Written and Researched
by JANE ALLIN
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE horror of slaughtering racehorses has no international borders.
In 2010, there were over 112,000 horses slaughtered in North America; approximately 53,000 in Mexico and 60,000 in Canada to satisfy horse meat markets in Europe and Asia. 
The vast majority of these horses were shipped to slaughter across the Northern and Southern borders of the US where horse slaughter has been outlawed since 2007. In fact a recent publication by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests this number is even higher with nearly 138,000 US horses transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010. 
Of these horses it has been estimated that upwards of 30% are Thoroughbreds cast off from the indifferent and cold-blooded racing industry contributed by the whole of North America. 
Despite the fact that horse slaughter has declined somewhat in NA since 2008, this nonetheless represents in excess of 30,000 Thoroughbreds that are subject to the horrors of transport and a merciless death more often than not prolonged as a result of inefficient stunning practices designed for other livestock such as cattle, or even worse the grisly Mexican puntilla knife. To compare this to the term “euthanasia” is both unbefitting and spiteful.
What is intriguing is the number – 30,000.
In 2010 the total estimated North American registered foal crop count was 30,000. 
Overbreeding takes care of itself through the expedient
clearance measure of horse slaughter.
Apparently the attrition rate is more or less in equilibrium with the birth rate. This opportunely explains that in reality there is no cumulative effect of foals simply because the racing industry disposes of the same number or more on an annual basis.
Overbreeding takes care of itself through the expedient clearance measure of horse slaughter.
As in other countries it is estimated the preponderance of Thoroughbreds that end up at the slaughterhouse are young and primarily healthy, some with minor injuries that would require time for rehabilitation which most owners are unwilling to pay for and others that have reached the end of their racing or breeding careers.
“The breeders and trainers don’t call it going to slaughter, they call it going to auction, though they know darn well there is not a huge market for half-grown thoroughbreds who really don’t have any particular future. They get bought for meat.” 
In any case, all of these horses have many years of quality life ahead of them, snuffed out by the insatiable and all-engulfing appetite of lust for power and money.
The shallowness of these actions in light of the grandeur of the horse is unthinkable but in reality horse racing has descended from glory to business enterprise with the horse as the sacrificial lamb.
One of the most reprehensible issues in NA concerns the sponsorship by the US government in their provision of breeding incentives.
It is indeed a productive market where horses are valued largely for the first two years of their life; yearling sales and aesthetics taking the forefront in a fashion show for the wealthy of the world.
“A non-horse person might be surprised to learn that the breeding farms receive both huge breeding incentives from their perspective breeding associations as well as huge tax advantages and write-offs from the IRS. This further encourages breeding strategies that are not consistent with demand. These industries continue to promote breeding in large numbers, even while the demand for these horses does not exist! When you throw in the current state of the economy on top of the overpopulation problem and add in the breeding plans for coming years, the future seems rather bleak for American horses.
“The Lexington Herald-Leader (newspaper) published the Kentucky Horse Breeders Incentives Awards. The fund generated 19.2 Million Dollars ($19,220,007) (!!) The money comes from taxes from the horse races. If these associations were truly concerned with the welfare of the horse and the horse overpopulation problem as they say they are, would these funds still be distributed to horse breeders? The more ethical thing to do would be to make humane euthanasia funds out of these taxes instead, for injured and sick horses who's owners cannot afford it.” 
Unfortunately not all that strut the runway are genuine “Rolex” and swiftly become cheapened to knock offs. The only problem with this is that few are willing to embrace these fallen idols, unlike the market for inanimate items that have no life breath yet breathe life into the beholder. In the racing world there is nothing beholding to the owner of a mediocre Thoroughbred as the cost exceeds the worth from a cold and calculated commercial perspective.
To add more misery to an already disheartening situation one must not forget about the nurse mares and their foals – the practice of replacing a mare’s own foal with one of more value, the celebrated Thoroughbred foal. It is estimated that in the Thoroughbred industry alone the numbers of unwanted foals produced in this way is as high as 50,000 per year depending on the number of mares bred and who conceive. 
Although these innocent creatures are too young to legally ship to slaughter they are nonetheless sold to the tanning industry where they are skinned to manufacture high-end leather products. Different pipelines perhaps but slaughter just the same.
Not only is the slaughter of Thoroughbreds in NA a tragic case of licentious waste and disrepute it also is a potentially lethal sentence for those who consume the flesh of these “recycled” creatures. It is without doubt that virtually every racehorse in North America has been administered “Bute” and other legal medications banned from the food chain.
Since the execution of the new EU directive in Canada as of July 31, 2010, which states that North American horses must be quarantined for various periods of time prior to slaughter for human consumption, the enforcement of these new regulations appears to be comparatively lax.
The flow of horses across the border from U.S. livestock auctions and killer buyers to Canada has not waned, nor has anything been reported on refusal of loads at the slaughter plants. Seemingly then, the EU continues to import drug-tainted horse meat.
In particular, Bute is administered on a regular basis to relieve pain and is inappropriately likened to the term “aspirin”. In fact, any animal that receives Bute is banned from ever entering the food chain as it is a known carcinogen thereby completely eliminating them for human consumption. Yet the slaughter of Thoroughbreds continues.
North America is not alone in their methodology; it is simply an easy place to start given the massive proportion of the global Thoroughbred population it comprises. Thoroughbred slaughter crosses no subjective boundaries; it is omnipresent and very disconcerting.
Like North America, Australia is not a “horse-eating” nation although the export of horse meat began sometime in the 1970’s. And just as in North America and other parts of the world there is a large demand for the meat of healthy, young animals with good quality muscling that will yield the best cuts and top dollar per pound.
“So where are these quality younger animals, rarely past middle years, coming from? It is difficult to get a breakdown of breeds/types sold for slaughter. The selling agents do not keep a record and the abattoirs are not forthcoming. But even in the absence of documented figures, 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 except to a horsemeat abattoir.
A significant statistic is that the peak slaughter years of the 80s also saw the highest number of Thoroughbred foals born, culminating in a record 23,697 in 1989. Apart from minor fluctuations, every year after that saw a steady decline to about 17,000 foals born in 2004. This fall was paralleled by a decline in horse meat production. It is logical to assume that the decreasing foal crop was heavily biased towards the lower end of the Thoroughbred market and therefore representative of those foals which, had they been born, would have been most likely to contribute to the horsemeat trade.” 
Disposed of Racehorse
According to the Federal Government Department of Agriculture approximately 40,000 horses are slaughtered each year in Australia for human consumption and the pet food industry primarily for overseas markets, the largest of which is Japan but also include France, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. 
Moreover it is estimated that between 60-80% of the horses slaughtered in Australian abattoirs (for human consumption) and/or knackeries (for pet food and other uses) are young Thoroughbreds from the racing industry, most less than 7 years old, and many only 2 or 3 year old youngsters. 
As in other nations around the globe according to the RSPCA only a small percentage (~ 30%) of the typical foal population on an annual basis (17,000) will actually end up racing and even fewer will prove to be profitable or make it to top racing events (~ 1-3%). 
And so in the Land of Oz the reality is unyielding; the horse is perceived as a commodity whose short shelf life is accommodated by slaughter and the horse meat trade – an expedient and profitable – option for disposal, inexcusable as it may be.
Pictured in this section: Thoroughbred racer is dumped at a slaughterhouse just outside Melbourne. Image from HorseRacingKills.com.
Even in Great Britain where modern horse racing found its roots with hundreds of years of unique heritage and patronage by aristocrats and royalty, slaughter is a harsh fact of life.
“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. . . Most of the animals, which could live on average more than 30 years, are killed before their fifth birthday.” 
2010 figures released from the government indicate that the total number of horses slaughtered for meat in England, Scotland and Wales rose to 7,933 representing a 50% increase on the average number slaughtered in previous years.  Of the increase in number over half are known to be Thoroughbreds from the racing industry as a result of the explosion in foal crops over time.
This is widely believed to be the driving force in the slaughter of horses.
The industry produces approximately 5,000 foals on an annual basis (~5600 in 2009), while 4,000 - 5,000 racehorses are retired each year comprised primarily of young Thoroughbreds that have not made the grade.   And so it seems then that every racing nation operates on this “equilibrium equation” – foal crop per year equals attrition rate – how practical to serve both the racing and slaughter industry.
“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.” 
Moreover, research conducted by the Equine Fertility Unit found that 66% of thoroughbred foals were never entered for a race, and more than 80% were no longer in training after four years. 
Many of these perish in the slaughterhouses and knackeries, most before their 5th birthday. It is also well known that some Thoroughbreds are sent to European countries to be slaughtered and an unknown number are shot dead on British farms.
Equally as heinous, if not more so, is the fate of newborn foals.
During the years of growth and prosperity in the racing industry in the UK, the exorbitant stud fees charged to breeders to have their mare covered were handsomely rewarded with the profit that was made in foal sales. However with the devastating effects of the recession on the racing industry this economic formula no longer exists.
“And so unscrupulous and desperate breeders have found a grotesque and illegal solution: killing foals at birth - or aborting them - to avoid having to stump up the fees, which become payable only once the foal has lived for 48 hours.
'Breeders pay a nomination fee to have a mare covered by a stallion. Last year, that fee could have been £250,000, but now you would pay half that for the same stallion,' says a bloodstock agent.
'A lot of people are making sure the foals don't live 48 hours so they can avoid having to pay the fee. Why pay last year's extortionate prices when you won't cover your cost on selling the foal?' There are also reports of pregnant mares being 'given a shot' by the vet to induce abortion, again to avoid paying stallion fees. . . .
Foals which previously might have been sold for £40,000 each at auction now sell for just hundreds of pounds - if at all. The result is that many breeders are abandoning unsold foals at auction houses rather than taking them home.
Just before Christmas, Animal Aid received a tip-off from a well-known National Hunt jockey that 18 thoroughbred foals were destroyed after a horse auction at Goffs in Ireland (which supplies the British race circuit).” 
Heartbreaking, yes indeed.
With the onset of the recession, Ireland – Europe’s largest producer of Thoroughbreds – and home to the giant Coolmore Stud, the largest horse breeding enterprise in the world, has come the sad reality that these horses, so costly to keep, are finding their way to the slaughterhouses. In fact the Thoroughbred slaughter industry has become a growth market over the past couple of years.
"In response to pressure from charities and industry bodies, the Department of Agriculture increased the number of licensed horse slaughter plants from just one factory in 2008 to five premises this year — B&F Meats Ltd in Kilkenny; Ballon Meats in Co Carlow; Shannonside Foods Ltd in Co Kildare; Ashgrove Wholesale Ltd in Co Limerick; and Ossory Meats in Co Offaly.
"While statistics on the breed of horse slaughtered are not recorded by officials, the majority (60-80pc) are believed to be thoroughbreds.
"John Joe Fitzpatrick from Shannonside Foods in Straffan says 80pc of the 2,200 horses slaughtered at his purpose-built plant last year were thoroughbred and 60pc would have raced.
"The horses are sent for factory disposal for numerous reasons, including poor track performance, career-ending injuries, temperament issues, stable vices and lameness.
" 'It’s an economic decision for owners and the factory is the cheapest way to dispose of a horse,' explains Mr Fitzpatrick." 
In 2010, 9,790 horses were slaughtered of which 4,618 were Thoroughbreds.  In fact, in Ireland there is an eight-week wait for horses to be slaughtered, resulting in a growing number being shipped to the UK to be shot and then bled. 
And as is no different with other countries it is over breeding that is the culprit and the lack of owner accountability that is driving the mass slaughter. The ISPCA has called for better regulation across the industry but the main problem lies with the inability to control the number of horses bred and whether or not anything to this effect can be introduced to thwart this incessant over breeding from recurring again. 
As a campaigner for new laws governing the sport of horse racing in the UK states:
“The slaughterhouses are not doing anything wrong: they are simply clearing up the mess left over by the racing industry.” 
In a country where more money is bet on horse racing than anywhere else in the world, horse meat is consumed by humans and also sold as dog food. Horse meat is a staple in Japanese cuisine, particularly eaten raw, in which form it is called sakura (cherry blossom) because of the distinct pink color. 
Along with Japan’s own supply of Thoroughbreds, hundreds of race horses are sold each year from the US to breeding farms in Japan where 90% of all horses end up at the slaughterhouse. 
“As many as 20,000 horses were slaughtered in Japan in 2008, partly because of overbreeding of thoroughbreds in the U.S., where racehorses are exploited as disposable commodities. Tens of thousands of foals are produced each year for the greedy racing industry, but there is no plan for what to do with them when their racing days are over.” 
As countless people will recall, it was in a Japanese slaughterhouse where 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand met his fateful end in 2002 after his breeding days were over.
To this end two more Kentucky Derby champions – Charismatic (1999) and War Emblem (2002) – still stand at stud at Japanese breeding farms and some day too may end up at the slaughterhouse when their usefulness is deemed to be at an end. Sadly retired race horses in Japan all too often meet their demise in the slaughter house given that land is scarce along with the insatiable Japanese appetite for horse meat.
On a more positive note, Michael Blowen, owner and founder of Old Friends, a Kentucky facility for retired Thoroughbreds has, over the years, developed a good working relationship with many of the Japanese breeding farms which has afforded the opportunity of housing many of the retired US Horses at the facility.  In fact, both War Emblem and Charismatic are on his list of those he would like to see retired to Old Friends.
Nevertheless, not all US Thoroughbreds are that fortunate and many make their way to the sushi bars and dining establishments of Japanese culture.
It is not only the racing nations referenced above that contribute to the thriving horse meat industry.
In many other countries of the world this sordid practice takes place with equally dismal numbers of Thoroughbreds at risk of the captive bolt, bullet, puntilla knife or other horrific and inhumane means.
Unfortunately without documentation of the types of horses that enter the slaughter pipeline it is difficult, if not impossible, to say with conviction how many of these are in fact cast-offs from the racing industry. Even those numbers for NA, the UK, Australia, Ireland and Japan are merely estimates.
Any country that races horses (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Uruguay, etc.) will undeniably slaughter a certain percentage of their Thoroughbreds or otherwise ship them elsewhere to have the deed performed for them. The lucrative horse meat trade is a global enterprise.
What is important is not where they are slaughtered, but rather that they are slaughtered, subjected to this barbaric practice as a result of over breeding in pursuit of power and profit at the hands of the unscrupulous.
 http://www.thestar.com/Sports/HorseRacing/article/420982; http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/01/sports/othersports/01rhoden.html
 http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/australian-racehorses-for-dinner/2008/02/02/1201801095371.html; http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2737618.html
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