Stop The Slaughter

by Sherry Morse and Jerry Finch

Posted on December 3, 2003

Ziggy, an abused and neglected horse

Habitat For Horses

It is estimated that in 2002 over 42,000 horses were killed in slaughterhouses in the United States.

These horses were slaughtered despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans say they would vote to outlaw the slaughter of America's horses, given the choice.

In the past, the horse slaughter business thrived for years in the United States as a hidden industry.

Most Americans had no idea that ex-racehorses, Amish work and buggy horses, camp horses and many others, as soon as they no longer served their owners' purposes, were sent to auctions at which they would be bought by agents for the slaughterhouses, and condemned to a miserable, terrifying and degrading death, with all dignity stripped away.


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Today, horses are still forced to stand in over-crowded holding pens at the auction houses before being loaded into trucks for trips to the slaughterhouses which last up to 36 hours, usually without food, water or rest for the horses.

At the slaughterhouse, the horse is electrically prodded into an area known as the kill box where it is shot in the head with a dead-bolt gun with a four-inch nail which is supposed to render it unconscious, but often does not.

While still alive the horse is then shackled by a rear leg, hoisted into the air, and its throat is slit before the body is dismembered.

Does any animal that serves man for its entire life deserve this fate?

The growth of grassroots efforts to end horse slaughter in the United States has brought these issues to the attention of all Americans, not just those involved with the horse industry.

Horse being transported to slaughter
In the United States horses are not raised for food and we do not eat horses, just as we do not eat dogs and cats.

When people in this country breed their horses they are hoping that the foal will grow up to be a winning show horse or racehorse, or even just a companion, but they certainly are not hoping that it will end up on a table in France or Belgium, or in a dog food can.

However, it is rumored that the French and Belgians are now interested in opening slaughterhouses in the eastern states of New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania - perhaps in an effort to avoid controversy over the way horses are currently shipped to the slaughterhouses in Texas and Canada.

But does putting the slaughterhouses closer to the source make slaughter any better?

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R.857) was recently reintroduced in the US House by Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY), Co-chair of the Congressional Horse Caucus and Congressman John Spratt, Jr. (D-SC).

This bill would ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the domestic and international transport of live horses or horseflesh for human consumption.

While the issue of horse slaughter is being debated on a federal level, many states are also waging their own individual battles.

In DeKalb, Illinois, a Belgian-owned company named "Cavel International" is seeking to reopen its horse processing plant in early 2004. The plant has been closed since it was damaged by fire in March 2002.

Illinois State Rep. Robert S. Molaro (D-Chicago) had introduced a state bill that could have banned the slaughtering of horses for exportation, but that bill has now been put on hold until January 2004.

But ordinary Illinois voters who care about horses are not giving up the fight.

Jerry Finch, of the rescue organization "Habitat for Horses", is among those who are trying desperately to prevent the rebuilding of the horse processing plant.

In a recent speech on the issue, Finch made the following comments:

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Jasmine, a adoptable horse living at the Habitat For Horses rescue sanctuary

Habitat For Horses

Last year, the only things that stood between a golden future and death at the slaughterhouse for over two hundred horses were the people at Habitat for Horses, our horse rescue in Galveston County.

These horses - emaciated, crippled, some old, and some very young - had no place to go other than either through our gates, or into trailers headed for Beltex and Dallas Crown slaughterhouses.

Habitat for Horses isn't unique. Thousands of horses walk into the stalls and paddocks of horse rescues throughout the United States.

Many of those horses have been donated. Some have been purchased from auctions and feedlots. A large number, like those at our ranch, have been taken away from abusive owners through the court system.

There are hundreds of such horse rescues, manned by thousands of volunteers that put in tens of thousands of hours bringing these horses back to health and finding them homes where they will be loved and respected.

The volunteers come from all walks of life. Old cowboys, young kids, suburban moms - they think nothing of sloshing through driving rainstorms, bundling up against the bitter cold or sweating under unbearable heat to feed, water, hay and medicate rescued horses.


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"This one," they say, "this one won't die."

Collectively, rescues form a protective shield around thousands of horses across this great country.

The dedication, the drive, the purpose of the effort comes from one common thread that we all share - a deep love for the majestic horse.

Yes, we love them. From the wild, untamed mustang to the old, swaybacked, toothless mare - our lives are dedicated to giving them peace, to providing the very best we can for them and, if the time has come for them to pass on, letting them know that some people do care, that humans are not all bad, and we ask for their forgiveness for all that has been done to them in the name of man.

Horse being forced towards his own slaughter
At the same moment as we are on our knees asking a horse to rise one more time, there are those who dedicate their lives to slaughtering horses for their meat.

They are made wealthy by the many people that have no feelings for horses, that are brutal in their treatment, that use them until they become useless, and then send them to slaughter to make a final fistful of dollars off their dead bodies.

There are millions who pass through this world blind to the horror and brutality of slaughter. It is through their silence that the slaughter continues. They had rather close their eyes and pretend it doesn't exist.

We are here for one purpose - to ask you to tell the story, to open the eyes and hearts of those millions, to bring the dark and dirty secrets of the horse slaughter industry out into the open.

It is only through the rising voice of the public that this brutal horror will finally end and the slaughter of our horses will stop.

Darby, an adoptable horse living at the Habitat For Horses rescue sanctuary

Habitat For Horses

From that moment thousands of years ago when mankind first climbed onto the back of a horse, we have claimed him as our partner, our friend and our helper. The horse has been a vital part of our walk into civilization.

He fought beside us in our wars; he has plowed our fields, carried our burdens on his back, and pulled our carts and wagons. In return, we have honored him in art and mythology and stood in awe of this magnificent and unique creature.

We captured him to serve us; we bred him to show strength and endurance, we claimed responsibility for his life, his movements, his actions.

He, in turn, gave us his heart and his spirit. He has given us his life.

Yet at this very hour, in Texas, in the only two horse slaughterhouses left in the United States, hundreds of horses stand alone and abandoned, awaiting their death.

Horses being forced towards their own slaughter
And now they are building another slaughterhouse.

No more will these horses feel the wind tossing their manes. No longer will they play and graze.

Never again will they feel the hug of little girls and joyously carry young men on their backs. They are doomed to be killed, and their muscles cut into small pieces to be served on dinner plates in Europe and Asia.

In our great country, this is their final reward for a lifetime of service. And we are letting it happen, through our silence.

I'm asking you to never again let the sound of our silence be broken by the screams of terrified horses facing an unspeakable death.

Instead, let it be broken by our own voices, as we cry out to stop the killing of our horses.

Horse with human rescuer

Habitat For Horses

Let our voices be heard far and wide, throughout this town, throughout the states, through the halls of Congress and throughout this nation.

"...This one won't die, nor this one. None of them. Never again.

"The slaughter stops now."

- Jerry Finch

2003 Animal News Center, Inc.