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Horses abandoned, slaughtered in Europe as economics also hurt US horses

Dave Masko's picture

Horses are being slaughtered in record numbers throughout Spain and Ireland due to Europe’s economic woes; while U.S. horses are suffering greatly in this time of recession.

Horse woes continue in Europe where abandoned horses are being sent to the slaughter house in record numbers for trampling Romania’s famed Danube Delta; while horse owners in both Spain and Ireland are cutting back on raising horses due to Europe’s economic crisis that’s driven some to either slaughter their horses or set them free, reported the German Deutsche Welle TV program "European Journal" April 1. In turn, the report showcased the heartache of “Spanish farmers who are giving up raising horses due to the financial crisis. There's hardly anyone willing to take them, so the animals are usually slaughtered- or set free.”

Horses sent to slaughter in Europe

According to an April 1 European Journal report, “Spain's biggest horse rescue operation is located in Malaga in Andalucia. When police find abandoned horses, they bring them there. At night the horses pose a big danger on the unlit country roads. Most of the abandoned horses don't have a microchip and can't be slaughtered. Horses with the chips are ending up in slaughter houses more and more frequently, even steeds that once cost 15,000 Euros.”

In turn, the report noted how “many farmers just can't afford their expensive upkeep anymore. Stories of dogs and cats being abandoned due to tough economic times – or cruel indifference because they’ve simply become inconvenient – are unfortunate, but familiar scenarios.”

At the same time, European Journal reported how Ireland has its fair share of abandoned horses; while stating that there are “thousands of unwanted horses are some of the latest casualties in the global economic downturn as it manifests in Ireland.”

Also, both abandoned and neglected horses are a familiar sight in the Irish capital of Dublin; tied to posts with nylon rope that cuts into their skin, and dumped in fields or rubbish tips, according to European Journal when pointing to an investigative report from Ireland’s equestrian periodical “Horse and Hound.”

Ireland and Spain once viewed as horse friendly countries

Both Ireland and Span once boasted being “horse countries,” where horses were said to be “treated better than people.” Yet, that view has changed with many horse owners in both Ireland and Spain unable to feed their horses; hence, they’re being sent to slaughter in record numbers with just one slaughter house in Spain recording “more than two hundred horses slaughtered per week,” stated an April 1 European Journal report.

In turn, European Journal explained: “Always a horse country, when Ireland’s economy was booming, so was its horse trade; from expensive thoroughbreds to those considered to be of ‘poor breeding’. There may still be a market for the thoroughbreds, but times are tough for all Irish horses, especially the mongrel and ‘low quality’ horses.”

At the same time, London’s Telegraph newspaper recently quoted Barbara Bent, chairman of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stating: “Back in the Celtic Tiger days, when the economy was booming, there was space for all of these animals. People bought horses as status symbols. Builders, plumbers, postmen would make a fortune, move out of the cities, buy a house in the country, and take on a few horses.”

They shoot horses don't they?

Also, the European Journal explained how “the economic downturn has made horse keeping an unaffordable luxury for many, which has spurred many cases of animal cruelty and abandonment. In a situation where a cost of euthanizing a horse is considered too expensive at around €300, many owners choose abandonment. Animal welfare groups are overburdened, leading some groups to reluctantly call for a cull as the only solution to the growing problem.”

In turn, more and more "Spanish farmers are said to be giving up raising horses due to the financial crisis. There's hardly anyone willing to take them, so the animals are usually slaughtered- or set free."

At the same time, the April 1 European Journal report noted how some owners are simply shooting their horses; while others want to get a return on their investment and, thus, are selling their once prized horses to slaughter houses where they net about "300 Euros per horse."

Ireland and Spain warning of more horse slaughter

It was back in 2012, that European Journal posted a story about „how bad economic times in both Ireland and Span were resulting in a large amount of neglected and abandoned hores have been spotted in both countries running free along the highways, causing accidents where both people and horses were killed.

Now Spain, “in the throws of economic crisis, is experiencing a similar problem. In Spain, as in Ireland, when cash was plentiful many horse-mad citizens splashed out on having their very own equine companion (or trophy as the case may be). But now that times are tough it’s old Sugar Foot who gets the boot. Curiously, sometimes it’s not old mares that are being, quite literally, put out to pasture, but expensive pure-red Andalucians. Spain’s animal sanctuaries are struggling to help out.”

Also, the head of Spain’s only horse sanctuary, Concordia Marquez of the CYD Santa Maria Horse Sanctuary, told London’s Guardian newspaper recently that: “Many horses are just left to starve. Others are in stables, but the owners stop paying the bills. I’ve seen eight who were attacked by dogs just this year. Others get run over by cars or hit by trains. Seven people have died locally in traffic accidents caused by horses in the past four months.”

Horse slaughter eyed out West

At the same time horse slaughter rises in parts of Europe, there’s talk of bringing back horse slaughter plants out West.

Horse owners in these parts are more than alarmed at a recent report in a local Eugene, Oregon, newspaper that featured the headline: “Horse Slaughter Back in Oregon?”

In turn, the March 22 edition of the Eugene Weekly explained that “when the 2012 Federal Agricultural Appropriations Bill was signed into law last November, it lifted a congressional ban on funding domestic horse meat inspections,” and thus, “opening the way for horse slaughter to resume in the U.S.”

Also, the Eugene Weekly noted that “Hermiston, Oregon, could become the location of a new horse slaughter plant that would export meat to countries such as France and japan that see nothing wrong with eating Mr. Ed.” Thus, the owners of a formally abandoned older horse named “Gracie” says she’s thinking the unthinkable if the economic conditions worsen in Swiss Home and other western Oregon communities, and horse slaughter plants return both here in Oregon and other western states.

New York Times reports “mangled horses”

According to the main front page story in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times for March 25, “the new economics of horse racing are making an always-dangerous game even more so, as law oversight puts animal and rider at risk.”

In turn, this New York Times headline stated: “Mangled Horses,” as the recession is blamed for not only pushing the boundaries in horse racing – so more people bet on exciting races – but the fact remains that more and more, horses across America are either being abandoned, mangled or now may face slaughter.

For example, this New York Times report stated that “on average, 24 horses die each week at racetracks across America. Many are inexpensive horses racing with little regulatory protection in pursuit of bigger and bigger prizes. These deaths often go unexamined, the bodies shipped to rendering plants and landfills rather than to pathologists who might have discovered why the horses broke down.”

In 2008, after a Kentucky Derby horse, “Eight Belles, broke two ankles on national television and was euthanized, added The New York Times report; while noting how “Congress extracted promises from the racing industry to make its sport safer. While safety measures like bans on anabolic steroids have been enacted, assessing their impact has been difficult because many tracks do not keep accurate accident figures or will not release them.”

Horses put at risk for the sake of sport and greed

A recent investigation by The New York Times has found that industry practices continue to put animal and rider at risk.

For instance, “a computer analysis of data from more than 150,000 races, along with injury reports, drug test results and interviews, shows an industry still mired in a culture of drugs and lax regulation and a fatal breakdown rate that remains far worse than in most of the world. If anything, the new economics of racing are making an always-dangerous game even more so. Faced with a steep loss of customers, racetracks have increasingly added casino gambling to their operations, resulting in higher purses but also providing an incentive for trainers to race unfit horses. At Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the number of dead and injured horses has risen sharply since a casino opened there late last year.”

Horses viewed as expendable in America today

According to the Times analysis, “6,600 horses broke down or showed signs of injury” over the past few years. Also, “since 2009, the incident rate has not only failed to go down, it has risen slightly. The greatest number of incidents on a single day — 23 — occurred last year on the most celebrated day of racing in America, the running of the Kentucky Derby. One Derby horse fractured a leg, as did a horse in the previous race at Churchill Downs. All told, seven jockeys at other tracks were thrown to the ground after their horses broke down.”

Moreover, a state-by-state survey by The Times shows that “about 3,600 horses died racing or training at state-regulated tracks over the last three years.”

“It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through,” said Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director for the California Racing Board. “In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.”

Even some of America’s most prestigious tracks, including Belmont Park, Santa Anita Park and Saratoga Race Course, “had incident rates higher than the national average last year, records show,” added this March 25 New York Times report.

Racehorses drugged and injured

Why racehorses break down at such a high rate has been debated for years, but the discussion inevitably comes back to drugs.

To assess how often horses get injured, The Times bought data for about 150,000 races from 2009 through 2011, then searched for terms indicating that a horse encountered a physical problem, like “broke down,” “lame” or “vanned off.”

In turn, The Times unearthed shocking details of horse deaths and maltreatment.

“It’s hard to watch these poor animals running for their lives for people who could really care less if they live,” said Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, a track veterinarian at Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack in upstate New York told the Times. “She performs pre-race inspections and treats horses injured in races but is not responsible for their overall care.”

Last year at the track, for example, Dr. Ohlinger told The New York Times that she “counted 63 dead horses. That, she said, is more than double the fatalities of five years earlier.”

Horse slaughter may return out West

While no horse slaughterhouses have operated in the U.S. since 2007, states a March 22 report in the Eugene Weekly, “that that could change soon thanks to Congress lifting the ban on funding “domestic horse meat inspections.”

For instance, the Eugene Weekly report explained how “an Oregon horse trainer is organizing the pro-slaughter in Oregon;” while other western states have also floated the idea of returning to the day of horse slaughter plants as good economics since countries such as France and Japan have customers “who eat horse meat.”

One proposal for Oregon, reports the Eugene Weekly, states a proposed plant in Hermiston, Oregon, “would butcher up to 200 horses a day,” and “create jobs, while having a horse rescue component.

Also, the Eugene Weekly report pointed to a “now-defunct Belgian-owned Dallas Crown horse slaughterhouse in Texas that had a gross income of $12 million.”

However, the Eugene Weekly noted how “the plant incurred hundreds of environmental violations – at one point the blood from the horses overwhelmed the wastewater system and backed up into local residents’ bathtubs – and cost the city thousands in legal fees.”

Horse sanctuaries aid abandoned horses out West

The growing number of abandoned horses across the West has recently promoted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to set-up “eco-sanctuaries” while announcing late last year that it will “provide up to $40 million over the five years to establish the sanctuaries.”

The turbulent economic climate is being blamed for what BLM and the Oregon Department of Agriculture has called “a crisis” for horses in some parts of the state. The problem came to light back last year when 11 horses were found abandoned on a rural road in the Willamette Valley north of Eugene.

Other cases of abandoned horses have also come to light in various parts of the state and throughout the West as the economy has taken a nose dive.

In turn, BLM wants proposal for establishing “eco-sanctuaries” for both wild and abandoned horses.

According to a recent BLM news release, there are “more than 38,000 wild horses roaming Oregon, Nevada, California and seven other Western states.”

Moreover, BLM officials said they want these environmentally friendly horse sanctuaries to be open to the public in a way not disruptive to the horses.

Wild and abandoned horses on the rise out West

A BLM official told local Eugene media that the local horse populations tend to double every four years, while BLM does its best to round up nearly “10,000 horses a year.”

The $40 million that BLM will spend to establish these horse sanctuaries will be taken from the existing federal “Wild Horse and Burro Program.”

At the same time, BLM had previously announced that it would “scale back wild horse roundups following a U.S. House vote to cut BLM funding by $2 million.

However, local BLM officials in Oregon said with the abandoned horse situation growing as the recession continues, it need a plan to safeguard wild horses.

Cost for caring for a horse rising

At the same time, Eugene area horse owner Monica Hendrickson believes the plight of these abandoned or badly treated horses is directly linked to “this economy causing feed to go sky high.”

Hendrickson said, as of April 2012, an average horse eats between 25 to 30 pounds of hay per day. “We buy ½ ton bales and it’s now gone up to $465 a ton to have it trucked in. At this time last year, it was nearly half that.”

“You need $50 to $70 just to feed a horse the required amount of hay for one day. You add in all the extras and it’s a lot more,” she said with a look of disbelief and frustration at “the cost of keeping a horse these days.”

Moreover, owners will tell you that horses need proper nutrition, veterinary care, hoof care, grooming, training and most of all – love.

“They also need to be treated with kindness and respect,” added Hendrickson. “People forget that horses need more than just hay to survive.”

At the same time, horse lovers nationwide say they’re concerned about these injured, abandoned and the potential for horse slaughter plants to return out West just as horse owners in Ireland and Space face the same dilemma – how to save horses in a time of recession when there’s no money to feed them?

Image source of two now not so rare abandoned horses grazing in an icy cold field outside Eugene, Oregon, April 1. Photo by Dave Masko


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Get real people. Banning the Slaughter Houses has all but ruined the Horse Industry. People are left with no way out of the financial burden of horse ownership once the animal has become disabled. Regulations say you cannot bury a horse on your own property . . . so, what are people suppose to do with them? Every Rescue Organization you call is FULL, every Foster Home is FULL . . . can you not see the writing on the wall? How do the horses fend in the wild when a cougar runs one down for the dinner kill; do you think that being eaten alive is a fast death? It’s a natural food chain. Horses aren’t going to the slaughter houses for our dinner-table. If the meat goes overseas, who cares; if it goes for dog food, so what . . . it’s a food chain! Our Government does not support our horse fancy interests; it is up to each individual owner. With the economy the way it is, why should I be expected to spend what money I have to support my horse, when I need to feed myself? I don’t hear the same outcry for Cattle, Chickens, Pigs, Sheep, etc.; they are used as companion pets as well as any horse; but, reality is reality. The U.S. does not have to slaughter horses for human consumption; slaughter for carnivorous animal diets or dog and cat food! There are far too many horses and not enough individual incomes to cover them and certainly no Grants. You cannot give a horse away these days; come-on get real people!!! Ban together and offer suggestions for a better way to get rid of the unwanted horses, if there is one; but, for right now, the Slaughter Houses are all we got. Despite the fact that horse meat is not widely consumed in Canada, over 90,000 horses a year are slaughtered for food there. Its high-protein, low-fat meat is still consumed in many parts of the world, including Italy, Japan and Brazil. The taboo of eating horse meat persists in most of North America, however, and the Canadian horse meat industry remains controversial. If horse meat isn't your thing, perhaps you would like camel (Egypt), whales (Norway) or monkeys (sub-Saharan Africa).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
STOP the overbreeding of Equines for yrs to come! A "Licence" to breed!! Can,t you see the writing on the wall?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
a) We don't NEED them. We NEED responsible citizens. Do not obtain a horse prior to having the funds to humanely euthanize and dispose of said horse. The problem is people like you who shrug off responsibility. b) As a horse industry member, every horse I encounter has been exposed to harmful substances such as BUTE. This is common "Horse aspirin" and is toxic in meat and leads to cancer and miscarriages in humans. This is ONE example. The list goes on.

Submitted by BJM (not verified) on
Stop breeding so many horses. Cut that UGLY, WORTHLESS STALLION in the field with those ugly worthless mares. Stop trying to sell a pasture full of UGLY, UNTRAINABLE, INBRED colts that have no value to begin with! It's that simple! Search for one single, good, healthy, decent bred horse and you will find many, many fields of worthless, ugly, over-priced junk horses because someone has a stallion they think is top of the line.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
The name of the game is the beginning of the end. We have held horses in high regard as a banner to some far away life style of yor...the western cowboy myth. everyone can breed cats, dogs and horses on their own properties for profit and greed....this era of everyone owning a horse is over..they are big animals and to take care of them takes money and maintenance. We all love the animal, but more and more have to give them Edward Abbey (Southwestern environmentalist and writter said.."The Dream of the Cowboy is Over..." Men now turn to their big powered trucks for that fulfilment of Cowboy Dreams (what are those cowboys and cowgirls going to do when their gas guzzling trucks are out of gas for good?)...and ladies who love horses have to get out of their "Sparkle Pony" syndrome. meanwhile back in the old city, we are putting down healthy but unwanted pets to the highest numbers cat and dog breeders still try and sell their animals for money. Perhaps we should eat them also?..will these animals slowly creep into our human food chain?...When it all comes down this dilemna and many dilemnas like this will surface as we humans dig our own graves environmentally speaking....but only a few who are knowledgeable and are keeping quiet know the real problem here...the secret is uncontrollable human population growth...thats the problem and wont be faced until our generation is gone and did nothing about it...but you can be sure that your grandchildren will pay dearly for our carelessness and greed of this earth...there is a beach i used to goto when i was a child and no one was ever on this it is innodated with people all the time, broken glass and litter..drugs and sex....anyway, just want to let you know that i too am a devote horse lover but i also see the big picture and see our human distruction and demise.

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