The Meat Trade

The equine meat trade is to satisfy the demand throughout Europe and other countries. Although its unlikely that horse meat will be taken off the menu totally, having horses slaughtered in local abattoirs with the minimum of waiting, manhandling and improved travel conditions would be better; perhaps, more importantly, the control on the supply through thoughtless breeding and owners who don’t understand a horse is not just something you can ride or breed and make money off, it is an amazing animal in its own right and deserves a home for life and also deserves to die in peace at home when the time comes.

Officially equines that are very young, pregnant, ill,  marked not for consumption or don’t have passports are not allowed to be sent to slaughter but we know that a lot of these animals are not properly checked and passports that are not theirs are acquired to send over with an animal that is superficially similar that meets the requirement for transport and slaughter. The lorries are packed full of many equines who are scared and often un-handlable each one is certainly not thoroughly checked to make sure it matches its passport.

Please sign the World Horse Welfare petition here on improving the welfare of equines being transported across Europe for the meat trade. The more difficult and less profitable it is made to transport animals live the less it will be done.

There are a few reasons why equines end up being sold to the abattoir dealer, below is the list of more common scenarios of the equines we get through.  

  • The majority of horses that go for meat are young racers that are just too slow though we aren’t often offered the chance to rehome them much as the race yard owners have strict policies that they are not rehomed so that the name of the yard that sent them to slaughter be publicized. 20 2-3-year-old Trotters go each week to Italy just from the meatman local to us.
  • The next most common are Trotter broodmares who have foal after foal every year until they are too old to do so or stop producing them reliably, normally around 20. They normally come to us skinny, with rain scald from living with no shelter and headshy from rough handling but they are also often such sweet natured mares. Some of the younger ones have gone on to be ridden again but most need a companion home.  
  • Ex- riding school horse come through semi-regularly as once they reach a certain age they become less mobile and require more feed and care so are no longer as profitable. So after years of service of people banging on their backs and pulling at their mouths, they get a three-day journey in a lorry packed with horses, being trodden on and kicked with no food or water before they die just so the owners get a little more money from them before they go.
  • Others are products of unfortunate situations, such as because their owner has died and their family don’t want to keep them or pay for them to be put down and don’t have time to try and sell them – the meatman offers an attractive deal of cash in hand and picking them up quickly so the problem is dealt with neatly and with some profit. If you compare that with putting a horse down which can be around 200-600 euros for the vet and bodyman to take away the corpse this is a no-brainer to some. A lot also may not realise that most aren’t taken down the road and killed, perhaps some would change their mind if they followed them to Italy.  It is the same situation with people who need to move and can no longer afford to keep their equines. We are contacted a few times a year by people who have to move back to the UK and can’t take their horses so are desperately trying to rehome them, often these cases can be picked up by dealers promising a good home but you actually don’t know where they will end up though is the case in the UK too.  
  • Some horses we get through are specifically bred for meat like the Cob Normandes or Bretons but just because they were bred for something doesn’t mean that’s all their life should be, we would rescue all farm animals if we could!
  • Donkeys are also a large part of the trade, although they are mostly used as pets here now rather than ridden or driving animals. There was a large surge of popularity for them around 10 years ago to have one as a pet in the garden but this in itself was a problem as Donkeys and all equines are herd animals and should never be kept alone. Quite often they were also left with inadequate care and would suffer greatly. That trend is now fading though you still see a lot of Donkeys here in Normandy, there are many that go for meat once they lose their novelty.