Racing through the slaughter pipeline — Remember Ferdinand and Exceller

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — U.S. horse racing has an increasingly worsening reputation regarding the treatment of its racehorses chiefly because of the egregious use of illicit drugs and the tragic stream of breakdowns and deaths of racehorses. A recent trend is the alarming number of breakdown and deaths of racehorses as young as two and three during training before they ever make it onto a racecourse. See Patrick Battuello’s site “Horseracing Wrongs” for details.

Some attempt to point out that not all horse racing is as evil as what goes on in the U.S., that in other racing jurisdictions around the world they train and race their horses in a cleaner, more ethical fashion whose horses consequently suffer fewer breakdowns and death.

That may well be true. However, whether this is factual in whole or in part, there is one issue that all of horse racing has in common and it is this — the slaughter of its racehorses.

Jane Allin is unrivalled in her research and reporting on horse racing in N. America. Several years ago, Allin wrote a report called “Racing Through the Slaughter Pipeline” which we have published on our website.

We republish below Part 1 of “Horse Racing Through the Slaughter Pipeline” entitled, “Food for Thought”.  We invite you to read further than Part 1 via the links provided following this excerpt to get an insight into the bloodiness and death endemic to the so called “sport” of horse racing.

Racing through the Slaughter Pipeline
Part 1: Food for Thought, by JANE ALLIN

 *  *  *

“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.” [1]

 *  *  *

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

• Read more . . .

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

 *  *  *

Remember Ferdinand. Remember Exceller.

Two former U.S. horse racing stars who met their deaths in foreign slaughterhouses drew major attention to the fact that racehorses were being slaughtered not only abroad but also at home. They were Ferdinand and Exceller. Ferdinand was slaughtered in Japan and Exceller was slaughtered in Sweden.

The New York Times reported Ferdinand’s tragic demise this way:

Victories in the 1986 Kentucky Derby and the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic figured to have earned Ferdinand a cushy retirement when his racing days were over. Instead, his life apparently ended in a grisly manner, in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2002, according to the racing industry trade magazine The Blood-Horse, which will report his death in its issue dated July 26. It is believed that his carcass was used to make pet food.

The Exceller Fund tells us this about the brutal and terrifying end of Exceller’s life, handed over to meet his grisly fate by someone he had bonded with and trusted.

Best remembered as the only horse to beat two Triple Crown winners, he [Exceller] proved his quality on a global scale by winning graded or Group 1 stakes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Exceller stopped being Exceller when breeder interest waned. At that point, he became just another horse. His final destination was similar to that of an estimated three million American horses from 1986-’96.

Anne Pagmar, who led him to slaughter, said Exceller knew what was going on. He smelled blood and expressed fear. Tied off and hung by a single hind limb, fractious horses thrash while their executioners bludgeon and bludgeon. They are alive when their throats are cut and they are bled to death.

One American horseman, when told of Exceller’s last walk, said, “They have to die sometime.”

Not everyone has grown cold. Christine Picavet galloped horses after coming to America from France, and one of those horses was Exceller. She went on to become a noted artist and she painted the horse twice. She still bears the scar of a playful bite. When she heard Exceller’s story, she struggled for words describing his generosity and kind disposition. Then, in tears, she apologized, begged for time to compose herself and put the phone down.

Take Action Against Horse Slaughter

There is something you can do in memory of Ferdinand and Exceller and all horses brutally slaughtered for human consumption.

Write or call your U.S. Representative and ask them to co-sponsor and use their influence to pass the SAFE Act — H.R. 113 — that bans horse slaughter and closes the export to slaughter loophole for all horses including racehorses. Go here for more information on how to help.

The 142nd annual Run for the Roses, better known as the Kentucky Derby, which takes place in Louisville, Kentucky. The race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses began in 1875 and takes place annually at Churchill Downs.

Photo Credit: Here They Come (c) Dave Black


See also “10 Dark Secrets From the World of Horse Racing” here »

4 thoughts on “Racing through the slaughter pipeline — Remember Ferdinand and Exceller”

  1. An estimated 3 (three) million horses over a 10 year period needlessly put to death in the cruellest and most abhorrent way. INEXCUSABLE.
    Not only do these horses have rights but decent minded people who oppose these atrocities committed upon these helpless horses have the right to demand that it come to an end. We have to live with it knowing the horrific suffering, it affects the quality of our lives and it’s incumbent upon the governments to bring this unacceptable situation to an end.


    1. The 1st bill introduced to end slaughter was 16 years ago. Congress has failed ever since to do the will of the people every term since. All to appease animal agriculture when horse meat not sold or eaten here. Big fail by US lawmakers.


      1. I remember reading about it all those years ago. I thought this is wonderful the American government is ending horse slaughter. Only to find out a few years on that the horses were being sent to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered.


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