How They Die

Paul McCartney once famously said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Not everyone, of course, but you get the point. For the record, all animal slaughter is horrific. All of it. And the animals we routinely raise (in the cruelest of conditions), slaughter, butcher, and eat are just as intelligent and every bit as sentient as horses. But, consistent with this site, the focus here is on horse slaughter, perhaps the worst of racing’s wrongs.

Last year, 59,812 American horses were slaughtered in Canada. Thanks to the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, we know, more or less, how they died. The following comes from a 2010 undercover investigation at two of the country’s four equine slaughterhouses: Bouvry and Viandes Richelieu.





Three veterinarians reviewed the footage:

Dr. Debi Zimmerman:
“As a prey species, horses are naturally fearful and suspicious of anything they have not been conditioned to accept. All things at these slaughterhouses would fall into the category of unnatural, fear-producing stimuli; not the least of which is the vocalizations of fearful horses, the strange plant workers, the metal chute systems, the loud droning of machinery, the blaring music (at Bouvry), horses being felled in-front of or beside them (Richelieu), the smell of warm blood in the stun box and that spewing from the throats of horses only a few feet away from them, and the stench of excrement in high concentration in the chute system that is released from fearful and dying horses.”

“Every second a horse must remain isolated and confined in a strange situation, can be agonizing. Many horses were left over 3 minutes prior to being shot, including one horse left while workers hosed down the kill floor and went for their 10 minute break (#75), and one horse at Richelieu (Horse #1) which was left in the stun box for 20 minutes. One obviously panicked horse at Richelieu, flailed about in the stun box for nearly 3 minutes, before the shooter finally attended to him.”

“At Bouvry, many horses demonstrated voluntary movements, or obvious rhythmic breathing, upon being suspended. This indicates these horses were likely conscious as they were being hoisted high into the air with one leg bearing their entire weight, and while their necks were slashed on both sides (which entails using a sawing motion of the knife). A full bleed out takes minutes, and as some horses had their feet chopped off within 45 seconds of the throat slash, some horses may also have experienced the pain associated with this procedure as well.”

“At Richelieu, horses were routinely subjected to excessive whippings on their bodies, excessive use of electric prods (both stick and hand-held), and some struck repeatedly across their faces (i.e.: Miniature horses).”

“[The shooter] allowed a horse that became cast in the stun box, to flail about for almost 3 minutes while he carried on a casual conversation with a co-worker; he forced horses to step over the legs of fallen horses which had not yet been removed from the now very crowded stun box, and, he led horses through improperly closed gates on which they subsequently struck their heads. The shooter also whipped an older and obviously lame horse (#93) 19 times.”

“The fact that a .22 calibre rifle does not typically deliver a kill shot, along with the high rate of mis-shots delivered by the shooter, this excessive time lag between stunning and bleed offers numerous horses the opportunity to regain consciousness while they are being processed.”

“In addition to this psychological pain, these horses also suffered physically in numerous ways. These included slips and falls, fractures, numerous mis-shots with some horses requiring a second or even third bullet; some horses regaining consciousness before or while being suspended by one leg, and/or when their throats were being slashed: excessive traumatization during assembly; excessive whippings of their bodies and across their faces (Richelieu), and excessive use of electric prods (Richelieu).”

Dr. Mary Richardson:
“Far too often, the shooter was not able to render the animal unconscious on his first shot. Then, the horse experiences great pain for a prolonged period before the next shots are fired. It often took 3 or 4 bullets before the horse lay still. …sometimes [the time between shots] was several minutes.”

“The next step is shackling the back leg, and hanging the animal to bleed it. Before this is done, the animal must be unconscious. I never saw one attempt on the tapes to make sure of this.”

“Too often, the horse would be hung up, and then show conscious movement, and then have to be shot again, sometimes several times.”

“Because there were no attempts to ensure unconsciousness, it is possible horses are dying by being bled out…”

Dr. Mel Richardson:
“Loud music echoing off the walls, horses whinnying in fear, people yelling and using whips and electric prods and the smell of blood and death all equate to equine hell.”

Another Canadian plant (Natural Valley)…


In Mexico, a small puntilla knife is used to sever the spinal cord. Paralyzed but often still sensible, the horse is shackled, hoisted, slashed, and exsanguinated.


Twyla Francois, Canadian horse-slaughter expert:
“[They are] so frightened. You can see them in the [auction] ring, that they search the ring looking for a friendly face. We have been comfort for them, and then we take them to slaughter. We see this at the slaughterhouses too, where they’re still seeking out affection from even the slaughterhouse workers themselves.”

bleed3

“And one thing we saw that really broke my heart was, you would see the workers walking by the pens and the horses would rush the pens, looking for comfort from these men who were going to kill them. It just seems like such a betrayal. …nothing can prepare them for the journey they have ahead of them after they’ve been given up.”

Defend that, horseracing.

28 Comments

  1. And before everyone starts mentioning that attention should be directed to the AQHA or the AVMA or the AAEP who are outspoken in their support of horse slaughter, we know where they stand. However, the deception (as usual) is the Thoroughbred racing industry from The Jockey Club on down to tracks with “no slaughter policies” who all purport to be opposed to horse slaughter. They make statements all the time — I’ve called and emailed them for their precise statements so I could read them at presentations I would be giving– and they give those to me that they oppose horse slaughter. But what they DO speaks louder than what they SAY.
    We’re sick of their lies about their position on horse slaughter and their refusal to let the public know what drugs and surgeries horses racing have had so they can make informed wagers and so injured horses are identified since their own research shows that 90% of necropsies on CA horses that were euthanized after a race had PRE-existing conditions. We’re sick of their lies that they oppose the slaughter of their horses. Prove it.

    • Yes you are right re. the Thoroughbred business. As always, it is best not to listen to what is being said, instead watch what is being done !!!

  2. I said it is necessary and I stand by that statement. Remember an estimate states that 81% are not race horses being slaughtered. That is a huge percentage. I personally think it is higher. So even if you stop horse racing you still have 100k horses getting slaughtered every year. What are you going to do with them?? Me asking questions in here is useless, no one ever has an answer. Most of the time I think you are scared of the answers.

    I don’t like ANY slaughter. NONE. I have 40 acres of prime deer land and allow zero hunting. I actually police the neighboring land for hunters because the owners are unable. I don’t want any animal to die, but I understand it happens. There are a lot of people on the Band wagon to stop TB slaughter and act like they are oblivious to the other breeds. Also none of you will address slaughter of animals you eat.

    I am quite sure most of you are used to always getting your way and can’t stand that people are not falling over themselves to acomadate your every wish…
    So yes I believe horse slaughter is necessary…

  3. To the above Statement > horse slaughter is necessary? If you would choose a way to die…would you choose slaughter? Slaughter is exactly what it states SLAUGHTER! It is barbaric, inhumane and UN-necessary! There are humane ways to do away with unwanted animals! So you whomever you are that states this is necessary are barbaric and disgusting! PERIOD!

  4. “Me asking questions in here is useless, no one ever has an answer.”….

    And I already gave you an answer, on another thread where you posed the same question…that answer is euthanize.

    • So just kill them all?? Kill em and let them rot instead of TRYING to make the slaughter as humane as possible and not letting the meat go to waste. I know you are appalled with the consumption of horse meat but there are others that are not. I even saw a post somewhere that said “Send the meat to prisons”, I am certainly not against that. I say pass it out like the government cheese. If my tax dollars are going to pay for what some eat, eat what we give you.

      Joy since we are all aware that if there is going to be humane slaughter it is a thing of the future. We do not have any humane slaughter as of now. So answer the question of how horse advocates fight to stop their slaughter and still eat other animals that are slaughtered in the same way if not worse.. That is a question that has been avoided..ROSE SMITH…

      • Please show ALL OF US where I said I am appalled with the consumption of horse meat…find it, and copy and paste it here. And then also show where I said to “kill em and let them rot”. You must really have your closet organized (I think that is how you put it), because not only are you telling others how this must be done, you are telling others what they think and feel! That’s pretty damn arrogant.

        Do you stand up and fight for ANYTHING you believe in?…or do you just spout off and stand for nothing?

      • I asked what are you going to do with the 100k non thoroughbreds that go to slaughter? I read your answer as euthanize . Again there is the kill them all, i added the let them rot because i am not sure there is going to be a market for 100k euthanized horses a year..So you are saying that you are not appalled with horse consumption??? So you are against slaughter of horses but not eating them??? If not my apologies. How would you suggest people are to consume them without slaughter?? Also I have NEVER told anyone in here how something MUST be done. I have given my opinions, telling people how things must be done is done by others in here…

        So for the record are you saying you are ok with the consumption of horse meat?? Are you ok with the consumption of other slaughtered animals and if so what is the difference???

  5. People in favor of slaughter never seem to mention the core problem of overbreeding. It is like it does not exist or is not an issue. Many here know the Thoroughbred industry and how overbreeding contributes to so many unwanted horses. Many of the foals born each year do not even make it to the track and most of those go to slaughter. The majority of those that do make it to the track wind up in the downward spiral of the claiming game where they are claimed and reclaimed and started and started until they either breakdown or just worn out. Many of these claimers are former stakes winners that are put in claiming races when their wins start to drop in the stakes or allowance races. Plenty of these so called “claimers ” made substantial money for their former owners before they were dumped. This is how far the Sport of Kings has come !! There is someone (his name escapes me) who tracks horses who have made $500,000, or more, and are found in in the downward spiral the claiming ranks. He tries to get them retired. Any horse with earnings below that mark is out of luck !

    I have been watching a horse, Be Bullish, who is now 8 years old that was claimed each time he raced in the last couple of races. He has over 70 starts and earnings of almost $900,000. He is racing on the 9th in a $25, 000 optional claiming at Aqueduct. He, of course, is up for claiming. The poor animal is just being run into the ground. He has made money for all who have claimed and he continues to win. Unless someone steps in, we know what will happen…he will finally breakdown or he will be sent to slaughter. So this is part of why horse slaughter is necessary… to act as a disposal system for the trashed, abused and culled horses of the “noble sport” of Thoroughbred racing..

    As for numbers, suffice to say approximately 70% of Thoroughbreds foaled go to slaughter. I find that to be outrageous.

    PS Be Bullish may have been sent to the breeding shed if he were not a gelding. And so the cycle continues… more foals, more money, more slaughter…..

    • Rose, sadly, Be Bullish is just one of the many…thank you for giving him acknowledgment, thank you for giving his name as an example of the thousands like him. Sadly, claiming him is not so simple as some like to state. I’m fairly certain, Rose, you are not licensed, hence you would not be allowed to claim Be Bullish (something I am sure you already know). And where do we stop and start…which horses do we actively pursue and which ones do we have to turn away from. We’ve done it…picked some and had to leave others…at the track, at the auction, from horses on Craigslist…and as always, it is those who choose to do nothing other than run their mouths making an issue of our choices. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t (but it has not stopped us :)). What is crystal clear at the end of the day, those are the folks who lack strength and backbone…when the hard choices come, they simply do nothing but flap their gums. We want to save them all…we cannot save them all, but we will do as much as we can with the resources we have. And I don’t know your thoughts on this Rose, but it is especially difficult for me when a horse that has served so well and given for so long is thrown away, in whatever form of disposal that may be. It is not that he/she feels more pain, nor that he/she desires to live anymore than the next horse…it just gets me that someone took and took and took from them during life, and at the end, even that is not enough…now they have to be “marketable” in death?

      Patrick, is it possible you can give Rose my e-mail address? And if so, Rose, would you mind sending me an e-mail? Thank you.

  6. Avoided it again Rose, why to go.
    I have a solution to the problem of that horse. Break open your check book and drop a slip on him. An easy solution. Bada Bing Bada Boom.. See I am a problem solver, what would you do with out me?? Again slaughter of table animals???

  7. I do a lot for horses, a lot more than people making lots of money in the business, believe me!

    Horse racing people, especially the ones who make substantial money on a horse and then throw the horse to the wolves are to blame for so many wrongs. I see it all the time. These people are in the business strictly for the money, they do not give a thought about the welfare of the unfortunate animal. Of course they have the freedom to breed as many horses as they want and to race as many as they want…… However, with freedom comes responsibility and accountability otherwise you have lots of problems created by people exercising their freedoms alone. If people can not or will not self regulate in terms of being responsible and accountable then eventually it has to be done for them….

    This cite is devoted to Thoroughbred Racing and it’s wrongs. There are cites devoted to other wrongs in society and it is worthwhile to check them because there so many trying hard against great odds in terms of power and money to make positive changes where needed.

    It is smart to pick one’s battles because fighting on too many fronts simultaneously is not a wise strategy.

    Doing nothing because one is unable to right all wrongs is capitulation, a defeatist attitude, which and never good for society, period.

    • So does that mean you are not going to claim the horse?? I figured that would solve the problem.
      One thing that sticks out in your last post was “People are in the business strictly for money”. That is what a business is for. Look up the word business; The purchase and sale of goods in attempt to make a profit; profit seeking enterprise. So I can not down people for wanting to make a profit,on the other hand I understand there are ethics to any business.
      Now picking your battles. Slaughter to me is slaughter. The species makes no difference. There is no humane slaughter so being against turkey slaughter and not chicken slaughter makes no sense to me. I don’t like any slaughter but i do eat meat. Maybe i am a hypocrite but I am not protesting one slaughter and rewarding the other. That theory can also be compared to racing and eventing or any other horse related sport or business. If you are an advocate for the horse, be an advocate for the horse. Most in here act like they are an advocate but they are simply against horse racing…

    • Rose, never be deterred in your attempts to help ANY animal. I help the TB’s but I have helped many other horses, as well. I currently own 2 Standardbreds and 1 Saddlebred along with 2 TB’s. However, the TB is near and dear to my heart because I grew up with them and my first horse was an OTTB. I have many issues with racing but one of my issues is that racing is a multi-billion dollar industry and, from my many years of experience, no money is available to help the low level horses here in Ohio. They are just as deserving as the horses owned by the “hot shots’ in racing. I hear the pro-racing enthusiasts babble on and on and on saying that there are hundreds of rescues waiting to take in the discarded horses of the racing industry. Those rescues are just waiting for my call! Whoever says that is a liar! Several years ago, I was following a horse by the name of Mojave Hawk. He was blind in one eye but was racing at the time. I reached out to Ms. Anna Ford at New Vocations to get him on her wait list if I was able to obtain him. Although Ms. Ford had previously told me that she would always take the horses that I acquired, she politely declined to take Mojave Hawk because he would be “too hard to adopt out”. New Vocations is in the business of moving horses and Ford was right. It would take longer to adopt out a horse that was blind in one eye. Again, rescues are not waiting for my call. The ones that will take a horse that is less desirable are already FULL! Of course, the racing industry is into “lip service” so, if it sounds good, they spout it off even though it isn’t the truth. By the way, Mojave Hawk disappeared off the radar. His whereabouts are unknown.

  8. I do have a question about horse slaughter…i want to preface it with i am a huge animal lover, vegetarian, have had horses that were humanely euthanized and buried on family property and in no way am advocating horse slaughter as i find it revolting as i do any other animal slaughter. But, has anyone read/heard how horrific transport is for these poor animals? They are in the trailer for hours/days bc they are being shipped to Mexico or Canada. It is 100 degrees outside and no relief while packed inside of a trailer that wasn’t even meant for horses…Not getting watered while baking inside of a metal trailer, or vice versa what about winter months. The only thing i keep thinking is that IF there were slaughter plants around the country at least they would not have to spend all those tortured hours in a trailer. I have wanted to ask this question for a long time but have been afraid of the backlash. But is this not a valid question and concern considering people are not going to stop eating horse meat. Until the country decides we are not going to stand for it and we are not going to transport horses for meat purposes to foreign countries??? A breed of horse no one is mentioning is the Mustang that is also being sold to killer buyers-don’t be naive to think that is not happening with all of the Mustangs that the BLM is taking off the land.

    • Hey Amanda…I’m glad you asked the question, and never be afraid to ask anything! Remember, even if others bash you, it’s only words..they won’t hurt you :)

      I would like to give you my thoughts on your questions and concerns. And yes, the transport itself to slaughter is horrific and nothing short of tortuous. So not only must the horses suffer the unspeakable horrors of slaughter (and I am assuming and hoping you did read all of Patrick’s piece “How They Die”), they must endure the torture of the trip. But for the sake of discussion and your concerns/questions, let’s say we open slaughterhouses in the states and I have one right next door to my house!…even if I could WALK my horse up to the doors of the slaughterhouse, he does not deserve nor should suffer what goes on inside those bloodied walls. There is never a moral reason to cause suffering to another living creature…and slaughtered horses suffer. Slaughter is not and never will be humane…and I will go out on a limb and add my opinion here; Slaughter is not and never will be humane, especially for a “flight or fight” animal – the horse. So slaughter WITHOUT the trip to it is suffering enough.

      And then let’s just say we take this approach…yes, let’s open slaughterhouses in the states to decrease transport time. So then Amanda, we need to decide just HOW long of a trip is OK…is it OK to have them crammed (as you so correctly described…and yes, I do know about the trips to slaughter, too…I also have seen a double-decker with horses on it) on the trailer for 30 minutes?…an hour?…2 or 3 hours?…what length of time, of suffering, is acceptable? Then we have the problem of states like the one I live in…it is 12 hours or more from my home to the northern part of my state…that would mean just my state should have TWO slaughterhouses if our goal is to cut down on transport time. What amount of time would you choose to be acceptable to cause suffering to any living creature?…I believe there is none.

      I appreciate your mention of the Mustangs. I can only speak for myself here (although I would venture a pretty good guess that the others are in agreement), but there is not ONE horse – regardless of the breed – that should be slaughtered. I/we love and respect them all. And I was so blessed to have fostered 2 (untamed/ungentled) Mustangs for 10 weeks one summer…they had been rounded up by the BLM not even a year prior to their stay with me, were purchased with 28 others by a woman in my state who then shortly after ran out of funds – and hay. They were starved and in pretty rough shape. We got as many as we could from her, brought them back to a healthy weight, then they were brought to a sanctuary where they will be able to live as they should have been left to live!…safe, with their herd, and for the remainder of their lives. What is happening to the Mustangs is abominable…I/we support the efforts to protect them, as well. This just happens to be a website that focuses on the welfare of the racehorse, which is why you didn’t see the mention of the Mustangs.

    • Yes, Amanda, this is very difficult. And thank you Joy for your ever-poignant comments. Without question, the longer the transport, the greater the suffering. So, some say, better here than there, as if we are forced to choose. But this is not a lesser-than-evils proposition. We can (and should) wage this battle on three fronts, simultaneously:

      Stand, unequivocally, against both domestic and (transport to) foreign slaughter (SAFE Act).

      Boycott the supplying industries, including, obviously, horseracing.

      Try to persuade the Europeans and Asians to stop eating it, for as long as there is demand, there will be supply.

      Our position should be clear and consistent, no room for compromise.

    • Yes, the Mustangs are being slaughtered. You may remember former Secretary of The Interior, Ken Salazar, and how he reacted to the reporter in CO. who questioned the whereabouts of the hundreds of Mustangs “sold” to a less than reputable individual. Salazar just about lost it ! He even threatened to punch the reporter because he dared to ask such a question while he (Salazar) was campaigning for Obama !!

    • Amanda, I hope that Joy answered your question to your satisfaction. The trip to the slaughterhouse (any slaughterhouse) is horrific, at best. Mindy Lovell of Transitions Thoroughbreds was mentioned in another post here on Horseracing Wrongs. I have spoken to Mindy on the phone many times. She has told me horror stories about slaughter. Mares are put in the same truck with stallions. Some horses are trampled and are actually disemboweled upon their arrival at the plant. Some suffer significant injuries. I was on a conference call well over a year ago and one of racing’s top owners was on that call. This individual was so sickened by what Mindy shared that she actually had to tell Mindy to be quiet! Most people don’t want to hear the truth. They would prefer to live in the enchanted forest. Sad, but true. Also, I, too, am a vegetarian and am moving towards becoming a vegan. It is a healthier lifestyle and it is humane. What could be better?

  9. As usual the Pro Slaughter front does not use their real name. In my mind that says it all about their character.

    • Theresa Nolet didn’t you know all Super Heroes wear masks…
      Amanda thanks for your post i agree that the transportation aspect is horrible as for every slaughter bound animal. As for mustangs the tax payers are paying $46,000,000 to house 42000 of them. Some of which I would assume have been cross bred by unwanted horses of all breeds simply cut loose by irresponsible owners…

      • And how much will the taxpayers pay to support the slaughter of horses so people like Wallace and Skye O’Neill can profit directly from the abomination, not to mention the indirect profiteers such as all breeders, etc.

        The whole ugly “business” is packed with lies and deceit and lets not forget, “Super Heroes” wearing masks !!!

  10. This is one of the saddest you have done….:(

    On Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 3:38 PM, Horseracing Wrongs wrote:

    > Patrick J Battuello posted: “Paul McCartney once famously said, “If > slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Not > everyone, of course, but you get the point. For the record, all animal > slaughter is horrific. All of it. And the animals we routinely raise (in > th”

  11. Those who support racing often mention the “great strides” the racing industry is making towards improving the welfare of the horses. One of these so-called improvements is the anti-slaughter policy that some tracks boast. Again and again, this policy is proving difficult to enforce and nearly impossible to police. Churchill Downs, for one, has the anti-slaughter policy which basically forbids owners and trainers from directly or indirectly causing a horse to go to slaughter. Yet Churchill Downs allowed licensed racing owner/trainer AND contract killbuyer Jaron/Jaroslav Gold to claim the filly Take Interest in May of this year. The 4-year-old has raced 4 times for Gold since then, her last race at Thistledown on October 19. Truly, Take Interest is running for her life.

    Then there is Mountaineer. On November 25, 2013, Bel Air Babe ran in a 5K claiming race at the West Virginia track. The 6-year-old mare has yet to win a race despite her 50 starts. She is owned and trained by Danny R. Bird, the man who admitted to handing off the 2005 gelding Deputy Broad to contract killbuyer Fred Bauer…Deputy Broad was confirmed slaughtered. Yet in spite of verbally admitting to transferring the gelding to Bauer, Bird signed an affidavit that he didn’t send Deputy Broad to slaughter, according to Mountaineer Director of Racing Rosemary Williams. That was good enough for Williams. Bird has continued to own and train without missing a beat, while Bel Air Babe is running for her life.

    And Mountaineer again. Also on November 25, 2013, J’s Redbud Spirit ran in a 5K claiming race there. This 5-year-old gelding ran in his 33rd start for owner/trainer Barbara Price. Price is now quite well known as the person who sold Cactus Café and Canuki to Mark Wedig for slaughter. For her part in the near-death by slaughter of these two racehorses, Price was fined $1000 and was ruled off for a year. But she’s back – at Mountaineer – where Williams claims their no-slaughter policy “is working”. And J’s Redbud Spirit is running for his life.

    As always, the blame gets passed around. This from the Daily Racing Form, May 24, 2012: “From a resource point of view, there’s limitations on what we can do,” said Thoroughbred Racing Associations president Christopher McErlean, who also is vice president of racing for Beulah operator Penn National Gaming. “In general, this whole situation [horses going to slaughter] is frustrating, because the racetracks are looked to as the enforcement vehicle or the investigative vehicle, and, quite honestly, they’re not our horses. We don’t own them, we don’t train them. These are property of owners and trainers. They should be the ones responsible for the welfare of these horses.” No one wants to take responsibility for the horses’ welfare and essentially their very lives. Yet everyone in the industry wants to line their pockets with the money made off those very same horses’ backs.

    Deputy Broad is dead, slaughtered. Cactus Café and Canuki are alive ONLY due to the efforts of a few caring members of the non-race public. What will happen to Take Interest, Bel Air Babe, and J’s Redbud Spirit? What assurance is there that these three horses, their days spent working for this industry, will be safe in the hands of Gold, Bird, and Price? I wouldn’t place a $2 bet on it.

    • Joy, thank you for your post. Yes, many tracks do have a “no horse to slaughter” policy but it is a joke and I’m being very kind when I saw that. Horses go underground and, unless you have the time and money to follow the trucks, it is virtually impossible to prove where these horses end up.

  12. Judging from the two OTTB’s in the pasture they make poor transitions to show or riding horses. One was run on three legs and a resin hoof, the other had his mind fried in a Texas training barn. Neither can be used for anything, they are pasture pets. But cost the same vet, shoeing, and feed bill as a fun trail horse. An easy way to change track habits is to get rid of the green curtain—make the crowd see what is real, then see if there is a challenge to licensing the track.

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