The Unwanted Equid

By Dr. Alicia S. Nolfi

No one wants to end the life of an equid unless he or she is “suffering” and there is absolutely no possibility whatsoever that the suffering will stop. (This of course presents a different discussion of “how do we know the horse is suffering” and have all options of ending the suffering truly been researched – which is not the topic here). Choosing to end a life is a “power” that we have which should always be regarded with the utmost, highest respect and commands profound thought.

In my strong opinion, if an equid becomes unwanted for whatever reason, it is significantly more humane to euthanize in their current home, than to give away or sell to another home. IF there is a possibility of placement in a life-long, legitimate sanctuary that has the proper legal safeguards in place for the future, then that is a consideration. However, the number of those spots available are few and far between, versus the number of unwanted equids. Unwanted equids are at high risk of entering the slaughter chain – the exact numbers are difficult to obtain, but suffice it to say the vast majority of unwanted equids go to slaughter. The slaughter process right now – the auction, transport to holding facilities, housing prior to shipment, shipment itself, the treatment/handling and slaughter method once they get to Mexico (most equids go there) – is prolonged and terribly, unthinkably inhumane. That any equid or animal has to endure this is a tragedy inflicted by humans, and that any person subjects their equid to this, to me, is sad and unethical. Gruesome videos and horrific information can be found online. Kill buyers, their brokers and slaughterhouse workers do not care about your horse and offer zero concern about their well-being. On the other hand, a peaceful euthanasia at home can be very humane. It is difficult for some people to chose euthanasia when no valid medical reason exists – feelings of guilt, sadness, doing wrong by the animal are normal. But we must acknowledge that the “doing wrong by the animal” is exponentially worse by allowing them to become at risk for entering the slaughter chain – we just don’t see it or experience it in front of us, and many people are not educated on the subject. Additionally, rehoming to a situation that seems reliable now does not preclude the realistic possibility that in the future, due to unforeseen circumstances, the equid will become unwanted and at risk. It is crucial that we prevent equids from entering the current slaughter chain. Kill buyers are in business because they have horses to ship. Almost every equid alive has served the human race and they deserve to be treated with respect, including at the time of death.

We must educate ourselves and the public about the scamming and fraud that is the basic business practice of kill buyers and their brokers. The horses they post online with ship dates and fundraisers to “bail them out”, are nothing but a ploy to get your money and fill their pockets. These horses were purchased at auction specifically to advertise online, flip and make money for kill buyers and brokers! Thousands of other horses that were purchased to sell to Mexico still go to Mexico – you just never hear about them. In 2019, approximately 54,000 horses were shipped to Mexico for slaughter. It is a lucrative and old scam because it appeals to human emotions of wanting to save something. For every horse that a kill buyer/broker sells online, approx 3 more are purchased from auction to continue the slaughter export business, and buy more horses to make extra money off of by flipping online, etc. With good intentions and a huge heart, people who purchase horses from a kill buyer or broker are directly contributing to the perpetuation of the plight of the unwanted horse and funding the slaughter system.

We should commit to finding solutions to the problem of unwanted equids. The approach must be multifaceted. I have a dear friend who is quite educated on the subject. Talking with her, I agree with her proposal of solutions. If only this could someday become a reality. Her thoughts were along these lines:

Realistically, if there was to be an answer, perhaps we should consider attacking the problem via money and social norms. Make it expensive to do the wrong thing and inexpensive to do the right thing. Every person who breeds a horse has to pay an annual license fee on a sliding scale that ranges from an individual who just wants to breed one horse to commercial breeders (for program administration) with a breeding fee charged per head. These fees go directly into a humane euthanasia fund and to legitimate retraining and adoption organizations. If a private person had to pay $500+ up front for the privilege, not the right, to breed (thus generating a social norm shift) most people would think harder about it. If the large scale breeders had to fund the responsible disposition of their culls, either via euthanasia or placement, that would also likely reduce the number of unwanted horses. Then, if we taxed slaughter exports, with a much higher tax on sick and injured horses (taxes deposited into that humane euthanasia fund) making it cheaper and easier to humanely euthanize horses at home (key emphasis on “humane”), along with making the sale of sound, ridable horses more profitable since there should be less horses being born, there would be much less inhumane slaughter and the sale of sick and injured horses. This is a big problem that requires a lot of consideration and effort – what is proposed here would be a great start.

Dr.Alicia S. Nolfi, January 2020 Copyrights ©

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