Horse slaughter in Canada is big business and it’s booming. Closure of slaughter plants in the US created a boon for Canadian plants. Thousands of US horses are shipped north of the border for slaughter. While most don’t want to consider horse meat for human consumption, it is a reality. The hay shortage has generated its fair share of victims. With hay prices sky rocketing, people just can’t afford their upkeep.
A brief scan of sites like Kijiji will bring up ads for horses “free to a good home”. Well meaning owners, offering up their healthy, trained horses to loving homes. Unable to afford their upkeep, the hope is that someone will take them on. In a normal economy these horses would be sold and someone would be lucky to have them. The hope is that “free” will attract a loving home, that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the typical purchase price.
These people and their horses are being preyed upon. Unscrupulous resellers pose as potential loving homes, willing to take the horses off of their hands. They claim to want the horse as their own, to ride or as a buddy to their existing horses. The horse is “just what they’ve been looking for” and they will care for them in ways the current owners cannot. Owners are so desperate for a home, they sign them over, some with nothing more than a handshake. They’ll be “better off”. Unbeknownst to them, rather than settling into their new homes, their horses are taken to auction. The risk of the horse going to a kill buyer is very high. With the market flooded, kill buyers purchase the majority.
Isn’t it illegal? Yes, if they took the horses under false pretenses of taking the horses to their homes to live out their years. However once ownership is relinquished, the new owners can and will do as they wish with them. Some have contracts stating that the horses must be returned should there ever be a reason they cannot keep them, but those are hard to enforce if the previous owners are never made aware of the plight the horses face.
Proof or recovery is very difficult. Without any permanent identification, horses slip through sales. Tattoos or freeze brands are often hard to read; especially when winter coats grow in. Stolen horses are often moved in the same way. The horses are sold and moved so quickly, they’re often long gone before anyone has had a change to question what happened. Once sent for slaughter, there’s no return, no recovery.
Thankfully the horse community is a small one. A precious few people (truly wonderful people) purchase horses from auction and repost them to Kijiji or similar mediums. A kind “do you know this horse?” message with a picture attempt to reunite horse and original owner. Horrified owners come forward, unaware of the brush with death that their beloved horses were facing. The resellers are outed and the community alerted of their presence. The hope being that if enough people know, they’ll see these people coming from a mile off and send them on their way. Essentially shutting down their supply.
Horse owners need to rely on the community to protect their horses. Speak to people, talk to rescue groups, get referrals from trusted individuals and know who they’re dealing with. If they ask around enough, they can find out just about anything about anyone via the grapevine. Owners don’t run out of money or feed overnight. The writing appears on the wall months in advance. Giving reputable rescues time to make arrangements, while they’re still with their owners is the best case scenario in a worst case situation. A rescue, adoption or foster situation can always be cancelled should circumstances improve. Best to be prepared for a responsible rehome rather than risk the lives of horses.