BOOKS: Horses in the Killing

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1996:

Horses in the Killing
by Raymond Moreira
and Joseph Barreira
Americans Against Equine Slaughter
(44 Morton St., Fall River, MA 02720),
1996. 120 pages, paperback. $22.00.

Raymond Moreira learned the realities of
horse slaughter when at auction he inadvertantly
sold his own healthy, beloved gelding
to a killer-buyer. Moreira responded with a
crusade against horse slaughter. Visiting auctions
around the U.S., he took special note of
the one at New Holland, Pennsylvania.
“The conditions in the holding pens
at New Holland were among the worst I have
ever seen,” he writes. “Horses bound for
slaughter were crammed in indiscriminately;


a single stallion could severely injure a whole
pen full of horses while the auction’s management
did nothing more than add yet another
horse to the frenzied mass. At a sale in early
September, I had my eye on a nice little
Appaloosa yearling in good, sound condition
when he arrived at the sale. Around 8 a.m.,
the little horse was placed in a pen with five
larger horses. I returned around noon to have
another look at him and saw that, four hours
later, the yearling had suffered a badly broken
rear leg. The leg just dangled, pathetically.
He looked at me with eyes full of pain
and incomprehension.”
The New Holland auctions, and others,
go on year-round. “It was so cold one particular
day,” Moreira writes, “that some of the
horses, donkeys and ponies came in with
their eyes frozen shut..”
New Holland buyers and sellers are often
Amish, who treat their old workhorses,
Moreira says, like “used car trade-ins.”
After auction comes transport. As
Moreira observed, horses are frequently
packed in double-decked trailers designed to
haul cattle and hogs. Low ceilings keep horses
from standing up straight, and when the
trailers are overloaded, the top levels sometimes
fall down upon the horses beneath.
Since there are no federal horse transport
standards as yet, though some are in preparation,
and since the well-being of the horses
doesn’t translate into money at slaughter,
truckers and brokers give horses in transit
minimal care. “In documented incidents,
horses have spent up to a full week in transit
prior to arriving at a slaughter plant,”
Moreira states. “The New York Times reported
slaughter-bound horses traveling up to 32
hours without food, water or rest, with many
horses having died in the trucks.”
Some killer-buyers rent horses en route
to slaughter to small-time c h a r e a d a r o d e o s ,
where they are often injured in trip-roping––
banned only in California and Illinois.
Moreira points out that not all horses
who go to slaughter are from auctions. Many
are foals from PMU farms, where pregnant
mares’ urine is collected for use in hormonal
replacement drugs. Wild horses removed
from public grazing lands and National Parks
may also go to slaughter, though a variety of
stratagems used by dealers to dodge the 1971
Wild and Free-Ranging Horse and Burro Act.
There are U.S. horse slaughtering plants,
but in part because the PMU industry is centered
in Canada, Canadian firms dominate
the business. Moreira reports that U.S. horses
are slaughtered in Canada at the rate of
20,000 a month. The demand from meat
packers is accelerating so rapidly, he argues,
that it is driving the price of riding horses
beyond the means of many families.
Moreira includes shocking firsthand
accounts in Horses In The Killing o f
what happens to horses and ponies inside the
packing plant, and concludes with ideas for
action to reform or abolish horse slaughter.
––Staci Layne Wilson

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