Horse News

Reason Will Win the Horse Slaughter Debate

by Alex Brown

Over the past week there has been a uptick in the coverage of the horse-slaughter issue. This should be no surprise; the public pays more attention to horse racing in the time surrounding the Kentucky Derby.

But this year the coverage seems intended not only to discuss the issue of horse slaughter (which I have invested considerable personal energies toward) but also to demonize horse racing itself.

While I agree that the industry needs to continue to focus on improving horse welfare — and gains have been made — these efforts should not be confused with trying to end horse racing itself.

Here is an example. The CNN video presents a sensationalized view that the racing industry, by overbreeding, ultimately does not care about slaughter, which is not true. Although the gains have been haphazard around the country, some racing jurisdictions, like New York, have begun to tackle the issue. To top it off the person interviewed in the piece offers a statistic, that 60 percent of racehorses go to slaughter, that cannot be verified.

I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the horse slaughter movement. The only way we will end slaughter is by convincing our fellow horsemen that it is wrong, not by vilifying them for participating in the sport.

Here is one statistic that the anti-slaughter movement could use: 99 percent of horses that started in California last year raced on bute, according to Daily Racing Form. Bute is banned in the United States and Canada for horses intended for the food chain. That’s a permanent ban.

So here’s my suggestion — when we talk about slaughter, let’s not sensationalize the rhetoric and toss around unverifiable data. Let’s have a sensible discussion about why horse slaughter should end.

Only through reason can we win the debate.

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21 replies »

  1. You are so right!! Even if some of us are fighting horse slaughter mainly because of our emotions, we need to fight this “fight” with reason, facts & logic. “They” might listen better when the FACTS are presented. “They” don’t have the same emotional or moral feeling & thinking that we do about this cruel issue, they only care about black & white, the facts. It is a shame that a creature born to run, is so misused, mistreated, & so easily “disgarded” . Running is natural to horses, but, not the way they are pushed & forced to run so hard, &, at such young ages, when their bones are probably still growing.


  2. Some folks demonize ALL horse sports. I don’t happen to be one of them, although I do take exception to methods used by many trainers, exhibitors, and participants. In my opinion, the key to the addressing the slaughter issue is the same as just about any other issue – RESPONSIBILITY!

    I know the Throughbred racing industry has been a leader in trying to find suitable alternatives for OTTBs. We have 3 OTTBs at the rescue. One is a grandaughter of Northern Dancer. She had a successful second career in dressage and now, at 24, is permanently retired. The other two have been a real challenge to rehab, since they had longer racing careers. Retraining them to overcome the “when I turn you around, go like hell” mentality has been quite a task. One has ulcers, is nervous as a cat, and just worries the weight off.

    I guess my biggest beef is with Quarterhorse racers and racing breeders. They seem to have an “anything goes” mindset. Now they’re considering “cloning” their best horses, with all its implications – positive and negative. That should play hell with the registery. What’s next?

    I just don’t understand why they start race horses SO DAMN YOUNG! A horse – any horse, from minis to drafts and every breed in between, doesn’t fully set bone until it’s 4 years old. Just because a colt or filly LOOKS big and strong doesn’t mean it’s ready for the stress of training and racing, or anything else. I would think that, to be ready for a two-year-old racing campaign, a horse would have to be started UNDER SADDLE at 1-1/2. In my opinion, starting racehorses (and all horses) later – when they have actually “grown up” both physically and mentally – would lead to fewer health problems and fewer “throw away” horses.


  3. reason is working on saving many TB from slaughter and it is so good that the racing industry today does help TB in many ways!

    However, breeds like the QH do nothing except make plans to send QH and many other breeds to slaughter in the TBs place.

    So it’s GOOD that the TB racing industry leads the RACE to stop horse slaughter. Its not over though, we can’t let the horsemeat industry say..ok we will eat all horses except the TBs 🙂


  4. ahh I can’t edit. Sure I agree lets let the horsemeat industry know that WE KNOW horsemeat can cause cancer. And the drug point is always a good point to push. We don’t want them to start raising grassfed, no drug horses for slaughter either.

    Can also hit them with religion as God said it is a sin to eat meat from a horse.

    Anyway we look at it, toxic meat, religion, Moral reason, whatever.. end of life for any horse is NOT a slaughterhouse for any reason.


  5. I have come to understand late in life the cruelites that are imposed by greed, egos, and in the name of contests, trophies, ribbons, and winning – rodeos, racing, horse shows and contests, even for kids enjoyment – circuses, zoos, etc., etc.

    If “vilifying” makes just one person think about their industry or riles up someone in the public, then maybe another, then maybe another, and maybe one person or group will soon some up with a successful solution and push it through legal channels. Pushing it through is not “reasoning” and compromise to those being pushed out.

    It is, in the end, only public pressure against greed. When has reasoning ever changed a “for profit” industry (How did that work out on tobacco, child labor, etc?)?

    What are the solutions? What is the compromise? I don’t know.

    Get laws passed (Hows that working out on puppy mills and dog fighting?)? Keep pressuring those that eat horse meat to stop (Non stop pressure, boycott products and tourism – maybe helpful?)? Create an industry funded campaign and buy all the horses at the sale barns (then who pays to take care of them?)? Have the industry pay into a system that will pay for and support an alternative to slaughter (Like tracking, licensing, microchips?)? Keep showing the horrendous ways horses are slaughtered (But then these become fetish films for some.)? Get every race track, rodeo, county fair, show or sport, to ban horses from those that would send them to slaughter (When will this occur without a law?)? Talk nice to breeders and the horse industry business people and convince them to take responsibility and to stop over breeding by reasoning with them (Hows that working out on Wall Street?)? But don’t vilify those that want to feed tainted horse meat to school children and those institutionalized right here in the USA as a solution to take care of “excess horses” that their for profit industry causes (And who are those people? The list the public sees seems to include everyone in the horse industry, including racing.)? And stop vilifying BLM – try reasoning? And since 1971 how has reasoning been working out so far ?

    Just a last thought on Bute – what will happen when banned chemicals are no longer administered? When different drugs come along that are not banned? It is a good strategy for now to use these chemicals to ban horse slaughter – but something to think about and prepare for.


    • PS I should have said – when has reasoning and “facts” swayed any “for profit” industry? Tobacco knew the facts of their product and hid it and millions of innocent people suffered and died from the smoke of others. Wall Street, we are finding out, knew they were participating in betting on economic failure. And they are still participating in hedge fund bets that Greece WILL FAIL, betting that millions of people WILL SUFFER and hoping that they win that bet – EEE Gads! And the bankers and CEOs being questioned by Congress, well, its just like watching a BLM Advisory Board meeting – they absolutely see nothing wrong with what has occured and is still occurring! Profiting from someones (or animals) loss and suffering is horrible – unconscionable – who thinks they care about facts or want to “reason”? What is up with our sociopathic society?

      I agree we, being the ones with conscionce, must base everything on facts, but I think it is little help in swaying the opposition, being a for profit industry. It is paramount in swaying public opinion however.

      I say, rile up as many people as possible by whatever legal, nonviolent, and fact based means possible!


  6. I do not watch horse racing or read about it. Can I get links to the CNN report and what other reports this article refers to that have demonized horse racing?

    Where might that 66% have come from?


    • The link is in the article, Roxy. Although I agree with Alex I am thankful for any mainstream coverage we can get, as long as it is accurate.

      Sent from R.T.’s iPad


      • Thanks – I found it. I could not get it to play. But I did read the report and it does not mention the 66% (I could have missed it). Any ideas where that came from?

        The 100,000 + horses come from somewhere, seems likely that most come either directly or indirectly from industry, not all racing, but that appears, I believe. to the public to be the largest industry. It is the public that must be swayed to provide pressure, even if it makes one uncomfortable – the good guys know who they are and will not (should not) be offended as they know the opposition tactics and the fight.


  7. I personally do not agree with horse racing or any animal sports. I keep this as a separate issue from slaughter although too often it is tied together in the same way that the wild horse situation is related. I take umbrage with this statement “The CNN video presents a sensationalized view that the racing industry, by overbreeding, ultimately does not care about slaughter, which is not true.” Where do they think the horses are going? By breeding horses looking for that perfect horse and rejecting the rest just what do they think collectively happens to the less-than-perfect? Does any breeding business BEFORE the breeding occurs sit down and make a list of all the perfect homes they are going to find for these horses? As previously stated I keep horse racing out of my discussions on horse slaughter but truth be told I believe it belongs in there. Same for QH, backyard breeding etc.


    • I too, can no longer support animal sports. There was a day – but I feel I am now enlightened (and often wish I were not – life used to be so simple).

      I had tried to stay out of horse slaughter all together – seeing it as an industry problem and not a tax payer problem. But they just had to go after wild horses, which are my problem as I see them as an American Icon wild animal.

      But now that I know how horrific horse slaughter is, even when comparing to our acceptable food animal slaughter which, in for profit assembly lines is horrific enough, I bring all my thoughts on dog overbreeding to the horse breeding arena. Sorry to those that are responsible individuals who feel offended – but you know who you are, and have nothing to feel offended about. And you know the fight and playing nice with the few in the business who are not responsible will get no where – I don’t think that is an opinion of mine, history proves that over and over.

      The public will not separate out who are responsible horse breeders/owners and who are not (if we make this too complicated for them they will not pay attention at all) and it will be public demand that stops horse slaughter, not just animal welfare special interests. What I read of the ban on horse slaughter here in USA it is as much to do about the polution and ruined waste systems as animal abuse, perhaps animal abuse was not even that paramount.

      There seems to me to be a tipping point coming. Unforturnatly or fortunatly, depending on the ending, the horse racing industry is a good target because it is the most visable. And, I don’t think that industry has to worry about being ruined by us fighting to end horse slaughter on every front.

      Horse racers and breeders (and quarter horse, and polo, and all, and back yarders) – you could fix the problem yourselves and save your industry reputions you know! Every day is full of choices that you can make – some will be more far reaching than others, good and bad.




  9. There was a time….
    Secretariat was a personal hero. Do not pity this Horse; he had heart and courage and a deviousness that was legendary. He would always come out of the gate last, trudge behind like an old man holding on for dear life, then on the final straight, kick it into HIGH gear and obliterate the competition. His rider never used the crop.
    I’ve seen Horses in Equestrian Eventing carrying their riders with arrogant pride, aware they are superior athletes of breathtaking beauty.
    Cow ponies, staring down their quarry, their riders simply passengers while THEY do the herding.
    My boy Shane, a Thoroughbred, was raced as a two-year-old, and his knees paid a terrible price. He was left alone in a pasture for 18 months; since we’ve been together, he’s been sound and pain-free. But I do believe it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
    Since I’ve had Horses in my life, I’ve seen the best & the worst – people who ‘partner’ with their Horses instead of ‘own’ them, who enhance the quality of their lives as opposed to simply allowing them to exist. Competition is as inbred and natural to a Horse as grazing. Most of the Horses I know love their work – whether it’s squirin’ a lady around the arena or cornering calves. Like every aspect of Equine life, it depends a lot on the quality of the PEOPLE involved.


    • I agree that there are some great people but I find that when you enter the world of horse sports all too frequently the quality of the people involved is in conflict with the amount of money involved. Altho there too I’m willing to bet that more people who go into racing and other horse sports lose more money than they make. Its like the lotto, everyone always thinks they are going to make the big score. I did see Secretariat run–he was indeed a devious one. If they would just change the starting age of the horses and make even more of a push to see value in a horse win or lose I’d be more likely to support animal sports.


  10. A voice of reason in the wilderness, thanks, I had about given up! I go to everyone of the slaughter stories and comment, My focus: what is a slaughterhouse going to do to your property values, tourism, low wage jobs that will bring in out of state workers who require low income housing and state sponsered health care, food stamps to supplement their low wages..sewers, aquifers the stench, is this the kind of industry that will add or detract from your lifestyle your safety, is this the kind of job you want for your child, or would your state be better off investing in good high paying manufacturing jobs with a future…not everyone feels about horses the way we do, don’t make enemies where you don’t need them..I don’t care what someone does for a living..I just want them on our side..whats more important, that momentary satisfaction of poking someone in the eye..or ending slaughter?


  11. Just in case it hasn’t been mentioned yet (I didn’t see a comment), that’s the noble “Barbaro” with Mr. Brown in the photo.

    As to reason will win out; I’m not confident about that singular approach. I agree completely that debate cannot be riddled with sensationlized rhetoric. It needs facts and morality, but it usually takes an unshakeable passion to persevere in the face of institutionalized abuse, cruelty, stupidity and unethical behavior.

    It is frustrating and aggrevating to debate slaughter proponents. Don’t believe me? Read what they post on Washington Watch or the “Trib” paper out of Wyoming or what an elected representative replied to a concerned citizen regarding the Missouri bill schleped by Viebrock. They are the ones with sensationalized slaughter is good garbage and the reps just continually shut the door or hang up the phone on our folks or toss our letters/faxes, How do you deal with people who could make a difference continually refusing to listen to us? How? How do you get the President to listen?

    I support the concept of racing, but have trouble defending it. It needs a national commissioner with nation-wide standards and enforcement. It needs to fund humane euthanasia, retirements and retraining. With the money they make (especially fees, purses and gambling revenues) off the back of these magnificent animals, they could, should and must do better. And remember, this is just ONE breed/performance entity.


  12. Mr. Brown:

    I understand that you are a working man. I hope they all went well this a.m.

    But my question was, even with reason…how do we continue to in the face of an uneducated public, media and snarly antihorse folks?

    The formula is what?


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