Recently I had the benefit of lived experience when I rescued a pony from a kill buyer/auction house in northeastern U.S.A. The term "lived experience" means the difference between knowing something in your head and having felt the impact - emotional, financial, or physical - firsthand.
Although I have been involved in horse advocacy for several years and posted frequently about not putting money into the hands of kill buyers, in a moment of weakness I threw down my credit card to prevent #213 from being sent back to Bruce Rotz - the man who supplies horses to Viandes Richelieu in Quebec and whose truckload of 30 horses crashed in October 2015 killing 10 and injuring even more.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) form listed her as "Ranbow" (not Rainbow or Rambow but Ranbow). She was an "aged" Paint, 14.1 hh. No other information was available about her history other than she had been a brood mare. In the photo used online to catch suckers like myself you could see the mucus in her right nostril and she was looking nervously behind her. The deadline was 2 pm that day. It was already 4:30 pm when I called to get more information. I heard whinnying in the background and was told they were loading them now to send away.
She arrived here at 11:30 pm one night after being a month "in quarantine". She took one step off the trailer and the gurgling in her throat was obvious. Fortunately she was alert and ate well but her condition continued to deteriorate in the following weeks despite being seen three times by the vet, having a culture done of her nasal discharge, being treated with TMS (trimethoprim sulfa antibiotic) dexamethasone (anti-inflammatory) and ventolin (brochodilator). Her condition finally turned around with prednisolone liquid (steriod) by mouth and cetiofur (antibiotic) nebulized by mask.
Financial cost of this rescue?
Paint mare - $475 U.S.
Sales tax - $40 U.S.
Barn charge - $50 U.S.
Coggins - $20 U.S.
Health Cert - $35 U.S.
CC fee - $19 U.S.
QT - $450 U.S.
Health Cert for Export - $150 U.S.
Fees at border - approx. $100 Can
Transport home - $1,500 Can
Vet fees - $1,000 Can
TOTAL: $3,922 Can
The experience was wasteful, stressful, time consuming and disruptive. And it happens ALL THE TIME.
Auction houses and kill buyers in the U.S. and Canada will off load, for a price, the weakest and sickest horses they can to compassionate people and horse rescues. Frequently, healthy horses that come into the hands of a kill buyer or a collector (who buys for the kill buyer) are sent directly to kill without being given a chance at rescue because kill buyers are committed to meeting their contracts with the slaughterhouses.
What would have happened to #213 if I hadn't had a lapse in my rational thought? She likely would have been shipped all the way to Mexico for slaughter because she was not a good candidate for Quebec. Apparently, Mexican standards are not as strict. Yet even there horses are turned away and the issue of what happens to horses turned away from slaughterhouses is troubling to say the least.
The pro-slaughter argument holds that an improved system of shipping and killing horses will resolve these problems. Yet as long as we slaughter horses the temptation exists to use that fact as a way of making more money from an animal that should either be humanely euthanized by a vet, or given freely to a credible rescue. Additionally, given the current problems documented on a daily basis within our supposed humane system of handling and slaughtering other livestock - why do we think it will be any better for horses?
The so-called problem of the unwanted horse has its roots in an equine industry that has no desire to regulate itself and one that supports horse meat consumption. These features characterize a primitive and exploitative approach to managing the welfare of an animal most of us see as deserving of our protection.
Only a few equestrian organizations in the U.S. have spoken out against horse slaughter and, until now, not one has done so in Canada.