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Horse Slaughter Feedlots and Transport Atrocities

Since the first of the year, I have been doing a deep dive into the incredibly inhumane and completely unnecessary slaughter horse “industry.” In my previous post about this topic, I explained that this “industry” is really not an industry. It isn’t a regulated process. It doesn’t have huge profits, market demand surge, and soaring sales figures. The only people really making money are the scumbags profiting on the pain of our horses.

I have written posts about each aspect of this horrendous practice. This week, let’s take another look at horse slaughter feedlots and how these unfortunate equines are shuttled from one nightmare to the next. Much of the information in this blog comes from a very current, very compelling report released by Animal Wellness Action, Animals’ Angels, and the Center for a Humane Economy.

Considering the sadness of this topic, I am thrilled to report that I do, at least, have some good news to share. But you’ll have to wait a bit to read it…

Horse slaughter feedlots

In the post A Simple Answer To All The Excuses For Supporting Horse Slaughter, I shared some devastating photos of the horrors of the feedlots. Let’s take a quick look at cattle feedlots versus horse slaughter feedlots…

Cattle are shipped to feedlots around 10 months of age and “fattened up” for about 4 months prior to slaughter. The beef industry is huge and, while there are certainly animal welfare issues associated with the beef industry, it is a regulated operation.

Horse slaughter feedlots are “holding pens” where horses bound for slaughter in Canada are housed. Horses are held for 6 months due to the European Union requirement that the horse meat must be drug-free. It has nothing to do with “fattening them up.” They are often exposed to such harsh conditions that some of them perish from the stress, disease, and inhumane conditions. They are likely losing weight, not gaining.

The feedlots for Canadian bound horses are, of course, located in the northern United States or Canada. One such feedlot is the Bar S Feedlot in Shelby, Montana. Yet another one is the Prime Feedlot, in Alberta, Canada. Both are owned by Bouvry Exports Ltd.

Do I need to describe what a Montana or Canadian winter might be like? Can you remember the photos I have shared in previous posts of emaciated, wounded, and terrified horses, and can you imagine them trying to survive the long months of winter? They had no shelter, not even the foals. Temperatures could plummet to -30 degrees Farhenheit.

The Montana feedlot was known to have a water drainage problem. Large, deep mudholes developed in the pens. In fact, it was so bad that horses were actually trapped in the mud and left to die! My post of two weeks ago showed photos taken at the Prime Feedlot of foals that froze to death, and horses that died and were partially consumed by scavengers.

So what is the good news? During a visit last September by Animals’ Angels and the co-authors of the recent report, the Montana feedlot was empty and there was no indication that any horses had been there for weeks. In October, the investigators learned that it was going to be sold or leased to a cattle company. WHY? Because there are not enough horses going to slaughter to continue to operate the feedlot. This “industry” is dying or nearly dead. It is time to end it all together, because even 20,000 horses suffering this fate is too many.

horse slaughter feedlots
An empty feedlot!

Sadly, the Canadian feedlot is still in operation.

Export pens

There are three locations at our southern border that export horses to Mexico for slaughter. One of them is the Presidio Export pens located in Presidio, Texas. Let me pull a quote from the Investigative Report that gives you some insight into these export pens:

Prior to exportation, the horses are inspected by Mexico’s National Service of Agro-Alimentary Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) and their fitness to travel is evaluated. Horses that are rejected by the Mexican authorities are refused entry and have to remain in the export pens until they are picked up again by their U.S. shipper. Common reasons for rejection are injuries, emaciation, apparent sickness, or the presence of ticks. The Mexican authorities also don’t allow the shipment of any stallions.

Once a horse is labeled a “reject,” it loses all value and becomes a financial burden for the kill buyer, which often causes the animal’s already minimum care to further decline. Multiple of our investigations at the Presidio pens have documented “rejects” in horrible condition, starving and with untreated injuries.

Photo credit to the authors of the Investigative Report

Here is where I get to share a bit more good news. When the investigators visited in mid-January of this year, they found two of the three pens at the Presidio facility completely empty. Each of the three pens was owned by a different company.

One pen was covered in trash and contained buildings that were caving in and in complete disrepair. Yet another pen had empty transport trailers parked on the lot and a significant amount of broken fencing. During the time the investigative team was on site, there was no activity at all.

The last pen had approximately 40 horses present, with USDA tags on most of them that indicated they were bound for the slaughterhouse in Mexico. Let me share the conclusions drawn by the investigators after their visit to the Presidio pens:

Overall, the impact of the EU ban of Mexican horse meat and the general decrease in demand for the meat were clearly visible. During previous visits to the Presidio export facilities, at least five U.S. trucks per day were observed delivering horses and between four and six loads of horses were exported to Mexico. During the recent three-day investigation, only one U.S. truck was observed delivering horses and not a single Mexican truck arrived to export horses to Mexico.

Transport Travesties

Recently I spoke to Temple Grandin. While she was unwilling to offer an on-the-record viewpoint about horse slaughter, she had some strong words to say regarding the transport of horses, for any reason.

We should not be transporting animals that are not fit to be transported, no matter what kind of animal, period.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

If you have been following this slaughter series at all, you know that I began writing these posts because I completed a USDA Slaughter Horse Transport module for my veterinary certification requirements. My first post described my horror at realizing that although there are apparently some regulations regarding which horses were deemed fit to transport to slaughter, no one is enforcing them.

That lack of enforcement is substantiated by the Investigative Report. It states:

Federal regulations aiming to protect the welfare of slaughter horses do exist. However, enforcement of the Commercial Transport of Equines to Slaughter Regulation is virtually nonexistent due to lack of funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Equine Slaughter Horse Protection Program.

For example, public records obtained from the Texas Department of Agriculture’s export pen in Socorro show that almost every shipment was in violation of the regulation. Of the 73 total shipments that left the pen in 2021, 19 were rejected by Mexican authorities for stallions mixed in with geldings and mares, 39 for horses with infected wounds and 15 for incorrect information (wrong sex; wrong microchip; incorrect health certificate).

Allow me to share some of what is contained in that USDA Veterinary module…

All of those “official” regulations are not worth the internet they are printed on. In addition to the countless violations documented by the investigators, there were concerns about the risk to Americans sharing the road with these transport trucks. There is little to no enforcement of normal trucking regulations. Drivers do not keep accurate logs and disregard maximum continuous driving times. They drive erratically, making it even harder for their cargo to remain standing in a slippery trailer full of manure, while simultaneously posing a hazard to other drivers. These transgressions are documented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Authority.

In conclusion…

While what I have just described is horrendous in every sense of the word, the good news remains that the numbers of horses going to slaughter is dropping every year. The conclusion here is twofold… no horse should ever be subjected to the atrocities I just described, and there is no longer any reason to continue this practice because the demand for horse meat is dwindling.

What’s next?

The last part of this report discusses the actual slaughter plants. I haven’t decided if or when I will do a deeper dive into what they learned. Next week’s post will be the first of several about the BLM “management” of Mustangs. I have interviews scheduled with some of the most knowledgeable individuals in the country regarding the cattle industry’s push to exterminate any competition for range land.

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