AVMA releases joint statement on Horse Slaughter


American Veterinary Medical Association’s Pro Slaughter Position

It reads: “Consumption of horsemeat by humans is a cultural and personal choice; the veterinarian’s primary focus is on the health and welfare of the horse throughout its life. That said, our veterinary associations believe the humane slaughter of horses is preferable to a life in discomfort and pain, inadequate care, or abandonment.”

The position concludes: “Horses destined for slaughter should be handled and transported to the processing facility in a humane manner. Use of local slaughter facilities is preferred to avoid welfare risks (e.g., physical and mental stress, injury) associated with long-distance travel. Horses should be humanely slaughtered consistent with the requirements of the country in which the horses are being processed.”

The above statement is a surprise, when you figure that it comes from an organization that comprises veterinarians, but it is no surprise when you know the history of the organization’s position on horse slaughter.

As far as I can tell, there are three fundamental flaws to the position:

1. it presents the end of life choice for horses as binary, it is not. Many choose humane euthanasia, performed by a vet.

2. it uses the phrase “humane slaughter”, many argue that the slaughter process is not humane, and incentives in the slaughter pipeline do not favor humane treatment.

3. horses are not born a food animal. This becomes a food safety concern, given the concoction of drugs they might ingest, undocumented, over a lifetime. The AVMA knows this better than any other organization, their members prescribe and administer those drugs.

Habitat for Horses had a few choice words in response: International joint statements address horse slaughter, rabies in dogs.

IndieGoGo Campaign for YouTube Horse Slaughter project


I have just launched an IndieGoGo campaign, with the goal to raise $5,000 to support the YouTube project I am developing.

Here is the link to the campaign: Working Title: Horses: sports, culture & slaughter.

Here is the YouTube promotion: Crowdfunding Pitch for Horses: sports, culture & slaughter

Any help, support, sharing, would be very much appreciated. Here is the preamble for the campaign:

Examining the issue of horse slaughter in the US, through the lense of horse sports & culture.

Short Summary

My goal is to create a 50 minute video story, in several parts on YouTube, that covers the horse slaughter issue, in the United States, in a very pragmatic, non-gory fashion. It will be an educational piece for everyone to learn from, regardless of any particular stance on the issue.

The reason that I think this is important is that many of us either work in horse industries, support them, or simply enjoy horses, yet we really do not have a clear understanding of the horse slaughter issue. Worse, the reasons put forth for slaughter, and for ending slaughter, are often perverted by the goals of the medium providing those reasons.

To serve the horse well, as the horse has served us, we need to be better informed. All of us.

I have studied the issue, as a horseman in the horse racing industry, for eight years. I started exploring the issue during the coverage I provided of Barbaro during his time after injuring himself in the Preakness in 2006. I subsequently wrote a book about that entire episode: Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy.

I also write for a variety of horse related media, and am passionate about making the issue of horse slaughter understood using a non-emotional narrative.

By contributing to this project, you will help it gain a wider audience, as well as allow me to provide some support for people who are helping me on a pro-bono basis.

What We Need & What You Get

I am seeking $5,000. This will be used to help finish the editing and production of the story. It will also be used to help promote the story once it is completed. If I am not successful in reaching my goal, the funds will first be used to support editing and production, before promotion.

I will be offering a personalized copy of my book, for any donations of $100 or more.

The Impact

Any support for this project will certainly help improve the final product and awareness for the project. There is not much to say beyond that. The project will proceed regardless of the amount of funds raised, but support will be awesome.

The important role the kill buyer plays in Horse Racing in the United States


The claiming system, in conjunction with the liberal use of drugs, is a critical issue for the horse generally in racing in the United States. The system encourages a short term view by horsemen, and because the drug history does not travel with the horse, each new ownership does not have a complete record of how the horse has been treated; in addition there is a negative incentive for the prior owner to pass along this information.

There is a direct connection from the best tracks to the lowest tracks to the auctions and kill buyers to the slaughter house. Not only does the claiming system move horses around (mostly down), but horse traders do the same thing. Most of this activity occurs at the end of race meets where moving horses to new locations adds costs to the horsemen. So a horse could be sold, at the end of a Churchill meet, for example, to a trader buying horses for Charles Town or Mountaineer Park.

The current system works for the horsemen as long as there is someone willing to take the horse (claimed or sold) after a period of time. This is fine when a horse is running for 50k, then 40k and so forth. It gets tough when the horse hits the bottom. The last trainer is caught with the horse, and oftentimes will be under pressure from the racing secretary to either run the horse, or get rid of it, or lose the stall.

Programs like CANTER are great, they serve as an advertising medium, but less often do they become the place of last resort (i.e. they will rarely just take a horse when a horseman has to move one out.) The same with many of the rescues that work directly with the tracks. They are great, but the reality is, they either fill up quickly, or become very selective in terms of which horses they take, preferably ones that they can more easily rehab and move on.

That’s where the “horse trader” comes in. He/she will buy anything, $200, no questions (no need for a sound horse in this case, they are going to kill for the most part, although some traders might have some connections with private buyers to move the good ones on, or perhaps even sell them on to the bush track circuit etc.).

Most horsemen on the backside will know who the horse trader is. They might not like it, and don’t ask questions, but they might not have any choice. The advantage the trader has, over a rescue, he can take an unlimited number of horses. Thoroughbreds make good horse meat (drugs aside of course.)

Some tracks have responded to this issue with a “no slaughter” policy. While excellent on the surface, there is a potential for unintended consequences. Prior to a “no slaughter” policy, the horse trader might have just shipped the horses to the local auction, some might have then been picked up privately, or by a rescue. Now many go directly to a kill buyer, and that guy won’t let rescues see them because they don’t want to get the horse trader in trouble; the horse trader is his business partner. Similarly the horse trader cannot afford to get the horse’s connections in trouble. It’s all now hush hush.

How can we compete with the horse trader, kill buyer relationship? We need to design a system where a horseman can get the equivalent that he / she would get from the horse trader, at the time the horseman needs to move on her horse.

Of course there are plenty of horsemen who will do the right thing by their horses, always, but we have to be realistic about the system we have designed.