SLAUGHTER, disassembly lines of death, or as some slaughterhouse workers describe it, assembly lines working in reverse.
The slaughter of racehorses – the grisly nadir of the horse racing industry – has become a convenient and lucrative alternative to accountability, where breeders focus solely on economic incentives whether they are acquired in the breeding shed, yearling sales or on the track.
Regardless of a horse’s status, champion or also-ran, racehorses are habitually discarded to auction, kill buyers or directly to slaughterhouses once their most profitable and successful days are over.
Kentucky Derby Champion Ferdinand, betrayed into the hands of horse slaughterers in Japan,
where he had been standing stud. Image: HorsePhotos.
Innumerable Thoroughbreds who have enamored passionate and loyal fans at racetracks worldwide are cheated of the opportunity to end their lives in dignity. Until the tragic deaths of two celebrated American champions ― Ferdinand and Exceller ― in foreign slaughterhouses, it was not widely known that it is commonplace for "retired" racehorses to spend their spend final moments in terror and panic at the hands of the abattoir’s “Grim Reaper”.
Since this time, exposure of the slaughter of racehorses has led to worldwide recognizance which has evolved into both an emotional and heated topic with proponents on both sides of the argument.
Moreover, despite the notion by pro-horse slaughter organizations that slaughter is a “necessary” evil arising from an “unwanted horse” dilemma it is in fact a profitable business driven by demand of horse meat for human consumption in European and Asian countries.
And so, the racing industry has a decidedly convenient tactic for disposal of its athletes that clearly explains the high attrition rate in the industry and the disgusting slaughter of otherwise healthy animals.
Some apparently tactless owners have gone so far as to have made a deliberate mockery of the slaughter issue.
With names such as "Gourmet Dinner" and "Prime Cut" one wonders whether this constitutes a deplorable sense of humor given the horrible fate that awaits many racehorses, or whether it is an earnest effort to make a compelling anti-slaughter statement intended to provoke public outcry and bring the slaughter issue to the forefront of racing.
It is not just the public, but also the horse racing industry, that claim respect for the horse is first and foremost in their minds.
But who, pray tell, is sending these horses to slaughter?
Regardless of the shallow promises, the tragedy continues, fueled by the very people who claim that these magnificent animals should be afforded a retirement fitting to their efforts and accomplishments.
From a global perspective, the slaughter of Thoroughbreds is ubiquitous despite the taboo associated with the consumption of horse meat in any given country (e.g. Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, etc.).
However, for the most part, there is limited information as to the actual numbers of Thoroughbreds that find their way to the slaughterhouse. This is the case for most countries and data is scarce for a number of reasons primarily associated with lack of record keeping and traceability.
In truth, the racing industry’s deficiency in accounting for the horses that come off of the track, or who have finished their breeding careers, has contributed significantly to the number of Thoroughbreds that end up in the kill pens.
In particular, claiming races can lead to an increased risk for slaughter, especially if these horses are mature. Claiming races are intended for those horses who cannot compete at the top or even intermediate ranks of racing and provide horse owners and trainers an opportunity to “unload” these less than stellar performers while still turning a modest profit.
Typically when a horse is “claimed” the original owner or breeder fails to follow the career path of the horse wherein several exchanges may occur over time leading to downward mobility in the chain of claiming events.
Sadly, many of these horses will fall under the auspices of purely business-like owners who will discard them when they can no longer race competitively. Given that the claiming race concept is to further the career paths of “typical” horses, in fact, more often than not, it defeats the purpose. Unfortunately there are far too many claiming races in the industry wholly as a result of over-breeding.
Still more sinister are those individuals that simply load a losing or injured horse directly onto the “meat man’s” truck when he stops by the track to pick up the "has-beens". This means no records, no questions, no problem.
Moreover, it is widely known that some breeders and trainers have clandestine arrangements with auction facilities that guarantee their horses will be shipped directly to slaughter. Friends of Equines in the US uncovered one such location in New Holland, Pennsylvania.
". . . . MEL HOOVER of 'Mels' Stables & Auction Barn' at 834 Wallace Rd, New Holland, Pa, has a 'secret pact' with certain racehorse owners who want to 'get rid' of their unwanted horses without having to fear they might be sold elsewhere or rescued by rescuers or anybody else who 'might' discover things about those horses such as lame horses that were being raced. . . . some racehorse owners & trainers INSIST on bringing their horses to Mel Hoovers Place, as he guarantees them to 'destroy the evidence' of running lame horses!" 
It seems it is no different in other countries. British Thoroughbreds suffer the same fate.
"Asked if they slaughter thoroughbreds, he replied: 'Yeah, we get every sort of horse.' Asked how many, he said: 'We must do about 2-3,000 racehorses a year.' Asked which trainers use the slaughterhouse, he named several, including Ginger McCain, the trainer of Red Rum. 'Ginge is very comical, he's down to earth. He doesn't bring us that many, a couple a year. Harvey Smith comes here quite a lot.' Smith is the former showjumping champion whose wife now trains racehorses." 
The crux of the problem is that the racing industry breeds for flawlessness together with the reality that over-breeding has reached critical enormity. Slaughter offers a most convenient option especially given the cost of maintaining a horse that no longer can perform – whether due to injury or simply as a result of a spent horse. And, there is a thriving market for it.
Care for a single racehorse can cost as much as $50,000 per year, so for many unscrupulous owners the solution is the slaughter pipeline.
While the racing industry continues to woo the public for its support it fails to offer any credible rationalization for the paradox that its treatment of its athletes has become. In spite of this, it continues to breed to excess only to turn its back on what happens to these magnificent, yet vulnerable creatures.