GUEST COMMENTARY – SELLING HORSES BY THE POUND

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am
Today, as we celebrate the final leg of the American Triple Crown, horseman and anti-slaughter activist Alex Brown(click here to visit his web site) takes us on a visit to a different kind of venue, where the horses are not revered for their speed or heart or personalities but mostly for how much meat they carry on their bones. All of the regulated horse slaughterhouses in the United States have been closed, though Congress has yet to act on federal legislation banning horse slaughter. It remains a viable industry in Canada, where Brown currently is based. — Ray Paulick

By Alex Brown

A visit to a kill auction. I arrived at about 11:45 am, as usual.  It is a one-hour drive from the Woodbine racetrack near Toronto, Canada, where I work in the mornings galloping horses for trainer Steve Asmussen.  I parked in the back, among the stock trailers.  I entered the drafty building and walked along the overhead walkway with all the horses in pens beneath me.  There were about 75 horses today.  Some were in large pens that hold 10 or 12.  Some were in smaller pens.  Some with halters.  Some without.  All standing there, a little perplexed no doubt, regarding their new circumstances.

I wanted to take a quick look through to see if I could see any Thoroughbreds.  I went down below, which meant climbing down and over a few gates.  I then walked along the outside of the pens.  I flipped a couple of lips to check for the identifying tattoo that all racing Thoroughbreds have.  I did not find any Thoroughbreds.  


I then went into the auction area and settled in.  A small crowd started gathering.  Lots of chatter.  The most active kill buyer was present.  He always is.  And he is surrounded by the usual assortment of “hangers on”.  At about 12:25 p.m., the auctioneer took his position, along with his clerk.  His clerk was the only young female in the room barring a small child who was bouncing on her woolly toy horse on the front row.  The crowd had thickened considerably.  The room was essentially filled with old guys.  A couple of older women.  Amish, local farmers, horse traders and just those out for their weekly catch-up on gossip.


The first horse came in.  Loose and herded in by a couple of handlers as is most common here. And within less than 30 seconds he was sold for 37 cents / pound.  A Quarter horse/Paint.  It was not the main kill buyer who made the purchase.   It was buyer number 120.  The main kill buyer was the underbidder.  I was relieved, but the relief was very short lived.  It soon became apparent that buyer 120 was simply another kill buyer, just not one of the regular kill buyers that attends this auction.  He bought the most horses and was bidding on the same horses as the main kill buyer.  He bought a horse with a broken jaw that was labeled as “meat only” by the auctioneer.


Another horse, labeled “meat only,” was also advertised as “drug free” by the auctioneer.  It puzzled me why the auctioneer singled this horse out for this additional piece of information, and not the other horses selling for meat.  While the majority of horses are sold by the pound, a few are sold by the dollar.  They are more likely to sell privately.  Even for these horses, the auctioneer is quick to point out that the weight of the horse is available on the board display above his booth.  Just in case.  


The auctioneer is in his element.  He is good at what he does, carries a light banter through the quick sales, and relishes the competition between the two kill buyers.


Buyer 120 bought 31 horses.  His top price was 46 cents / pound for a nice buckskin mare.  He went as low as 18 cents / pound for a pretty poor looking horse.  The main kill buyer bought 23 horses.  His high price was 40 cents / pound.  He went as low as 23 cents / pound, twice.  Both were bidding against each other on the majority of horses that went through the sale.  Between the two buyers they bought two-thirds of the horses available.  A few horses went to private buyers.  And a few went to horse traders who will look to see if they can turn them around quickly for profit.  And if not, they will likely be back.


A skinny albino horse went through the ring.  Neither of the kill buyers bid.  A weedy-looking 2-year-old Standardbred filly.  The same.  The latter was sold for 16 cents / pound as the auctioneer rattled on about how she might be good enough to race.  They did not fit the criteria sought by the kill buyers.  Not qualified for slaughter.  They weren't meaty enough or big enough.


As the auction ends —  “that's all she wrote” from the auctioneer —  the remaining crowd filters out.  The two main buyers hang around, surrounded by those who surround kill buyers.  Arrangements regarding shipping take place.  I walk back through the “overpass” with the pens underneath.  Horses are getting moved and sorted.  The sad, brutal last leg of their journey through life awaiting.  And for them, it cannot go quickly enough.


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  • Patty in Dallas

    Horse slaughter is the highest act of betrayal to our horses. It is despicable beyond descrliption. Thank you, Alex, for continuing your fight against it. And thank you, Ray, for continuing to use the Paulick Report to keep exposing it.

  • Kat

    Thanks for bumming me out on Belmont-Day, Alex (sarcasm…)!!
    Really, thanks for exposing the truth about auctions, horse slaughter and kill buyers… it is the sad reality and the more people who knows about it…the better chances of having it END at some point…of course better sooner than later…like YESTERDAY would be good!!

  • Ratherrapid

    I never bothered to read the article. More drivel. Hopefully Paulick will one day highlight what this naive activist, who strikes comments he dislikes from his website, and also the anti-slaughter political groupies, have done to horses generally. tens of thousands suffer neglect and abuse due to these idiots. Alex Brown needs to get out more. Walk through some show barn and look at the condition of OTB horses. The sad truth: most of them would be better off dead.

  • Nancy Benstead

    Thank you Ratherrapid for saying it as it is. I love horses. That said – where do people want these horses to go? To starvation in a back pasture? How many of these naysayers are willing to give these horses a home?
    A friend with 2 thoroughbreds will be sending them to auction soon. One has “no feet” and has cost thousands to maintain. The second is an unreliable saddle horse and cannot carry a foal. Got any suggestions Alex?

  • Joe

    Have you ever heard of vet-assisted euthanasia or a well-placed bullet? Of course you have. Humane euthanasia is the better choice to avoid the cruel handling of your discarded horses at kill auctions, their transportation to slaughter in cattle trucks and brutal butchering. How I pity those horses owned by selfish, heartless and cheap characters who believe that the only choice for their spent, wounded, ruined, old horses is slaughter or starvation.

  • Rather and Nancy continue the lie that slaughter is the answer to abuse and neglect. Instead, it subsidizes them. Slaughter has done nothing to save cattle from being starved and neglected in this economy, and they are raised for meat. Horse slaughter is all about meat, as Alex points out above they reject the old, thin or sick. To Nancy, your friend’s “no feet” horse has been medicated with Bute, which is never allowed in food animals.

    Thanks, Ray, for continuing to expose this hidden, parasitical “industry.”

  • laura

    So amazing how folks that claim to have factual info like to resort to personal attacks… it’s because they have “no feet” to stand on.
    Alex does his thing, with class.

    Horses in the US are simply not raised as an AG product, period. Many of the horses that wind up in Canada, are US born and raised. There is no AG standard for care as a consumable resource. Drug use, not intended for animals to be slaughtered, is widespread. These animals are used for recreation, entertainment, as pets. The concept that an unregulated industry exists that provides a consumable resource should be outrageous enough. Add to it the emotional weight of a lack of responsibility in the existence of the slaughter pipeline in the first place, that provides profit to a select few that disregard responsibility to humanely euthanize the lives they exploit for personal “entertainment,” and the outrage grows.

    Ratherrapid… Save the personal attacks. If you can’t offer an argument of integrity, you have no legs…

  • Ratherrapid

    Jstarj and joe–you mistake our positions. Does anyone support inhumane slaughter or transport? Yet most that understands horses supports humane slaughter. Unfortunately the horse understanding public–which fails to include Alex Brown, btw, who is an internet business man trying to prove the power of the website and taking advantage of all of his girls of all ages psyches that sit there, is but the minority in an onslaught of emotional self deception concerning horse welfare. Most horse owners are pro horse welfare and pro-slaughter. There are subtle reasons for this position which involve an option to abuse inclined owners (the vast majority who own OTB horses–they dabble, then forget or are unable to afford what they buy) to take the horse to the sale with the idea that it “might” be bought. Either way it puts that animal in the dark back end of the show barn surviving on a couple of flakes a day and a can of oats, if its lucky, a better option. That’s the reality. Difficult to understand unless you’ve been there, unfortunately.

  • Ratherrapid

    edit. either way..puts the horse out of its misery.

  • Ratherrapid

    Laura. I’d respectfully disagree that Alex Brown does his thing “with class”. My opinion is that Alex Brown and his ill conceived arguments have caused a nightmare for tens of thousands of horses that have suffered and are suffering directly due to his activities. If you consider that a personal attack, so be it.

  • Mac

    Ratherrapid – Shame on you and your pro-slaughter cronies for continuing to press your ridiculous argument that outlawing slaughter will lead to neglect and abuse of horses. Abuse and neglect of any animal is a crime, a felony in some states. Are you seriously saying that the way to stop criminals is the kill the intended victims? Would you be willing to take a one-way trip to a slaughterhouse to avoid being the victiom of a crime?

  • Susan in Saratoga

    For the pro-slaughter disinformation campaign, facts don’t get in the way of reciting the same old nonsense. Like the people who still think the earth is flat, nothing’s gonna change a made up mind even when a pile of evidence from here to the moon and back proves otherwise.

    FACT: horse slaughter numbers are entirely driven by demand in Europe, not by so-called unwanted horses here in our economy. Slaughter is a business in the business of buying meat at 30 cents a pound and marking it up to $15-25.

    The fact that many thousands of companion horses are stolen from their rightful American owners and rushed to slaughter in Canada or Mexico, or that horse killers routinely lie to sellers about where the horse is really going, speaks to the character of this predatory, cruel, greedy business.

    Fact: may thousands of horses are dismembered while awake, after a grim, frightful journey to the kill box. When slaughter happened in the US with USDA licenesed inspectors, too.

    People who want to stop this brutal, greedy business aren’t hurting horses. That makes no sense at all. It’s the pro-slaughter minority, buying into the nonsense portrayed as truth by the self serving ag lobby, who are irretrievably stuck on stupid.

    Nobody in the pro-slaughter camp has offered any plan whatsoever to make slaughter humane, despite thousands of pages of evidence proving its brutality beyond all doubt. Sure, you hear, “maybe if it was regulated” — but it WAS regulated in the US, and still horses were strung up and dismembered alive by untrained, mostly illegal workers. Foals born – and dumped alive – on the kill floor, against Federal law. Slaughter had its chance in the US and it was kicked to the curb right where it belonged.

    Luckily, history teaches us you don’t need 100% enlightenment to change how we behave towards the environment or its inhabitants.

    Horse slaughter is an outmoded, wrongheaded way to deal with a horse. Most Americans know that. For $25 worth of chemicals the animal can be put down humanely if need be. Stop the problem at its source – puppy mill style overbreeding.

    As it stands now, drugs that cause cancer and are banned from the food supply are in the horse meat being sold to our trading partners overseas. That’s as morally wrong as the treatment of the horses themselves.

    Our elected officials are well aware that animal abuse is one thing the American people have very little patience for, and that we pay attention to their records come election time.

  • laura

    Dear Ratherrapid…
    There you go again…
    You never address the basic facts of RESPONSIBILITY. If you buy a horse for pleasure, ie. entertainment, pet, whatever, you then have the RESPONSIBILITY to dispose of PERSONAL PROPERTY in a safe fashion. Horses entering the pipeline are not raised in a regulated fashion determined by the basic laws of a consumable product.
    The current system allows the irresponsible folks that treat their animals with such disregard in the first place an unethical means to turn a profit on the misfortune they create. If they can’t afford to house it, feed it, dispose of it PROPERLY…. then don’t own it.

    Your open hosility for women makes me think your wife must have kicked your thick-skulled self out of the house and wiped you clean in a divorce.

    Deal with the issues and not your obvious need to pass the buck on responsible behavior.

  • Lin

    say it like it is Ratherrapid…..I am a horse breeder, I breed foals every year, I keep the ones I want and let the others go to slaughter. I don’t care because I still get a couple hundred bucks. over breeding is supplying horses for slaughter. Horses are butchered alive. it is not humane….. it is despicable. You Ratherrapid are one of a very small percent of horse owners that are pro butchering horses and making their last days on earth torture…Horse welfare? stop over breeding, stop calling the over bred unwanted, Take responsibility for your horses and Stop making excuses why this must be….ever think God might judge a person by they way they treat his animals….what is being done to horses is horrific.

  • Laura

    Horse slaughter is inhumane! and must stop now. We will deal with the very few unwanted horses in a humane maner!
    The entire horse slaughter industry is a cesspool of criminal activity,Gov.fraud, and shady dealings.

    acording to AP investagation- our own gov. employees take mustangs that cost taxpayers 1000. each. to capture and sell them to slaughter..
    “……… The Associated Press matched computer records of horse adoptions with a computerized list of federal employees and found that more than 200 current BLM employees have adopted more than 600 wild horses and burros.
    Some of these employees, when contacted by the AP, could not account for the whereabouts of their animals. Others acknowledged some of their horses were sent to slaughterhouses……..”………..
    ” Asked about the AP’s findings, Tom Pogacnik, director of the BLM’s $16 million-a-year Wild Horse and Burro Program, conceded that about 90 percent of the horses rounded up — thousands of horses each year — go to slaughter.”

  • To Ratherrapid and others saying why aren’t we making it more humane. Why aren’t you who support slaughter making it humane?

    The reason is because you don’t care. You know it can’t economically be made humane. In other words, humane slaughter costs too much.

    You are the ones with your heads in the sand, refusing to admit that your “salvage value” comes from abusing your horses.

    I am a horse owner, I have a horse racing tomorrow at Arlington. You emphatically do not speak for me, or for the other owners I know. We are the ones working to end horse slaughter for human consumption.

  • Joe

    This press release says it all…

    “May 26, 2009

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Duane Burright

    duane_burright@yahoo.com

    We can’t slaughter our way to horse welfare by Duane Burright

    CHICAGO, (EWA) – By now everyone is familiar with the subject of horses being neglected or starved, along with the claims from those in agricultural circles that slaughter is “necessary” to prevent horse neglect and that it is a way to dispose of unwanted horses. I’ve been hearing that litany from all of the agricultural publications and blogs, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), various state Farm Bureaus and from a group of clueless politicians including Illinois’ Rep. Jim Sacia, Sue Wallis of Wyoming and former Texas congressman and paid slaughter lobbyist, Charles Stenholm.

    I find it odd that they see slaughter as being the solution for horse neglect, but when it comes to neglected or starving cattle, they are stumped. In this USA Today article Starving cattle amid high prices for feed in Neb, Steven Stanec, executive director of the Nebraska Brand Committee, a state agency that helps police the cattle industry stated that “Neglect cases are on the rise, and what’s causing it, I’m not sure. We’re having whole herds of hundreds of cattle being neglected.”

    In doing a simple Google search I found other related headlines which show that cattle starving to death is a fairly widespread problem – Officials raid farm with 30 dead, 100 plus starving cows, Starving cows rescued near Paisley on road to recovery and Starving cattle seized in Lake County.

    According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 34.4 million cattle were slaughtered in 2008, that’s an average of 94,247 cows slaughtered per day. According to Cattle Network, beef production is up over last year.

    Now with all of those cattle going to slaughter, one would wonder why cattle neglect is happening. Using the logic that the AQHA, AVMA, NCBA, Farm Bureaus and the other proponents of the horse slaughter industry apply to starving or neglected horses that “slaughtering prevents neglect”, one would think that we wouldn’t have problems with starving or neglected cattle. Yet guys like Steven Stanec aren’t sure why cattle neglect cases are on the rise.

    What further weakens the argument that “slaughter is needed to prevent horse neglect” is that while all of these articles have been written about neglected and starving horses, the option of horse slaughter has been available in the United States. Horse owners can take the horses they no longer want to keep to the local livestock auction and the neighborhood friendly kill buyers will happily take the horse off their hands. According to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 134,059 American horses have been slaughtered at the European owned plants in Canada and Mexico in 2008. American horses still continue to go to slaughter as you read this, so the slaughter pipeline continues to function despite the claims to the contrary.

    The reality is that slaughter has nothing to do with animal welfare. Since slaughter apparently doesn’t magically solve the problem of starving and neglected cattle, it is fallacy to think that slaughter will solve the problem of starving and neglected horses. The problem of cattle being neglected is due to the current economic crisis, that same economic crisis is making it difficult for horse owners.

    In fact, a study released in June of 2008 showed there was no correlation between horse slaughter and neglect, but a clear linkage between unemployment and neglect. Prophetically, the study warned in its conclusions that if economic conditions continued to deteriorate an upward trend in neglect could be expected.

    The AQHA, AVMA, NCBA, Farm Bureaus and all of their political allies put a lot of time, energy and money into supporting horse slaughter. If these special interest groups were to focus all of those resources on solving the nation’s economic problems rather than supporting a foreign owned industry that doesn’t even pay their taxes, we might be able to get something done.

    It is a pity they are so narrow minded.

    Duane Burright is a software engineer by trade, aside from horses and their welfare he’s also interested in American musclecars, vintage electric fans, computers and software design. He has been involved in the campaign to make the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (AHSPA) law since 2003 and is a supporter of a nearby wild horse sanctuary.”

  • Mac

    As a middle-aged “girl” who has spent several years rescuing and rehoming ex-racers, I am offended by the statement that Alex Brown uses his website to take advantage of “girls of all ages”. What nonsense! I became involved in rescue because slaughter is wrong and I wanted to be part of an organization that provides owners and trainers an alternative to slaughter.

    The Fans of Barbaro (FOBs) have contributed over $1 million dollars to save over 2600 horses by working with various rescue organizations including ours. Most recently the FOBs and the Exceller Fund helped CANTER purchase and retire Mighty Wind, a 14 year old TB with 92 starts. We did this not because of our devotion to Alex Brown, but because Mighty Wind earned a peaceful retirement in spite of the fact that none of the people who made money off of him were responsible enough to provide for him.

    Thoroughbred racing is in the forefront of providing alternatives to slaughter, and they aren’t doing it because it’s a female-dominated industry manipulated by Alex Brown. Groups like CANTER work with racetracks in many states to help horses transition. Finger Lakes has their own on-site adoption facility. Most tracks now have “no kill” policies and in spite of opposition are enforcing them.

    In my experience, most people in Thoroghbred racing, men and women are anti-slaughter. Those that aren’t tend to be the bottom feeders at low end tracks who run injured horses into the ground then ship them off to be killed to hide the evidence of their abuse. These are the people who bring shame to the world of horse racing and if outlawing slaughter puts them out of business we all benefit.

  • LJ Broussard

    Ratherrapid, you said, “most that understands horses supports humane slaughter.”

    Your command of the English language lends credence to Mac’s observation that in the TB industry, those who support slaughter as a way to dispose of unwanted horses tend to be the bottom feeders at low end tracks.

    ‘Humane horse slaughter’ is an oxymoron tossed about by ox-witted morons with a vested interest in a disgusting practice. Period. End of subject.

  • LCM

    I suppose Ratherrapid is confused why unwanted cats and dogs in the US can’t be slaughtered and sold for their fur and meat which could be sold for a nice profit in places like China, the Phillipines and Korea…..no sense in letting all that potential profit slip through our fingers, Right? WRONG.

    Does anyone think that is ok? It’s basically the same argument for defending horse slaughter. Just as dogs and cats are not bred in our society for food and fur, neither is the horse! Horses are companion animals in our society and should be treated as such. Humane euthanasia is the answer, not a horrific journey to the end.

  • Hi webmaster! aqf

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