All problems need a bad guy. It's not who you may think.
Before we get into the Blame Game for 100,000 to 134,000 American horses being sent to foreign slaughter every year, it’s important to understand the core issue. In the view of Swingin’ D Horse Rescue, the kill buyer is the easy target. In reality, they’re just business people making a living according to existing laws. Kill buyers sell horses to foreign horse meat buyers after legally purchasing them…from horse owners who no longer want them. The core problem is not kill buyers. It’s owners.
Free Horses, Cheap Horses, Auction Horses
Horses like these...
"I love my horse! I would NEVER send it to slaughter."
Very few horse owners would say they chose to send their horse to slaughter. Who would come right out and admit such a thing? So, if it’s not you, and it’s not me sending our horses to slaughter, how do 100,000 to 134,000 American horses wind up in foreign slaughterhouses every year? The fact that horse slaughter is illegal in America does not protect tens of thousands of sound, healthy horses from horrific, violent deaths. Yet it happens every day, through legitimate business transactions that begin with the horse’s unwitting, often well-meaning, owner.
This is the slaughter pipeline
The slaughter pipeline presents myriad opportunities for horses to be abused and neglected. Not only do we see kill pens (not all) that starve horses to the brink of death, we see the stories of the criminals and charlatans who operate freely throughout the unregulated kill pen rescue industry. We’ve seen horses slowly starved to death by money-grubbing haulers, hubs, quarantines, trainers and others who prey on kill pen rescuers, then abuse and neglect the horses they’re paid to care for. In too many cases, horses escape the nightmare kill pen, only to be thrust into a far worse hell than slaughter. The slaughter pipeline is not just slaughter. It’s much worse.
“Blind trust: A horse follows its leader one last time, onto the cramped trailer that will haul it for days, without food or water, to its terrifying, violent, inhumane death."
-Tami Marler, MBA-
The Kill Buyer
At the crack of dawn, the haggard cowboy began loading up his trailer bound for the Mexican slaughterhouse. Week after week, the horse meat plant pays him 75 cents to $1.50 a pound for dozens of horses he picks up mostly from livestock auctions, but also from Craigslist, Facebook, obituaries, classified ads, and any other of the plethora of venues where unwanted horses can be found. Such is the life of a kill buyer – hunting for free and cheap horses to meet his weekly quota.
The kill buyer’s pick of this particular week was a tossup between the palomino he got from that college student in a hurry to make room for her new horse; or the sore old mustang he found in the obituary section of the newspaper. Each freebie represented at least $600 pure profit. Billy Bob’s old ranch horse would net at least $500.
But the old kill buyer was especially proud of his haul from the auction the night before. When the bids dried up, he got that limping appaloosa and five other unwanted horses for $300.
Nothing moves faster than an unwanted horse.
Now, I’m not saying all kill buyers use these types of tactics. In fact, the vast majority probably don’t and wouldn’t. It would be easy to paint the kill buyer as an old-fashioned villain with twirly mustache and stove-pipe hat, but he’s really just a businessman making a legitimate living under current laws, primarily at livestock auctions. Kill buyers are known to bid aggressively on any horse they can get for below meat price. Their biggest competition is often the cash-strapped rescue hoping to save unwanted horses from…well, from them.
Here’s the thing, unless you know the person who’s taking your horse, imagine the worst-case scenario. Picture the horse you used to pamper, feed, groom and stall every night, now starved and fighting diseased, aggressive horses for food and survival. Imagine the companion that faithfully served you with broken bones, infected bite marks, gaping wounds, impaled eyeballs and every other gory injury – and that’s before it ever even loads the death trailer. And before your horse ever meets its final fate of a bolt to the head (if it’s lucky, within the first few shots), imagine its cramped, days-long ride to hell – never again to enjoy food, water, fresh air or room to stretch.
We don’t aim to frighten, but illuminate. It’s a responsible owner’s duty to ensure your horse does not meet the terrifying fate of tens of thousands of horses that once had loving owners just like you.
It’s honorable to want to give your horse to the right home, or to not want to profit from the sale of your horse. But rather than deal with an unknown quantity, consider surrendering your horse to an established rescue with a record of placing horses with forever homes. There are plenty to choose from, so this isn’t a marketing tactic for Swingin’ D (in fact, we’re typically packed to the gills, but we’ll try to help connect you with someone who can help).
Most 501c3 horse rescues post their policies and adoption guidelines on their websites. They also post proof of their prior performance through photos or testimonials.
A rescue can help you find the “soul human” for your horse – which is what responsible owners really want. Even if the rescue can’t take your horse immediately, most can help you find other options. Most have waiting lists of people looking for a particular type of horse. Who knows? Maybe that horse is your horse!
Deserve your horse's trust
Think about the trust your horse has in you. Every instinct in his or her body says to run from every cockamamie idea you had: Strap a dead cow to its back and cinch until it could barely breathe; then, once he or she finally exhaled, cinch it again. Time and again, he let you shove metal sticks and chains in his mouth and strap more dead cow around his head, knowing it meant surrendering all control to you.
Think of the trust it takes for a prey animal to allow something higher up the food chain to jump on its back and lead it into unknown dangers and hazards. What about the trust it takes to load onto a giant, dark metal cave, knowing that, after being bounced around the cave for a while, he’ll eventually step off of it in some strange place he’s never been? Against his or her better judgment and terrified nature, your horse allowed you to slog him through creeks, logs, brush and all kinds of other obstacles he feared would kill him.
Your horse didn’t do all of those things for you because you have some magical powers. Somewhere along the way, you earned your horse’s trust and respect.
Now, think about the fact that your horse will allow you to lead him or her onto a trailer for his last ride with you, his trusted human.
Make sure that final destination is with someone who’s just as worthy as you are to have your horse’s sacred trust.
If you’re interested in surrendering your horse, let us know.
Please note, Swingin’ D, like most horse rescues, is overflowing with unwanted horses. We can’t always immediately take in surrendered horses, but we will provide whatever assistance we can until space becomes available. We are not a sanctuary, so we are only able to accept horses that are likely to be adopted; however, we will suggest options for horses in need of sanctuary or humane euthanasia.
Please also note, horses with veterinary records, vet references and farrier history receive preferential placement in our surrender program.