A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Horse Slaughter Debate

Yes, I'm going to touch on it.  As any one with Facebook knows, slaughter has been re-legalized in the US.  My Facebook wall is already filled with the "we need to stop this" type of comments.  Sadly, I'm not sure that's really true. 

Let me explain.

In 2006, horse slaughter was made illegal.  (Edit at the end of article, and thanks to Linda from Facebook for the correction) It is now 2011, and the reduction in breeding horses with little to no value has not stopped.  The reduction in horses being sent to slaughter has not really decreased either, but the market value for horses has.  Instead of shipping horses to local slaughter facilities, horses are instead shipped longer disstances, in just as poor of conditions as they were hauled before, to slughter plants in Canada or Mexico.  Now, I'm not sure about the horrors of Canada's slaughter houses (I'm sure someone will know, and likely fill us all in on them) but I do know that Mexican slaughter plants have much worse regulations for the welfare of the animals.  Things like stabbing a horse in the spine until it's paralyzed are considered 'good enough' there. 

In American slaughter facilities, there were at least some (basic) rules about the standards of death.  Was it perfect?  Oh Hells NO!  But 2 shots (which is still bad) of a captive bolt is much better then 30 something stabs with a knife I think.  But, that's a very small portion of why I personally am OK with slaughter facilities reopening.

You see, what people forget, is that US citizens have some things we can do to prevent our own horses from suffering this fate, IF we are willing to do a bit of work.  I know back in 2005, I could register a brand, and then list that brand as "no slaughter".  If a horse branded in that manner hit a kill pen, it would have to be inspected.  A brand inspector would see that, and then the facility would have to contact me to remove the horse.  Yes, this means that I need a "safety net" fund for any horse of mine I sell, but I would still be able to get that horse out of the slaughter pipeline.  I like the option of that!

The problem, as I see it, is that we don't like death.  Granted, it's an ugly thing, but oddly we accept it in some forms, and not in others.  Humane euthanasia is the best option for a horse with no future, or so many people believe, but lets be honest here: people suck.  Do you really think that we can simply wish for a better world, and it will happen?  No, people suck, and there will always be people who suck, and who care very little about their animals.  With out some form of government (of some type) regulations/laws we will never be able to completely reduce the unwanted horse population. 

You see, we're free to breed horses.  Any one can do it, and it's not hard.  Producing quality horses on the other hand, then training them, fitting them, and screening homes for them IS hard.  It takes knowledge and work.  There's this mentality out there, that you can get a foal, and sell it for lots of money, and so people are willing to try.  Besides, babies are so CUTE!  (They really are, trust me on this one).

So, if there's no way to force people to stop breeding, then there will always be the people who just have to breed, who are completely unprepared for the results.  Horses live a long time.  Horses take a long time to grow up.  Horses take a lot of skill to make desirable (training, etc).  Babies like the one here are not something that just happens.  They are made, with skill, love, knowledge, and attention to detail.

So what do we do with all the extra horses that are created?  Will society absorb them?  Sure, in about 30 years, during which time millions of horses will suffer.  There simply aren't enough GOOD homes out there for all of these horses.  Lets not even talk about the big breeders poping out 400 foals each year, with no care as to their future!  The numbers quickly become mind boggling.

So, what can we do?  Well, we can accept slaughter, that's the easy and brainless solution.  Because it's easy, it's the solution that so many people will naturally want.  No effort on their part, and they can simply ignore the ugly side of the mess humans have created.

Or, we can work to form a safety net for animals of all types.  No solution is going to be nothing but sunshine and butterflies, I'm sad to say.  When there aren't enough homes for an animal, then there needs to be less animals, and that means killing some, in some manner.  We do this with small animals, and even with spay and neuter laws, the public sensibilities changing to embrace altered animals, and the systems in place to destroy excess animals, we still have people breeding them.  And no, I'm not talking about the good breeders here.  I'm talking about "hey, lets have chihuahua/boxer pups!" type of people.

The question isn't "should we allow horses to be slaughtered" but rather, "what are we willing to give up in order to prevent any horse from being unwanted".  Are you willing to pay more taxes?  Are you willing to know that horses die a horrible death?  Are you willing to simply ignore the problem, and become numb to your own love of the horse?  Are you willing to spend money in order to help reduce the number of unwanted animals?  No matter what answer you want, there's something you have to give up, because we simply don't live in utopia.

See, horse gelding clinics are not cheap.  Horse euthanasia is not cheap.  Holding facilities for "unwanted" horses are not cheap.  Horse slaughter though, makes people money, and unethical horse people prefer to make money not spend it.

With all that said though, reinstating slaughter in the US does protect MY horses a bit more then they were before, and for me, I like that.  I'm willing to do what is needed to keep my horses in good homes, even if that is mine.  I'm willing to spend the money to take care of my responsibilities.  Sadly, I can't control everyone out there, and there's a good chance that horses I have sold, will eventually be sold on to homes that I did not check for quality.  That's the nature of a long lived animal like a horse.  The safety features in place with local horse slaughter give me a means to keep my own horses out of there.  Sure, it's a hell of a lot of work, but I chose to make those lives, hence I'm responsible for them, and I owe it to those horses.  I'm glad to have the option to protect my babies back, in some small way.

Correction: The recent bill did not re-legalize slaughter. Horse slaughter never been illegal on the federal level, just in a few states.  See Chapter 149 of the Texas Agriculture Code which makes it a criminal offense for any person to sell horse meat as food for human consumption, possess horse meat with the intent to sell it as food for human consumption, or transfer horse meat to a person who intends to sell it as food for human consumption


  1. Great post.

    I see slaughter of horses much the same as abortion. It is a very emotionally charged issue for logical reasons, but...making some things illegal doesn't keep them from happening, and often with worse results. Better to work on making a world where abortions and horse slaaughter is no longer necessary.

    And you are right--people suck. There will always be cold-hearted and thoughtless people.

  2. As I've said on another blog, my biggest problem, beyond even the treatment of the horses at the slaughterhouses (in the US before they were closed and in Canada and Mexico, and yes, Canada is not much better than Mexico), and beyond the environmental impact of waste disposal (such as fecal matter and blood), which was a problem in the US before the plants were closed, and is a problem, again, in Canada and Mexico, is the nature of the pharmaceuticals used in the animals. The EU banned the import of US horse flesh because of the carcinogenic nature of some of these medications.

    I have heard some places in Europe -do- raise horses for the purpose of meat, and what medications they receive are very restricted.

    I don't have a problem with that. I don't have a problem with the US having slaughter plants open for horses, providing they're properly regulated. I don't have a problem with meat, and yes, if I knew the animal had been raised for such, or is at least free of the medications, I wouldn't have a problem eating a horse burger or steak. I like meat, I won't deny it. I don't have a problem paying more taxes, provided it goes to the FDA's regulations, and not just into someone's pocket. I try to raise money for rescues and support their efforts to educate people and try to reduce the number of "unwanted" horses, either through gelding or euthanasia.

    I don't have a problem with euthanasia at all. Sometimes it seems like money is being spent to save the un-save-able, when it would be more cost effective to euthanize them. Horses, dogs, cats... Well, not cats so much. Mostly horses and dogs.

    But to allow the average horse, who has not been detoxed, and some of the medications are considered to -never- fully leave the body, to be slaughtered and packaged and sold for meat is just irresponsible. Cancer has a large enough impact on the world, and we really do not need to allow it to gain a further foothold. Sure it wouldn't cause cancer in everyone, but there are going to be people who are just more predisposed to it, and they shouldn't have to suffer.

    My 2¢. Probably not very popular.

  3. I completely agree with you on the drugs in the meat thing. That's the ONLY reason why I would never eat horse I think. Granted, I'd never ever nuh unh eat one of MY horses, but I'm not opposed to other people raising horses for meat, if done properly. I mean, it's a cultural thing. In many places the idea of eating cattle is insane. Me, I like my steak rare. =)

    With that said, I also kinda feel that if you choose to eat horse meat, then you accept that. Just as if you don't care to learn about your foods, you accept that you don't have a clue what you're eating. If people want to do that, it's their choice. I would love to see people be better informed, but it's not my place to tell them they HAVE to be.

  4. Nice logical well thought out post . I do not have first hand knowledge of Canadian slaughter plants but I do know are laws for protection and handilng of animals are strict and humane .

  5. Very nicely written. I don't think any true horse lover is going to say they LOVE the idea of slaughter, but it IS the lesser of two evils - which man has created. I feel for the old or infirm domestic horse that is 'turned loose' to fend for himself, or horses people can no longer afford to feed and ignore for whatever reason. Living in the wild is not easy and most domestics cannot or do not have the skills to do it, so they starve to death. Is this a better way to die?

    I am very interested in the brand with the "no slaughter" idea. That is one of the best things I have heard in a really long time. Thanks for the info.
    Bionic Cowgirl

  6. Laughing Orca RanchNovember 30, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    There will always be horse slaughter.

    But instead of U.S horses being sneaked over the borders to Canada or Mexico and suffering from horrible treatment and abuse, at least if we make it legal here in the U.S, and control where the horses go (not to Mexico for sure!) we can create and enforce laws for the humane treatment of the horses as well as protect humans who plan on eating possibly chemically tainted horse meat.

    And like you mentioned, we can also protect horses better by having brand inspectors who will be assigned the task of checking brands and making sure that the brands they see are not on horses that have been listed as stolen or that their owners or breeders have instructions for return if their horse is discovered inside a slaughter house.

    By keeping it legal in the U.S, we have more control, unlike now, where we have none at all.

    Good post, bringing up a touchy subject.

  7. Not a popular view, but it is one I share totally.

  8. I agree with you 100%. I just wish everyone else saw it this way and that there weren't "sucky" people out there, but like you said, there always will be and isn't anything we can do about it.

  9. I also think this post was very well written. And I didn't know about the registering of the brands. Thank you for the information.
    At this point in time, I do not own a horse, and after reading this, it makes me want to save one of them from the slaughter when the time comes for finally being able to own one. It's heartbreaking that so many of these majestic creatures are slaughtered. If I had the funds, I could definitely see myself becoming the "crazy horse lady".
    However, I also see the need for something like this facility, sadly. As stated, there are so many breeders that just breed for the heck of it, to make a buck, to say they had a foal, etc. That goes for other animals too, not just horses.

  10. Yep, and that's one of the reasons that I tend to fill up my "empty spots" with horses in need of rescue. We bring them here, get them pretty again, and then put training on them, so they can be great horses for someone. I've done it for years now, and simply LOVE doing it.

  11. I haven't checked if that's still the case, but in 2005, in the state of Texas, you could pay a bit extra (10 bucks for 10 years or something) to register the brand that way. I was actually about to have one made when the slaughter plants were closed.

  12. Very weird that my computer has decided to list me by my name now, instead of by my blogger name (Pinzgauer). But I'm really one and the same.

  13. I so agree with you. Very well said!

  14. Very well said, I agree!

  15. Very touchy subject, but as usual you've done a wonderful job voicing your opinion.  

    I didn't know about the brand thing either.  Is that just local or national?  How does one go about registering a brand - or can you point us to this info to research ?

  16. What is the difference between horses and cattle?  You can tame and ride a cow and show it and eat it.  The 4-H kids do this regularly, yet another livestock animal the horse, people want to keep as a protected species.  I have had horses all my life, I love them dearly, but I am a realist (not to be mistaken for a reality tv show).  Horses are livestock.  They are bred, raised, cared for, trained or sold as broodmares/stallions.  They can hurt you, kill you, be perfectly docile one day and kick you in the head the next day.  Not counting the fractures of my body and the 3 horses I have sent to slaughter, they are the love of my life.  But they are useful for many purposes.  If you were starving or your neighbors were, guess what, suddenly horses would once again be on the level of cattle, used for food. Of the horses I sent to slaughter, two were lame and I didn't want them to suffer through the winter (years apart, probably 25) the other was dangerouse.  I know some people say there are no dangerous horses, but they are wrong.  I have owned 2.  Believe me it was a relief to send 1 of them to slaughter as she had done everything to show us that was where she deserved to go.  A horse owner needs to keep the rights any livestock owner has.  Keep the ability to sell their animals for money to feed the rest of their animals, or in times like now, possibly themselves.  I love my 8 horses, care for them as I should, and if I want to or have to sell them and no one wants to buy them, I will be forced to send them to slaughter if I am no longer able to care for them.  Slaughter in IL is needed.  The breeders who have left their weanling/yearling colts in with their dams and the rest of the mares they keep will be producing another round of unwanted horses or horses they want to sell for $100 on Craigslst to someone who will ship them outside of the US.  What a waste for all concerned. For the people who could be working in DeKalb and for the horses that must endure the shipping, and for the lions, tigers and bears who have been deprived of horsemeat in the US. 

  17. Just wondering what medications are so toxic and never leave the body?? I have heard this before and it makes no sense to me.  I have ready on the wormers that it is not to be give to horses used for meat.  Horses are overwormed now anyway, so I would guess that is one of the problems, but I would really like to know what the medications are, if you know the names of them.  Thank you.

  18. It's local.  In the state of Texas, brands are registered by county, so VERY local.  I'm not even sure it's still in place, I just know it was in place in 2005.  I'm trying desperately to find information on it again, and hoping it's still an option.

  19. I apparently lost all my relevant bookmarks in my hard drive crash, but I know one of the drugs the EU bans, and prevents any horse that has -EVER- in it's life received it from being slaughtered for human consumption, is bute, as they do not consider any amount of time appropriate for detox.

    I would not be surprised at all to learn certain medications never leave -our- bodies, and I'm not just talking things containing heavy metals, for example, which do remain in the body and will never leave (this is why you can die a slow death from mercury and lead poisoning). I worked in the dry cleaning industry for 2 years, and I learned that the "main" dry cleaning chemical, Tetrachloroethylene, aka perchloroethylene, is so toxic that it takes decades for the environment to be considered completely decontaminated after a dry cleaner stops using it. And for all the problems it's caused me in the years since I worked there, I can believe it.

  20.  The problem is people tend to stay ignorant, even in this day of mass information at our finger tips, and we have a lot of companies that prey on ignorant people. Sure, some of it is harmless ("Kinoki Pads" anyone? Those things that supposedly "detoxed" your body as you wore them on your feet, through secret Asian techniques, or the hologram/ionized bracelets, or magic healing stones, all crap), and just sucks away their money, but some of the snake-oil cures have hurt people, and there's no regulation on anything herbal like there is for pharmaceuticals.

    Again, if the animal is raised for meat, or is wild, and slaughtered or hunted and prepared properly, I don't really care what it is, I'll probably eat it.

    The hard part, I think, is getting that "proper" part down. When it's about moneymoneymoney and more head through means more profits, that's when problems seem to arise.

  21. Thank you for saying what I've been wanting to say. Unfortunately, many people opposed to horse slaughter (isn't that an ugly word) do not see the larger picture. The horse industry in the USA was crippled by the changes in 2006. If we bring those dollars (and jobs) back to the USA, it's a small step in healing our equine economy.

  22. It is a shame that to make a buck people will go to this extent, if the major breeders would not encourage lottery breeding then they would have less extra horses, but you know everytime you breed and register you make them money so why would they do that. I persoanl will not support slaugther for a magnitude of reasons, at the top of the list, iit is time for people to get responsible about their business, not exus as tax payers to pick up their slack

  23. I can honestly say that the SDHR does not support that type of system.  I know, because I'm the one working hard to prevent it!

  24. I found your article very informative. I have never thought of it this way. Thank you for the insight.

  25. This is a very good sensible thought out article. I am an animal rescuer and I am really on the fence about this situation. I love horses. Many years ago I have raised, bred, trained them, but we limited who we sold our horses to and how many we raised each year. Where do we start and where do we prevent hurting these wise and wonderful creatures. The trust these creatures shows toward us is revealed in the slaughter facilities as they go toward their deaths with faith that we won't continue with this death march. Pinzgauer keep writing. Everyone help. Animal lovers come together.

  26. Jeepers! Its about time someone took a logical look at it. Horse slaughter is the same as over-populated dog euthanasia. It sucks, but this is what happens when everyone and their cousin is breeding!!!! Thank you, thank you. thank you! If we fully legalize it, maybe, just maybe, people will take a second thought before breeding. We in North America still haven't bounced back from the over-population of horses after the PMU industry crashed in 2002. 11 years later and we are still breeding!