"Both government records and our report show that being on U.S. soil was not then and is not now the slightest guarantee of humane treatment." Sonja Meadows, Executive Director, Animals Angels
Westminster, MD (August 6, 2009) A thirty month long investigation into the plight of horses who have been sold for slaughter has revealed the worst levels of inhumane treatment.
The abuse and neglect of these horses, sometimes referred to as ‘kill horses,’ was uncovered during the investigation and is consistent with findings and photographs contained in a 906 page document released by the USDA last year.
The investigation and report by Animals’ Angels, a Maryland based animal welfare organization, confirmed that injuries and inhumane treatment documented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture during 2005 continue.
Slaughter horses in Shelby, MT
Both USDA and Animals’ Angels (AA) documents show horses severely injured, left medically untreated, ill, trampled to death and worse on their way to and at slaughter.
Executive Director of Animals’ Angels, Sonja Meadows said their investigations quickly revealed that, "Both government records and our report show that being on U.S. soil was not then and is not now the slightest guarantee of humane treatment."
The slaughter of horses in the U.S., which stopped with plant closures in 2007, continues in Canada and Mexico. Groups advocating the slaughter of American horses have called for the reopening of U.S. horse slaughter plants, saying horses are better protected by U.S. humane laws than by laws in Canada and Mexico. However, during the 30 month long investigation that included repeated visits to auctions, feedlots and slaughter plants, AA investigators concluded abuse and inhumane treatment are inherent to the horse slaughter industry.
"It takes inhumane treatment to make the economics work," said Meadows. "We found the cruelty starts well before horses arrive at the slaughter plant."
The AA report documents available veterinary care withheld from horses severely injured or near death. Undercover investigators were routinely told, ‘That horse is going to slaughter anyway,’ or the horses were ‘just passing through.’
Treatment of horses designated for slaughter ranged from beating horses and jabbing them in the eyes, to using a cable winch to drag downed horses with a wire wrapped around a back leg. Investigators observed horses being injured or killed after being forced into dangerously crowded pens where they were kicked or trampled. Others were found frozen to the ground after overnight temperatures dropped well below freezing.
Young and small horses, as well as horses injured or weak were trampled to death in trailers crowded with 40 horses. Workers failed to separate stallions, ensuring fierce fighting in close quarters during transport.
Making conditions worse is the issue of stolen horses, according to Debi Metcalfe, founder of Stolen Horse International, Inc., which operates http://www.netposse.com/, a horse theft recovery network that averages 80,000 unique visitors per month. "We have dealt with cases where horses were stolen," said Metcalf. "We later found out that these innocent pets had been slaughtered."
Investigators also discovered at both Canadian and Mexican slaughter plants horses left in bloody ‘kill boxes,’ used to restrain horses as they are being killed, during lunch breaks. According to the report, the horses were ‘shaking violently as if they might fall down.’ Plant management told investigators the horses ‘aren’t bothered by it.’
AA investigators documented injured and dead horses at every stop along the horse slaughter pipeline. At feedlots and export pens horses had no food and water troughs were empty. An export facility veterinarian informed investigators horses too weak for transport would be left behind to die in the pens.
"The public has been duped into thinking horse slaughter has ended, but it just moved a few hours further down the road," Meadows pointed out. "It hasn’t somehow changed into something it is not. It is the same terrible suffering it was in 2005."
"By the time the horse finally stands in the kill box at the slaughter plant, it is often not the worst thing that has happened to it since this dreadful journey began," said Meadows.
About Animals Angels
Animals’ Angels is a 501 (c)(3) non profit organization with fulltime investigators in the United States and Canada. We work with law enforcement and government agencies to end animal cruelty and improve conditions for farm animals. We are in the field every week, trailing livestock trucks, visiting markets, collecting stations and slaughter plants. For more information please go to http://www.animals-angels.com/