Study shows the value of horse slaughter to race horse breeders

horse racing

This is a very solid piece of journalism by Animals 24-7 in Australia. The relationship of gambling in horse racing and horse slaughter is one that has not been discussed often enough. A larger pool of speculative breeding of race horses generates more income for gambling agencies. However the number of horses born is unneeded and unwanted – they wind up slaughtered either for animal food, human consumption or for other manufacturing needs. This is true here in the United States as well. Adoption and sales for pleasure riding simply cannot give enough homes to these unwanted horses. This excellent article will be posted in 2 parts today. ~ HfH

From: Aninmals 24-7
By: Merritt Clifton

SYDNEY, Australia––Newly published Australian research sheds light on the unofficial economic partnership of the race horse breeding and horse slaughter industries.

Paul McGreevy

Paul McGreevy

The Australian research does not directly reference the controversy over horse slaughter for human consumption in the U.S., but confirms the importance of slaughter to the economic structure of the horse breeding business.

Horse slaughter for human consumption has been prohibited in the U.S. since 2007 by a series of Farm Bill amendments that have prevented the USDA from inspecting horse slaughterhouses.

Lack of USDA inspection has not inhibited the dispatch and rendering of horses for animal consumption. Horses killed for animal consumption may be dispatched by gunshot or captive bolt gun at the race track, in the stable, or wherever else they happen to be, with no need to transport an injured or ill horse alive.

Renderers, however, usually pay nothing for horse carcasses, and sometimes charge to remove them. Therefore, much of the horse industry, including the racing industry, have preferred to export injured, ill, and otherwise “retired” horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter.

“Breeding industry operates on turnover”

“The thoroughbred breeding industry operates on turnover, meaning it relies on a certain number of horses leaving the track,” summarized Christa Lesté-Lasserre of The Horse of the findings of University of Sydney animal behavior and welfare science professor Paul McGreevy.

“At the same time,” Lesté-Lasserre continued, breeders “know that roughly half the foals born won’t make it to the track at all. While this culture of overbreeding might work for the industry’s financial models, McGreevy said, it isn’t necessarily conducive to good equine welfare.”

Said McGreevy, “If we were ever to make all the horses high-performance with low risk of injury and optimal behavior, there would indeed still be too many horses, but they would be more viable. With the right feedback and the right demand for ethical sustainable racing,” McGreevy hopes to “conceivably arrest some of the overbreeding.”

McGreevy, former University of Sydney colleague Ariella Hayek, and fellow Australian researchers B. Jones and D.L. Evans in August 2014 published their study “Number, causes and destinations of horses leaving the Australian Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing industries” in the Journal of the Australian Veterinary Association.

Described the abstract, “Questionnaires were sent to 1,258 selected thoroughbred and 981 standardbred trainers, with response rates of 30% and 32%, respectively. The survey investigated the role of various risk factors for wastage, including horse age, sex and number of years in training. The destination of departing horses was also examined in relation to these risk factors.”


The study by McGreevy et al was the latest of many investigations of “wastage” in the horse racing industry published during the past four decades.

“Wastage,” explained Al Olivier, J.P. Nurton, and A.J. Guthrie in a 1997 paper on wastage in the South African horse racing industry, “is the term used to describe the phenomenon of the loss of racehorses from conception to adulthood due to death or injuries (i.e. they never reach a race-track), or the days lost by racehorses due to not training or being withdrawn from a race.”

An assessment of wastage in Thoroughbred racing from conception to four years of age, by British researcher L.B. Jeffcott, published in 1982, found that from 1970 to 1974 the total wastage rate in British horse racing was 73%. About 14% of the foals born were never registered, 20% were not trained to race, and 6% were trained but never raced.

Subsequent studies have confirmed this now more-than-40-year-old estimate of wastage, discovering no hint that improved breeding, greater concern for animal welfare, changes in track design and construction, or economic concerns have reduced it.

Nearly 40% wastage per year

horse racingFound McGreevy et al, “Total horse exit rates for the 2002-03 official race year [in Australia] were 39.7% and 38.7% for the thoroughbred and standardbred racing industries, respectively.”

Of the horses who were withdrawn from racing, McGreevy et al learned, 36.5% of the thoroughbreds and 35.2% of the standardbreds were simply considered uncompetitive. Thirty-one percent of the thoroughbreds and 27% of the standardbreds were injured. About 10% of the horses were withdrawn from racing and retired to breeding. Thoroughbreds and standardbreds had the same rate––6.4%––of being retired from racing due to inappropriate temperament or behavior.

About one horse withdrawn from racing in five was withdrawn for miscellaneous other reasons.

“About 6.3% of thoroughbreds and 16.6% of standardbreds were sent to a processing plant following their racing careers,” McGreevy et al continued.

Concern rose in 2012

The wastage and volume of horses sold to slaughter after their racing careers, however short, is only a fraction of the total numbers sent to slaughter. But the slaughter of horses who are never registered or raced is seldom seen by the public. The slaughter of horses who have been raced, by contrast, has festered as a public issue in Australia since November 2012.

Run since 1861 on the first Tuesday of each November, fourteen years longer than the Kentucky Derby, the Melbourne Cup is marketed as “’The race that stops a nation.”

What stopped Australian attention most in November 2012, though, may have been undercover video posted online by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, showing injured racehorses being shot dead at the Laverton Knackery west of Melbourne.

Animals Australia in a formal complaint sent to the Department of Primary Industries alleged “dozens of breaches of animal cruelty, hygiene, welfare and meat industry laws,” summarized Richard Willingham of the Melbourne Age.
“The racing industry can’t stand up and say they love these horses and then the next day when they can no longer earn money at the races get a bullet in the head and be killed for dogmeat,” said Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses spokesperson Ward Young.

Reported Guy Stayner of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “There are currently about 15,000 thoroughbred foals born every year” in Australia, while about 8,500 per year are retired from racing according to data collected by Ariella Hayek in 2004 for the Royal SPCA of Australia.

10,000 race horses per year slaughtered

The Hayek data indicated that about 10,000 racehorses per year were slaughtered, as of 2004, while only about 30% of the foals born were eventually raced.

Australian horse racing industry spokespersons told media in 2012 that about two-thirds of the thoroughbred foals born each year are raced. But regardless of whose figures are used, horses bred to race who fall short of racing grade or pull up lame make up a sizeable percentage of the 50,000 to 70,000 horses who are sold to slaughter in Australia each year.

Some of the meat is exported to foreign markets for human consumption; some is processed into animal food. Though Western Australia minister for agriculture and food Terry Redman in June 2010 approved the slaughter of horses for human consumption, only one novelty meat butcher is known to supply horsemeat for human consumption within Australia.

Continue to Original Article – We will also be publishing part II later today.

  • Viktoria Shell

    So then, the only solution is to require a bond to be posted for each and every foal bred, no matter the breed. That will significantly reduce the breeding AND provide funds to help a horse in need of rescuing, when no one is willing to step up. The laws either have to be that NO HORSE GOES TO SLAUGHTER period, or they cannot continue to breed. Another way is to provide a tax deduction for those that responsibly retire their horses and a tax penalty for those that disperse them upon society to take care of. It should ALWAYS be the responsibility of the breeder to pick up the pieces for any horse in need of rescuing. BTW… I have bred two TB, still in my care and in an irrevocable trust AND I have rescued 7 TB and still care for my own 8 (only two of which were bred by me.) They range in age from 8 yrs to 28 years.

    January 16, 2015
  • MS

    The only reason we should be breeding horses is because we either have a shortage OR someone is interested in a particular type of horse! What’s being done to horses who land in the slaughter pipeline by the racing industry is so cruel, so horrific, so unconscionable, I don’t have the proper words! To think how these horses live and work to entertain and please only to be cruelly abandoned …. This is a business NOT engaged in jeans or pineapples … THIS IS A BUSINESS engaged in LIVING BEINGS — HORSES, along with the jockeys and trainers — the jockeys aren’t sent to slaughter, the trainers aren’t sent to slaughter … WHO’S PROTECTING THE HORSES?! When they’ve put in their years entertaining us all and making money for so many, WHY WOULD YOU NOT RESPECT AND HONOR THEM? What’s the big deal! With all the money around, a Sanctuary or two can be set up for these wonderful animals who so want to live, who so deserve to live! Shame on the racing industry — much good could be done by you …

    January 17, 2015
  • Nicole Lauren

    What do Wild Horses and captive Horses have in common with the Tea Party? Both want less human/ government control!

    January 17, 2015
  • Nicole Lauren

    Definition of an oxymoron: Big money ranchers, oil n fracking conglomerates, and U.S. government are in cohoots lying, complaining there are too many Wild Horses so the BLM gets paid over 70 million dollars by U.S. citizens taxable income, of whom over 90% disagee with these deadly, violent, illegal roundups of FREE, SACRED Wild Horses who then get sent illegally to SLAUGHTER! Meanwhile, humans are breeding Horses without their consent for the cruel Horse racing industry, in other words for greedy profit. Now they want to inject WILD HORSES with toxic birth control to stop Horses from creating their own FAMILIES, yet continue to forcefully breed race Horses. Humans are stopping Horses from reproducing on their own, only to turn around and do it for them. Hmmm? Rape, slavery, imprisonment, abuse, neglect, exploitation….sounds about right for America and our lovely American history…which Horses helped build! Please note, I am in NO WAY saying Wild Horses (free or captive) should be used for Horse racing industry. I am pointing out how half-ass backwards and corrupt this country is. America for the people (ALL Beings) by the People!

    January 18, 2015
  • LNorman

    Gas chambers were valuable to the nazi’s too.

    January 18, 2015
  • vickysecho

    I believe you are mistaken. This is a crap article by a side mouthpiece for the unwanted horse pro-slaughter group.

    January 25, 2015