Horse Racing through the Slaughter Pipeline

Special Report by JANE ALLIN

Part 1 of 5


“Graceful and sleek, the beautiful bay racehorse was used to the thunder of applause as she swept past the grandstand – not the sound of a rifle. The seven-year-old mare had raced at courses up and down the country, nostrils flaring, long neck straining and mane flying in the wind as she approached the winning post. However, earlier this month, her career ended unceremoniously with one last outing – to the slaughterhouse.

She was led into a 12 ft square metal stall and killed with a bullet fired from the ‘meat man’s’ .22 rifle into her brain.

No more crowds, galloping hooves up the home straight or champagne corks popping. That single shot was the last sound she heard.”

    Racehorse in Profile
    Intentional or not, the horse racing industry now subsists as a principal tributary of the slaughter pipeline – a confluence where magnificent bloodstock race for their lives toward the equine version of the river Styx – the river that separates the world of the living from that of the dead.

    FOR DECADES HORSE RACING has been touted as the “Sport of Kings”, resplendent with charismatic beauty, energy and awe-inspiring competition of humankind’s most celebrated and noble companions.

    What once began as a sport that captivated the masses in pursuit of exhilarating recreation and honed the excellence of horsemanship required in battle has now become but a mass-producing genetic assembly line in an absurd quest for racing excellence fueled by greed.

    The consequences of this development are not pretty.

    The multi-billion dollar racing industry cultivates the fallacious impression of retired racehorses living lives of luxury, grazing in fields of Kentucky bluegrass, serving as pampered family pets or well-provided-for riding horses and the like. In reality the vast majority of thoroughbreds (2 out of every 3) coming off the track, regardless of their health, are either euthanized, abandoned or slaughtered for their meat.

    Most of these are young, healthy horses who simply have not met their owner’s expectations or injured during the grueling task of training and racing while pumped full of drugs. [2] Only a small number of the whole are considered good enough for breeding which is primarily reserved for only the best in the industry. For thousands of Thoroughbreds that do not make the grade, whatever the reason, the end is both terrifying and brutal.

    Intentional or not, the horse racing industry now subsists as a principal tributary of the slaughter pipeline – a confluence where magnificent bloodstock race for their lives toward the equine version of the river Styx – the river that separates the world of the living from that of the dead.

    [2] Allin, Jane; “The Chemical Horse“, Int’l Fund for Horses, April 2011.


    Part 1: Food for Thought
    Part 2: The Racehorse as a Commodity
    Part 3: A Convenient Alternative
    Part 4: Racehorse Slaughter Knows No Boundaries
    Part 5: Darkness at the End of the Pipeline

    Jane Allin is Chief Research Analyst for the Int’l Fund for Horses

    © Int’l Fund for Horses

    12 thoughts on “Horse Racing through the Slaughter Pipeline”

    1. I vehemently oppose the slaughter of any animal.

      That being said, the 30,000 Thoroughbreds who were sent to slaughter last year constitutes less than one third of the total number of horses slaughtered. Let’s not point a finger at this breed and exclude the other breeds of horses who are discarded and slaughtered.


        1. I am not even sure where the 30,000 is coming from …i read a figure that was not nearly that high. Overbreeding and grants that are given to the ranchers that breed quarter horses are more of a problem than the TBs in the slaughter pipeline IMHO. With that said, I agree with Marylou Whitney said ” One must fight to ensure that there will be not another horse slaughtered in America Ever!” MaryLou Whitney has been in the industry most of her life and she donates a great deal of money to help horses the same as many other racing owners like Jerry and Ann Moss. I mourn daily for horses that I have never met and never will meet that have now left us forever. We must fight for change to 1. protect these horses and also to bring the sport to the greatness that it could be.


          1. Mary, the 30,000 is an estimate only and depending on what source you look at the figures range between 15 to greater than 30% of the horses slaughtered being identified as TBs.

            If you take an approximate 30% of the more than 100,000 horses slaughtered each year and according to the recent GAO report that number is more like 130,000 that is where the number comes from. These figures are difficult to come by as there are no formal records kept.

            And yes, it is true that the slaughter of quarter horses is an even greater problem but as Vivian points out this is a series of articles about the TB racing industry only.

            The slaughter of any horse is in itself criminal, there is no question about that. This was not meant to cover horse slaughter in general but how it relates to the TB racing industry. And if anything the figures are meant to take a look at how the industry treats it’s athletes. Clearly change is needed. And it is not just in this country that this heinous crime takes place, nor does it mean there aren’t good people trying to make change happen.


            1. Just to make it clear by the lack of record keeping – I meant about TBs going to slaughter, not the total number of horses slaughtered.


    2. I have rermained a fan of horse racing but I do walk a thin line with it due to this problem. While I do know that there are good people involved in the breeding and racing industry that are willing to “do the right thing” and at times even open their check books to help these horses in need, I know of breeders and owners that help substantially but I do know that it is simply not enough.

      I believe that the industry is the one that can and should change all of this. Sending a horse off to die should not be an option in this sport. While I am against all horse slaughter regardless of breed, sex, or age, I do think that there is something extra wrong with killing a “athlete” as these horses are in this sport. If the industry is not going to fix the problems, then it should no longer exist.

      Excuses are getting old when week after week we find TBs in feedlots on their way to slaugther.

      Babies that are born every year that are taught to please the human and trust the human only to be rewarded in the end with a tortorous death is just NOT acceptable and MUST be stopped NOW. And while I do believe there is an awareness that there maybe wasnt 10-15 yrs ago and tat change is happening, it is far far too late for many already and will not hapen fast enough for others.


      1. Thanks you for your comments Mary. Of all the practices by the horse racing industry that are detrimental to the horses they use, slaughter is the most despicable. We cannot look the other way, or allow them to do so either. When the slaughter numbers remain as high as ever, it appears that whatever changes they are making are not working. Or they are simply trying to deceive the public with solutions that are easily skirted. There are many, many good people in horse racing, and it is up to them to make their voices heard. Of course, it is all political, and those who wield the power continue to make decisions that allow the cruel and needless suffering to go on. There are solutions that would benefit not only the horses but also the industry as a whole. They are constantly trying to win the younger set to the game. How long will new racegoers stay when they find out the dark and deadly secrets activities associated with it.


        1. I believe the new racing fans and those newly involved in the sport will stay regardless of the problems. Some feel it is best to be part of it than not and that they can do more by being involved. I am slowly starting to lean the other way. I believe that everyone from the people that sell the tickets at the tracks to the exercise riders to the owners of the horses are responsible for being involved and supporting an industry that allows the athletes to be slaughtered at the end of the day. If they are going to stay involved then they should fight more and if changes are not made then they should walk away from an industry that allows such things to go on. Being part of it holds guilt all the same in my book. If I work for a company that is stealing, I am just as guilty even if I am not the one that does the stealing because I am still involved and benefit from it. With that said, I think it is too early for the good people to walk away but the day is coming if change is not made. Being involved and saying that you treat your horses right is not okay if you know that the guy in the barn next to you is not. We owe these horses more and if not then we should stop breedng them. Imagine the uproar that there would be if Zenyatta was sent to slaughter. It is sad and sick because she is sent to slaughter every single day. NONE of them deserve what happens to them when they are no longer wanted and it MUST be stopped. Going after owners and trainers WILL NOT help. It is the industry that needs to be pressured to make these big changes. If an owner instead of a trainer was told that they would be banned from a track if a horse was found to have went to slaughter, the change would be immediate and the owners would make sure that they were not ending up there. The fear would be apparent and the trainers would be told to never let any of their horses end up in this manner. It would make the difference that the horses need.


    3. If you look at the states that are funding horse racing and the subsidies they are getting to continue to funnel horses through the slaughter pipeline, you can certainly see that each State of this Union is responsible for these deaths as well. It is time for each individual to speak truth to power in each of their states and stop taxpayers money from supporting this wicked enterprise. Just google “horse racing subsidies” and look what comes up…there in lies the real truth of the matter.


    4. Thanks to Vivian and to Jane Allin for a detailed accounting of the horrors of the racehorse-to-table pipeline.

      I do have two complaints, though:

      1) some of the statistics quoted are misleadng or not clearly stated (for example, about 30,000 TB foals born and up to 50,000 nurse mare foals abandoned…obviously that number would include more than TBs) ;
      2) grammatical or spelling errors. (for example, too instead of to)

      The reason I cite these concerns is that slaughter proponents will use every opportunity to debunk an otherwise totally credible report by noting the least discrepancy in statistics, or by demeaning the author by implying they are not educated enough to write/spell correctly.

      Nevertheless, I hope every reader will share this report.


      1. Thanks Faith.

        The 30,000 are data from last year (2010) and the 50,000 refers to earlier years when the numbers were higher (see the report referred to about the nurse mares – it was mentioned – “as many as depending in the number of mares bred and foals birthed”. – Sorry for anything that was misleading.

        We do miss some things so will change the too , to, to….:<)


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