Many Injured Horses Still Sent to Slaughterhouses

ByABC News
May 22, 2006, 8:55 PM

May 23, 2006 — -- Tens of thousands of thoroughbred horses are sent to slaughterhouses each year after suffering from injuries far less serious than Barbaro's fractured ankle, according to the Humane Society.

About 15 percent of the slaughtered horses are thoroughbreds, and many end up as meat for human consumption in other countries, including France, Belgium, Holland, Japan and Italy.

Animal rights activists and horse lovers say those horses don't have to be killed, instead they should be rehabilitated. Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro injured his right hind leg during Saturday's Preakness Stakes. Doctors say that Barbaro's condition is getting better, and that he is eating well and taking his first steps after the surgery.

"Horses that end up in slaughterhouses have very little wrong with them. Typically they can be rehabilitated and the horse can be useful as a show horse or a riding horse. These are 2- or 3-year-old horses," said Priscilla Clark, general manager of Tranquility Farm in Tehachapi, Calif., a 40-acre farm that rehabilitates injured horses and finds them homes.

Clark says the main reason thoroughbreds are killed is because people don't want to pay to have their horse go into rehab and wait for someone to adopt it. She says it's time for the government to address the issue.

California passed a law in 1988 that made it illegal to slaughter horses for meat, but the law hasn't been enforced. Clark is hoping the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, currently in the House and Senate, will pass and finally make it illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption nationwide.

Some injured horses are transported from the United States to slaughterhouses in Japan, Canada and Mexico. Clark says the trauma and cruelty to the animals aren't worth it. "It's $6 million a year. That's it. A small blip," she said.

Clark would also like to see the slaughter of broodmares come to an end. Some broodmares, horses used specifically for breeding, are sent to slaughterhouses after producing pedigree that isn't considered "good" quality.

"It's unconscionable, but it happens all the time," she said.