Why We’re So Passionate About Rescuing Slaughter-Bound Horses

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Saving retired and unwanted horses from slaughter has long been one of our passions. In fact, in many ways, it sparked our love of rescuing farm animals. 

In 2003, we adopted our first racehorse, Lucas, a retiring racer that was looking for a new home. And within a year, we’d saved another, Damask, an ex-racehorse who was destined for a Canadian slaughterhouse. Today, The Mad Turkey Farm is home to seven horses we’ve saved from slaughter, and we’re always looking to expand our reach and rescue these incredible animals.   

Many people don’t understand just how many U.S. horses are sent to slaughter each year. According to estimates, 90,000 to 140,000 American horses are sent to slaughterhouses in Canada in Mexico, and these slaughter-bound horses are subjected to cruelty, long arduous journeys in cramped quarters, and pain and suffering. It’s a cruel, inhumane practice. 

We’re doing our part to save these loveable creatures from cruelty and provide them with new lives at our Virginia farm animal rescue.

What Is an Unwanted Horse? 

An unwanted horse is any animal that has become unwanted by its owner. There are many reasons horses become unwanted, but the four most common include: 

  1. A Change in the Owner’s Situation – Caring for horses is expensive and time-consuming. Often, economic hardship or a change in schedule results in owners not being able to properly care for an animal.  
  2. The Horse Is Too Old or Injured – Many owners do not want to provide care for injuries, illnesses and lameness. This is especially true in the horse racing industry; at the end of each racing season, thousands of injured race horses are sent to slaughter. 
  3. The Horse Is Unmanageable – Horses can be dangerous to handle. This is especially true for certain breeds and wild mustangs (thousands of which are sent to slaughter each year).
  4. Doesn’t Meet Owner’s Needs – Often, when a horse is ready to retire from farm work or a racing career, owners no longer want to care for the animal. This can also be if the horse isn’t a right fit for the owner; for example, racing horses are often sent to slaughter if they’re “too slow” or too skittish at the race track.  

Sadly, the vast majority of unwanted horses that are sent to slaughter could be rehomed. In fact, according to the USDA nearly 93% of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and could live productive lives!  

Horse Slaughter Is Not a Humane Solution

Horse slaughter refers to the practice of killing and processing horses for human consumption. This is much different than humane euthanasia. Slaughter is cruel and painful for the animals. 

In 2007, the U.S. banned horse slaughter, and that year, more than 100,000 animals were killed in U.S. facilities. Despite the ban, the number of American horses slaughtered each year has held steady. 

Today, the horses are now shipped to processing facilities in Canada or Mexico, where the practice remains legal. 

The shipping to slaughter is especially brutal. Horses are often shipped in crowded, unclean trailers and deprived food, water or rest. And these horses – which can include pregnant mare, foals and injured animals – die in transit.

One difficulty in rescuing horses is economics. At auction, horse owners look to make as much money as possible. Therefore, many “kill buyers” – buyers who bid on horses at auction and then sell them to slaughterhouses – often have the cash to outbid those who would provide these animals with good homes.    

What Can Help and How We’re Playing Our Part

Bottom line, slaughter is not an adequate solution for unwanted horses. There are much better options – from rehoming able-bodied horses, to providing sanctuaries for injured and elderly horses. 

At The Mad Turkey Farm, we work hard to provide happy lives for our slaughter-bound horses. This includes open pastures, proper diets and adequate physical care. Rescuing horses is one of our passions, and it’s a key focus of our farm animal rescue efforts.