When America shut down it’s horse slaughterhouses in 2007 it was supposed to be great news for horses. But in reality, it was better news for the city of Juarez, Mexico, which is home to many unregulated slaughterhouses steeped in animal cruelty. While commercial horse slaughter is no longer allowed in America, it is still accepted to transport tens of thousands of live horses in cattle trucks to Mexico or Canada. Most horses are sent to Juarez.
American horses destined for slaughter in Mexico are often transported across the country for more than 24 hours without rest, food or water to El Paso, Texas, where they are crossed into Juarez, a place where life is not highly valued. Juarez houses violent drug cartels and criminal gangs that engage in extortion and kidnapping and operate with near impunity. Until recently, less than five percent of human killings in Juarez result in criminal convictions, so animal lives are far from a priority.
Recently one of Mexico’s most wanted men was finally arrested after the US government had set a $5 million reward for his arrest and Mexico had placed a $2.2 million bounty on his head. After a decade of smuggling monthly, multi-ton shipments of cocaine into America, two Juarez cartels clashed in 2008. Over a four-year period more than 10,000 people were reported killed in Ciudad Juarez, earning it the name of “Murder City.”
Juraez is the destination for American horses to die.
This is what happens when horses are no longer wanted by their owners or carers and end up in Mexico’s disgraceful slaughterhouses or markets.
Its not unusual for pet horses to live into their mid-30s. Shayne, one of the oldest recorded living horses, still enjoys galloping at 51 years old in his home paddock in Brentwood, Essex. The oldest horse ever recorded, Old Billy was 62 years old when he died. However, it is more unusual for a horse to remain with it’s original owner than it is for it to live out it’s natural life.
51 year old Shayne.
Before the last American slaughterhouse closed in 2007, the USDA documented rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses, including broken bones protruding from their bodies, eyeballs hanging from threads of skin and gaping wounds.
Click here to read: Timeline of Horse Slaughter Legislation in the United States.
American Horse Auctions
Most horses begin their journey into hell at livestock auctions, where unsuspecting owners sell their animals to slaughterhouse middlemen known as “kill buyers.” These auctions, where the general public is invited to bid and buy horses, are held all over America. Some owners may carefully braid their horse’s mane hoping for a good home for that gentle pony their child has outgrown, never suspecting that the poor creature is probably destined for a slaughterhouse.
Horse rescue groups go to auctions literally to bid for the life of horses but are usually outbid by “kill buyers” who see each horse as meat for slaughter. The auctions are held all over America and the general public are invited to bid and buy horses. Most of the horses destined for slaughter at auctions are young or middle-aged and in the prime of their lives.
The USDA documented that 92.3 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. The number of U.S. horses sent to slaughter through auctions has not decreased since domestic slaughter ceased in 2007. Kill-buyers are ready to bid as little as $60 for a so-called “salvage” market horses.
Mike McBarron is a kill-buyer in Kaufman, Texas. He says, “every one of them is either crippled or crazy or don’t ride at all,” and claims it costs him about $100 to send each horse to Mexico, leaving his profit between $20 and $50 per horse. McBarron, 36, has been trading horses since he dropped out of ninth grade. He insists he’s providing a service by saving unwanted horses from abandonment and providing instant payment to owners who would otherwise have to shell out a few hundred dollars to have their animals euthanized and buried.
The Long Journey Across America Into Mexico
In the United States, horses have never been raised for human consumption, yet for decades they have been bought and slaughtered by a foreign-owned industry for consumption in Europe and Asia.
From former pets to show horses and racehorses, all are dragged and whipped into trucks built for cattle, which consequently leaves many horses horrifically injured on their heads, necks and legs as workers cram as many horses as possible into the trucks.
“They mix stallions in with pregnant mares, foals and older horses, often leading to fights and injuries,” says Valerie Pringle, Equine Protection Specialist for The Humane Society of the United States.
In transit, horses frequently fall and those that are unable to regain their footing are often trampled to death. Healthy, very young, injured, pregnant and even blind horses all endure the long, grueling journey with no food, water or any chance to rest or stretch, often in freezing cold or scorching heat.
Before entering Mexico, the horses are held at the Texas Department of Agriculture holding yards, usually only for hours -enough time to unload and reload - then crossed over the border through El Paso and Socorro, Texas as well as the Santa Teresa crossing in New Mexico. Once loaded into Mexican trucks, the horses become Mexican property and subject to their regulations, said one U.S. Department of Agriculture Official.
In 2012 ARM Investigations uncovered that American horses are also transported to the San Bernabe Livestock Market, around 700 miles from Juarez, just out of Mexico City. The American horses have already just travelled non-stop for over 24 hours without rest, food or water. Texas border crossings to Mexico have handled 400,267 slaughter-bound horses since 2007.
Arriving At The Slaughterhouse
Once horses arrive at the slaughter plant, their suffering intensifies. Particularly horifying is the practice of returning lame, sick, blind or injured horses with the shipper if they do not pass inspection by the Mexican plant veterinarian, Jose Cuellar who said ‘Many horses arrive fractured, battered and bruised and some arrive dead.”
The rejected horses are immediately reloaded onto the shipper’s truck and between leaving the slaughter-yard and retuning to their origin, most of the rejected horses miraculously disappear without trace and are unaccounted for. No records are kept about the refusal of horses and no charges against the shipper are filed.
Horses in such condition should not be allowed to leave the export pens. Protection laws require veterinary care and possible euthanasia. 9 C.F.R. Sec. 88.3, .4
Arriving in cattle trucks, exhausted horses can be left for long periods in tightly packed trailers and subjected to further extremes of heat and cold. In hot weather, their thirst is acute. Downed animals unable to rise are trampled until the upright horses are offloaded, using excessive force.
When the horses are herded through the plant to slaughter, callous workers use fiberglass rods to poke and beat their faces, necks, backs and legs as the animals are shoved through the facility and into the kill box.
Subjected to overcrowding, deafening sounds and the stench of blood, the horses become increasingly desperate, exhibiting fear typical of “flight” behavior: pacing in prance-like movements with their ears pinned back against their heads, nostrils flared and eyes wide open in terror.
In Mexican slaughterhouses a small “puntilla” knife is used to severe a horse’s spine. As described by the plant’s director: “It’s like watching someone with an ice pick.”
In 2007 the San Antonio News-Express released shocking undercover footage showing fully conscious horses being held two at a time in a horse crush and being repeatedly stabbed in the neck with puntilla knives as the frantic animals screamed and thrashed until dropping to the ground paralyzed, but still fully conscious!
“The American mare swung her head frantically when the door to the kill box shut, trapping her inside. A worker jabbed her in the back with a small knife seven, eight, nine times. Eyes wild, she lowered her head and raised it as the blade punctured her body around the withers, again and again. At the 10th jab, she fell to the floor of this Mexican slaughterhouse, bloodied and paralyzed, fully conscious and not dead. She would lie there for two minutes before being hoisted upside down from a chained rear leg so her throat could be slit and she could bleed to death,” says the San Antonio News.
Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University who has researched ways to reduce stress on slaughter animals called the ‘puntilla’ technique employed in Mexico “horrific beyond belief and one of the absolute worst ways to kill an animal.” Repeated jabs to the spinal cord, she said, would not kill the horse; it would just render it a quadriplegic, but still able to feel pain. Once a horse collapses, a worker attaches a chain to one of the horse’s hind legs and it’s hoisted up in the air by the hind leg and and fully conscious, it’s throat is slit open.
Horses that die on the way to the plant are thrown out with the unused body parts of the other horses. At the Juarez plant, sick horses are dragged to the front of the line and slaughtered.
In 2011 ARM Investigations conducted a week long undercover mission inside Juarez’s horse slaughterhouses, which they called “one of the world’s most inhumane slaughterhouses.” Their mission required extreme caution because of the degree of danger and corruption.
“The military guarded municipal slaughter plant is seated in the ungoverned hills outside of the city of Juarez, Mexico where drug cartels seek refuge. It is the most polluted area of Juarez and is extremely unsanitary. Managers of the unregulated slaughter plant have admitted to the brutality of slaughter methods in the plant,” says ARM.
Europe bars the importation of meat from animals that have not been stunned prior to being bled. The European Convention also says large animals cannot be suspended or constrained before being stunned. Of all Mexico’s horse slaughterhouses only two plants are EU regulated, the remainder are unregulated horse-killing factories. Two plants in Zacatecas serve the European Union, while much of the horsemeat from the unregulated slaughterhouses, including the plant in Juarez, is consumed in Mexico.
Unregulated means cruelty inflicted upon horses is not checked or cared about and horse butchers answer to no-one, with no watchdog agency governing their actions.
San Bernabe Livestock Market, Mexico
Sam Bernabe Market has been in existence for over 60 years without interference from authorities and it is estimated that the site has sold over 10, 000 different animals of various species. Animals are sold directly as either live animals for work or food, or for slaughter, called the “rastro.” Horses for slaughter, rastro, are considered waste and are kicked and poked with electric barbs that are prohibited for horses.
AMERICAN HORSES ARE BEING SENT HERE (watch the video until the end):
San Bernabe Market is the largest unregulated livestock market in Mexico with the most sadistic and brutal animal cruelty imaginable toward horses, donkeys, mules, dogs, cows and other livestock. No water is available. Animals arrive and depart with missing limbs, fractured legs, missing eyes, bleeding open wounds and ulcers.
The market has no animal health control. There are no on/off loading ramps at the market, so exhausted horses regularly break legs when being unloaded from cattle trucks and are forced to hobble on fractured bones. At worst, corpses are left on the ground without being buried, with animal viscera strewn about.
Animals which are too sick or too weak to stand upright are slung with ropes. These suffering “animal waste” are kept alive just because a kilo of live meat costs twice that of a dead one. If an animal finally ends its agony and dies it is cut open right there and its vescera is extracted and thrown on the ground in the middle of the market. Gutted animal carcasses and live horses are often transported together to the slaughterhouse.
There is no animal inspection by the SAGARPA, monitoring of transport by the Federal Highway Police or the Ministry of Communications and Transport, or any oversight whatsoever. Federal local police sometimes ask for financial kickbacks to allow access to trucks rather than asking for documentation and health guidance.
There is no humane way to slaughter horses for human consumption. Euthanasia means a gentle, painless death, but with slaughter there is nothing but terror, pain and suffering. The vast majority of horses that are sent to slaughter are fit and healthy animals that would make good candidates for re-homing.
Shutting down American horse slaughterhouses has not ended the illegal slaughter of stolen horses within the United States, either. Horse owners are recommended to microchip their horses to protect them from being sold at horse auctions, for slaughter.
Even some of the carriage horses that have spent their lives ferrying tourists through New York City traffic and pollution are sold for slaughter.
“Many of these horses served their owners for years and they deserve better. Horses have helped us settle this country, they’ve been our primary means of transportation, they’ve served us in battle and carried our mail, entertained us and been our companions,” says the Humane Society of the United States.
Some owners sell their horse to slaughter because they think that euthanasia is too expensive. It costs approximately $225.00. Or they may not know what to do with the body. But in many states there are programs to help owners dispose of the remains or cover the cost of euthanasia. The American Humane Society can help you find a way to humanely euthanize your horse or dispose of his remains.
American horse owners need to educate themselves about horse auctions and what it means to “their own horse” before even considering sending a horse to an auction. In addition, horse breeders need to be more responsible by thinking carefully about the number of horses they breed and the ultimate outcome of those animals.
Horses are sensitive animals with highly tuned senses and a desire to please humans. It is unforgivable to betray such a loyal and majestic animal by selling them to be hacked to death by a puntill knife in a filthy Juarez slaughterhouse.
Please sign the following petitions and support the following organisations who are fighting hard on behalf of American horses.
Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue
Her group has helped save and find loving homes for some 600 horses since 2003. Deibel has even set up a special fund to assist horse owners who need help covering the costs of humanely euthanizing their horses.
The Animal Recovery Mission is dedicated to eliminating severe animal cruelty.
Petition: Americans Against Horse Slaughter
Petition: Ban Horse Slaughter & Transport
Petition: Stop Horse Transort To Canada
Thank you for reading,