Supply and Demand Part 3

This is the third and final post in our series on horse slaughter.  Part 1 and Part 2 addressed the issues with the current North American slaughter system.  This post is about the feasibility of an overhaul.

Changing the slaughter system will be expensive and add substantially to the price of the meat it produces.  The cost of everything from documentation to transportation to the slaughter itself will go up.  Worldwide, about 5 million horses are slaughtered annually.  The vast majority are killed and eaten in Russia, China and South America as a cheap food source when their working lives are over.  These horses are typically slaughtered either at small, local abattoirs or in grossly inhumane conditions.  There will be little-to-no market in these countries for expensive, humanely raised meat.

A few countries, such as France, Belgium and Japan, view horsemeat as a delicasy and are willing to pay a premium price for it.  The catch is that they expect the horses to actually be treated humanely!  Many animal welfare and anti-slaughter groups are now focusing their efforts on educating European consumers about the truth behind the North American slaughter process, in an attempt to limit the demand for NA horsemeat.

This is one of many videos made to highlight the flaws in the slaughter process.  And they seem to be working.  Multiple European grocery chains (notably Delhaize and Makro & Colruyt) are refusing to sell meat from countries where the process is deemed inhumane; some are stating they will sell European slaughtered horses only.  These statistics are from the StatsCan website and show the number of horses slaughtered in the past five years; they paint an interesting picture.

There is a massive spike in the number of horses slaughtered around the time the US slaughter plants closed – and a steady decline in the couple years since.  This is despite the fact that killbuyers are currently able to buy meat horses for much lower prices than was possible before the economic downturn.  This implies the demand for the meat itself has fallen.

These stats from France back that up.

The consumption of horse meat in France (one of the major markets for North American horse meat) has been dropping for decades.  Similar trends can be seen in other European countries and, to a lesser degree, in Japan.

Pro-slaughter advocates are claiming that if US slaughter plants are re-opened, they could process as many 200,000 horses a year.  We’re curious as to what exactly they intend to do with the carcasses.  And when, exactly, people will stop trying to create an artificial demand for their excess horses and actually start addressing the root of the issue – the supply side of the equation.


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Posted on December 19, 2011, in horse, Misc Horsies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I couldn’t finish watching the video! Horrible!

  2. That entire time they were trying to drag the one horse up onto the truck, I was sure a leg was going to just snap. For the love of good, if you can’t get a horse to move, you don’t stand in front of it and pull, you stand behind and to the side and give it a smack. Not that I think that is AT ALL the right way to get a horse on a trailer either, but one or two sharp smacks on the ass would be better than dragging the poor thing up by the mouth

    I don’t think I will ever understand why those horses end up so skinny. Surely the kill buyers must make more profit from a fat horse – even with the cost of feed – than a skeleton that’s about to keel over and die? I seem to remember hearing somewhere that pound-for-pound, a fat horse is worth more than a skinny one. I just don’t get it.

  3. If a person were to look at a horse breed book, most european heavy drafts are now being bred for the meat market. Sad but true.
    The only good thing about slaughter is that it set the lowest possible denominator for the price of a horse. With out that, the horse market has fallen into a sink hole with no bottom to it, at the moment.

  4. Thank you for this information which highlights that it is more ideal to tackle the supply problem rather than going at it ass-backwards!!!

  5. I couldn’t watch much of the video either. Here in NZ consumer power is starting to play a big role in ethical food production. Chickens and pork espeically, have been in the news a lot over the last 12 months and “free-range” is the new best marketing tool for producers.

    But 200,000 supposed unwanted horses a year – wow. What is happening to them at the moment ?

    • Currently about 100k US horses, give or take, are sent out of the country to be slaughtered in either Canada or Mexico. I’m really not sure about the rest – perhaps they’re hoping to actually breed some horses specifically for slaughter? Or to try and convince everyone who has a horse that requires euthanasia that slaughter is the best option? I’m really not sure!

  6. Seen that video before and once was enough for me. But I’ve actually had people say that this video was made by activists that are just trying to put the slaughter industry down and this isn’t really what happens. YEAH RIGHT… Because we all know activists have unlimited funds to create a CG animated video that creates a make believe world where the horses are suffering and make it look perfectly realistic…

    I am so glad to hear the European countries where there is a market for horse meat are finally getting educated about the reality of horse slaughter!

    I still dread to think of what will happen when the slaughter plants in the U.S. reopen.

    • I think what people generally mean by that is that many activists only show us the “worst of the worst” when making awareness films about slaughter houses, animal testing facilities, etc. It’s not that the film is faked, it’s that it is a highly biased and non-representative view – they don’t show us any instances of humane treatment, nor do they tell us how many animals are treated this way. They imply that ALL the animals are treated cruelly (something that is, quite frankly, not true, even if it is true for the majority). They also take things out of context. Some practices that the average person sees as inhumane are in reality the best way to do things that we currently know of. Videos made by activists rarely, if ever, point that out. Just think about horseback riding itself – how many non-horse people have you met who think that using a crop or whip for any reason is abusive? Or a bit? Or just the act of riding itself? I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve had to explain that, when done properly, none of these things are abusive, and that riding can actually be a positive experience for the horse as well as the rider.

      • Yes, but it’s one thing to say that activists only show the worst of the worst, and quite another that the cruelty seen in these videos shouldn’t be taken seriously because it was shot by “a bunch of tree huggers”.

        Well, I personally never had any non-horse people telling me they think that using a bit or even riding horse is cruel but I’ve had a few say “oh poor thing” if I make a comment about hving to give a few good smacks with the whip to get him going. I’m like “poor thing?! It’s a 1000lb animal for gawd’s sake! Poor me if I end up getting dumped because the horse doesn’t get disciplined!”

      • I think even if we saw a video of the “best of the best” of shipping and slaughter of horses in America we still would not be seeing something that could ever be called humane.

  7. I cannot remember if I read this or heard it from a friend who raises animals for food, however I remember hearing/reading somewhere that inhumane slaughter techniques actually release certain stress hormones that compromise the quality of the meat. Would anyone happen to have knowledge of this? Supposedly, this information spurred on the mobile slaughter industry.

    • This is true, especially in pigs. I’m not able to do a search to find the research right now but I did learn about it my animal science classes.

  8. Thank you for posting this! It’s a great eye opener. I agree the root causes need to be addressed and think it should be very expensive. IF they are going to do it, it should be humane.
    One of my biggest thought hurdles is I really wish the thought process changed about how expendible our horses are currently. I know a few horse people that just buy, cycle thru and get rid of horses just to get another one and don’t give a second thought to where the previous horse or horses go. Very sad. There are so many unwanted horses and I know that’s a problem too but I don’t think inhumane slaughter is the key. I fear if that’s deemed okay, it could lead to more horse theft. It could be the decline of an already sad situation.

  9. thank you for posting this, i think everyone should watch this. for me its not about whether to slaughter or not, but its really about the treatment of the animals in the process.

    this topic has been discussed so many times on horse forums etc, and people seem to have such disdain for animal welfare groups. and they shrug it off saying that these videos only highlight the worst of the worst, and that may be true, but we really should be setting our standards higher so that the worst of the worst is NOT this. this type of treatment should really NEVER happen.

    we need to wake up and stop being so smug.

  10. Destiny 3rd: It’s adrenaline, and the term they use for the affected meat is “dark cutters.” It can result in the loss of the whole carcass in cattle and swine.

    One thing I hate is the way the slaughter proponents are calling slaughter “euthanasia.” I also hate it when they call slaughter “harvesting.” I raise beef cattle and meat lambs, Producing meat involves killing an animal. If you can’t deal with that, you should be vegetarian. That being said, I don’t believe that horses should be slaughtered on an assembly line. I don’t think it can be humane. I also don’t believe that American horse is a safe meat. I wouldn’t feed it to my dogs. I don’t know where these jerks are going to find an extra 100,000 horses a year who haven’t been exposed to unsafe drugs. Not even half of the horses sent to slaughter now are safe to eat.

    Also, I am happy living with the contradiction that although I eat meat, I will not eat certain animals, like horse, dog and cat. I believe that it may take decades, but the health effects of eating tainted meat (including factory farmed meat) will become a big problem.

  11. Interestingly, many horses are shipped live to Japan where they like to finish them up to an incredible fatness. There is a place near Yelm WA that is basically a feedlot for drafts for the japanese market. They are loaded into crates there and trucked to Boeing feild to be flown overseas. Every once in a while you will see the trucks on I-5, but they usually haul them at night.

    Yes, there are stress hormones that are released under certain conditions. In cattle, they are labled “dark cutters” as the meat is nearly black. In hogs, the flesh will actually turn to mush, also known as “pse” I believe although it’s been a long time since my ag classes in college.

  12. Forbes magazine is pretty mainstream, so I was surprised to see this excellent article by Vickery Eckhoff:

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