Horse Rescue

A look at Horse Rescue

As horse people, it is critical that we understand the current nexus between horse slaughter and the need for horse rescue.


Horse Slaughter in Mexico

Every day, day after day, hundreds of horses are transported to Auschwitz-like conditions in Mexico. We have an imperative obligation to stop the wholesale slaughter of these horses and to find ways to monitor and implement humane euthanasia when necessary. Most importantly, we need to find ways to dramatically reduce the conditions that lead to horse rescue.

There are several factors that have contributed to the current situation.
Many of us believe that the horse slaughter/rescue crisis is a direct result of the horrible economy and high feed prices. These factors contribute in significant ways, but are not the root cause.

In 2006, many well-meaning people supported legislation to outlaw horse slaughter in California. However, ranchers, University of California at Davis, and one or two trainers opposed what we knew to be to be horrific consequences of this well-intentioned legislation. The California legislation passed, and slowly the western states began to follow suit. Soon the only slaughter option was Mexico. Mexico is no option for anyone who cares for horses, or opposes gruesome torture for animals.

Horses bound for slaughter travel long hours, under no controls, often without food and water. They are terrified by the sardine like conditions and the shock of being out of their herd/home. Think about teaching a horse to load that is resistant or has had a bad experience and multiply these horses’ terror.

When the horses arrive in Mexico some have not survived the trip. There are those with broken legs, broken ribs and other severe injuries. Others must be dragged off the trailer. For all noble equines that do arrive alive, they are then subjected to a slaughter that is almost unimaginable. There are three ways to humanely put a horse down, but none of these methods are practiced.

A guillotine- like slaughter awaits these horses. This method means that many horses are not brain dead, and are subjected to dismemberment while still having the ability to feel.

Those of us who are vocal about slaughter/euthanasia returning to California want strict controls and observers.  We want safe guards so no horse not intended for slaughter finds its way there.

Identification chipping can protect horses, but only after successful actions identifies 3 chip makers who will work with the horse community.

Horses must be put to death “humanely” administering them brain dead immediately. (Only three methods will accomplish this: injection, bullet to the head, or controlled blow to the head.)

Slaughter has reached such outrageous numbers that some horse rescues are resorting to sponsoring “humane euthanasia clinics”, intended for older, unsound horses.

What work is being done to stop this?

The head of the San Francisco Humane Society,  as recently as last month, spoke publicly supporting this faulty horse legislation that has sent countless horses to unimaginable deaths. He cavalierly brushed off other options, on the largest northern California talk show, while saying “UC Davis isn’t always right”.

That is accurate, but the San Francisco Humane Society, and no humane societies to this author’s knowledge, currently work with horse rescues, while talking the “feel good talk” that created this horrible situation. Few animal shelters do either, even in areas where the horse population is significant.

What’s the answer to all of this?

It will be a long road, but a “doable one”. We must have horse people on board; this can no longer be a handful of universities, ranchers, and trainers. We need to be pragmatic and work hard, with the current situation, there is no room for well intended “save every horse” mentality: this can be a dream or a goal, but we need to work to have practical solutions to horse slaughter. We need “slaughter houses“ to become euthanasia centers with good supervision and regulation. No slaughter for horses that have been micro-chipped by their owners. Transportation, care, and “legal end to each horses life” must be humane. (These were all controlled under the previous practices. Some facilities were significantly better than others. We need to monitor those, and “horse dealers”, so horses go carefully.)

We must lobby for ID chipping so no one’s companion is ever sent to slaughter unknowingly.

We’ve always had animal abuse and neglect. We will always have uneducated owners and trainers, but with the donation of time, money and education we can dramatically  reduce these numbers, and care for these horses.

Mexico is not a slaughter option. We must restore healthy, humane slaughter options to California.  (Anti-slaughter legislation in the United States, caught on like prop. 13 wild fire. Two states did not vote for the legislation, but became part of it with the passage of federal mandates last year outlawing slaughter in all states. Most states are facing the same crisis like conditions that we are in California. Those closest to the Canadian border have a better end. Regardless the horrors of horse slaughter must be changed.)

This is a complex problem with many solutions. Many ‘rescue centers’ are  putting band aids on others’ mistakes. We must use our resources carefully. We all want the best for our wonderful horses. This will require continued discussion in all forums. We must be open to a dialog, from steak eaters to vegans, dressage queens to barrel racers, to those who appreciate their history, their majesty and beauty. We must focus on our love and care for our incredible equine companions, and make that our goal: our shared love for these amazing, noble animals that have contributed so much to our lives.