Chicago (EWA) – A six month
investigation by the EWA and other animal investigation organizations has
finally determined the predominant source of abandoned horses in the
Southwestern US. The findings show that most or all of more than 5,000 horses a
year are being abandoned after being rejected for slaughter at the Mexican
The investigation explains the
source and reason for abandonments, most of which have been reported in the
vast stretches of isolated land north of the Mexican border since 2009. Most of
these horses could clearly be identified as domestic stock from such
indications as nail holes in their hooves (where shoes had recently been
removed) but no other clues to their source were found.
Until now articles about their
discovery have speculated that they were abandoned by individual owners because
they could no longer afford to feed them. The horse slaughter lobby has further
suggested that this was made worse because individuals "no longer had a
Equine advocates countered this
hypothesis by pointing out that there had been no decrease in slaughter to
force such actions, and that the areas where they were being found did not have
significant domestic horse populations.
Moreover, it made no sense that
someone who could not afford to euthanize and bury a horse would elect instead
to pay for hauling it hundreds or thousands of miles only to turn it loose. In
fact, many horse advocates had good reason to suspect the reports were bogus.
Following the closure of US horse
slaughter plants in 2007, there were a large number of stories published
claiming horses were being abandoned because of a lack of slaughter. These
reports ranged from reclaimed strip mines in Kentucky to the Florida Everglades
and Oregon ranches. For a year each of these was investigated and found to be
false or hugely distorted.
But in the past two years there
have been an increasing number of authenticated reports of abandoned horses,
mostly in the remote stretches of the southwest Border States. A few of these
horses actually had hide removed, apparently to obscure a brand.
In August, the first piece of the
puzzle fell into place when approximately 300 horses were spotted from the air
starving and dead in a remote feedlot near the port-of-entry town of Presidio,
Texas. The fact that living horses were found in different stages of starvation
and the dead horses were in various stages of decomposition, indicated they had
been dumped there at different times.
The situation became all the more
puzzling when it was revealed that the feedlot was operated by the C4 Cattle
Company and Intermeat Inc./Dallas Crown the Belgian meat company that had
formerly operated the Dallas Crown horse slaughter plant in Kaufman, Texas. The
company buys horses for slaughter in Mexico. It was also discovered that about
40 of the horses came from kill buyer Trenton Saulters.
The question was of course why they
had left the horses to perish only a few miles from the border crossing where
they could have been sold to the slaughter plants in Mexico.
An answer came in the European
Union’s (EU’s) report (DG(SANCO) 2010-8524 – MR) from the 2010 audit of their
horse slaughter plants in Mexico. In section 188.8.131.52, the report divulged that
Mexico had rejected 5,336 slaughter horses out of 62,560 presented at six OISAs
(Border Crossing Offices) during the audit period between January and October
The horses were rejected under a
new system of controls implemented in December, 2009. Reasons for rejection
included health problems, advanced pregnancy and injuries.
The final piece of the puzzle came
from an investigation by EWA on how the USDA’s APHIS (Animal and Plant
Inspection Service) tracks horses bound for slaughter. EWA’s Valerie
James-Patton was researching the Owner/Shipper certificate system which is
supposed to allow APHIS to assure humane regulations are being followed. When
asked what happens to horses rejected at the Mexican border, she was told
simply "they fall out of the system."
Normally kill buyers who haul
slaughter horses to Mexico try to fill their trailers with cattle and other
animals on the return journey. So clearly they need to dispose of the rejected
horses, and the most economical way to do so is to simply abandon them on a
deserted stretch of road or in an isolated lot.
Ironically, while the horse
slaughter lobby has been claiming abandonment was a result of a lack of
slaughter, it now appears it is in large part a result of the practice.
The Equine Welfare Alliance is a
dues-free 501c4, umbrella organization with over 210 member organizations and
hundreds of individual members worldwide. The organization focuses its efforts
on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids. www.equinewelfarealliance.org