-winning race mare Press Exclusive had lost her balance on the truck, and her place in the world."

Read the complete article  (20 September 2013)


Animals' Angels Compilation Report, Horse Slaughter—2007/2008/2009

"This report provides documentation of the numerous ways horse slaughter is inhumane. At the moment a horse is designated a 'kill horse' fated for slaughter, handling and treatment change radically from that normally given horses. A 'kill horse' is treated with disturbing cruelty, with high levels of violence and aggression, and with apathy and indifference even from those who would normally protect and advocate for the animal’s well-being. While cruelty and inhumane treatment immediately mushroom for these horses, concern for their safety, health and care are so diminished they are virtually nonexistent."

Read the complete report, which has numerous explicit photos, in PDF format. 


Billboard against horse slaughter


Videos (Note: videos contain extremely disturbing footage)


Transport to and slaughter of American horses in Mexico: posted in the American media


Pasture to Plate: video by The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition. December 2011


Chambers of Carnage: videos by The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition. February 2010


The Link Between Horse Racing and Horse Slaughter, Part I: video by HBO, on the website of the Animal Law Coalition, 2008


The Link Between Horse Racing and Horse Slaughter, Part 2: video by HBO, on the website of the Animal Law Coalition, 2008


If the racing industry is established in Israel, many former racehorses will inevitably be slaughtered — either within Israel or after transport to other countries for butchering there. THIS SHOULD NOT BE PART OF ISRAEL'S FUTURE.



American racing's "dirty little secret" — the nurse-mare foal



Rescued foal at Last Chance Corral


Another ugly phenomenon of the horseracing industry is the slaughter of "nurse-mare foals."


After a racing mare is retired, her value depends entirely on being bred as often as possible: at her next heat, or 7–14 days after giving birth. In the United States, the Jockey Club (which sets the rules determining which horses may be registered as Thoroughbred) requires that Thoroughbred mares be impregnated physically by stallions (live cover) and not by artificial insemination. A mare must be shipped to the stallion for mating. Commonly the mare is nursing a foal, and that foal has monetary value. When the mare leaves to be bred to a stallion, her foal does not go with her. The journey is too dangerous for a newborn, and the insurance to cover a traveling foal would be too expensive. However, the foal must be nursed. Breeders lease wet nurses for this purpose. They are mares with no value other than to produce milk for another, more valuable, mare's foal. However, to be lactating, the nurse-mare will have a foal of her own. That foal, known as a "nurse-mare foal," has no monetary value. When that foal's mother travels away to feed a potentially valuable racing foal, the nurse-mare's foal will typically be killed for his or her hide ("pony skin").


A few very fortunate foals are purchased by sanctuaries, hand-raised until they are old enough to be adopted, then placed in homes.


"Just Say Neigh: A Call for Federal Regulation of By-Product Disposal by the Equine Industry" highlights the foals of the nurse-mare industry:

Read the article on the website of the Animal Legal and Historical Center of Michigan State University (see especially pages 206–208)

Read the article in PDF format  (see especially pages 206–208)


Last Chance Corral rescues and places nurse-mare foals:

See photos of some of their foals