Alex Brown: ‘Horse industry needs to wake up’

Alex Brown, longtime Thoroughbred advocate and author of Barbaro book, releases a three-video series on horse slaughter.

Alex Brown, longtime Thoroughbred advocate and author of Barbaro book, releases a three-video series on horse slaughter.

Alex Brown, author of Barbaro: Greatness and Goodness, concludes his eight years of horse advocacy work by the unveiling of a three-part video series to codify what he has learned about horse slaughter.

Three, 55-minute videos titled “Sports, Culture and Slaughter” were published May 14 on You Tube and also on Alex Brown Racing, his popular website, with the goal of offering an overview on a subject “people don’t want to look at, but should” Brown says.

“My target audience is John Q. Public, and not the hardcore animal rights people, who I think live in an echo chamber and create content for each other,” says Brown, a longtime horsemen who has spent many hours sitting in auction houses where horses are sold to slaughter. “When I started this project I asked myself why would the general public care? My goal is to try to convince these people to get the word out and watch the videos, and to understand that horses are not food animals, but that they are in the food chain.”

The breadth of the work covers the scope of slaughter, from the routes horses travel in America to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada, before ultimately served as food in European and Asian countries. Acknowledging that slaughter is perfectly legal, Brown sought to document the activity in an evenhanded manner, which is neither gory nor emotional, he says.

He hopes that by building public awareness of the issue through his presentation, alternatives might eventually burble up and help augment the progress already being made to divert horses from the slaughter pipeline.

Brown outlines the scope of horse slaughter.

Brown outlines the scope of horse slaughter.

“The reality is that what we have is an unwanted horse problem,” he says. “In our country, it’s what we’re doing with (many) retired racehorses. Although we’ve made great strides to promote the breed and alternatives through programs like Steuart Pittman’s Retired Racehorse Project” which retrains Thoroughbred racehorses for new careers “and there’s lots of other activity, with horse rescue organizations, the reality is, it’s not enough.”

He adds, “We’re taking care of the unwanted horse problem through slaughter, period. That’s the reality.”

Insisting that the horse industry needs to “wake up” and deal with the issue on the political level, Brown says it will take a larger groundswell to put a stop to the numbers of horses winding up in the slaughter pipeline.

“Until they wake up to it, the rescue efforts are only taking care of a very small percentage of at-risk horses,” he says.

Please watch the videos, or read other interesting material about horse slaughter here:


10 responses to “Alex Brown: ‘Horse industry needs to wake up’”

  1. Tracy Marshall

    Martha I agree with commending Alex for not targeting the racing industry alone – because the backyard breeders or the hobbyists are just as bad – breeding for color, because they want their kids to see a foal being born, or because they want a 4H project….if we could measure that culture, I’m certain it would equal if not surpass professional horse breeders. There should be more disciminating laws to help prevent careless, hobby breeding aggressively, to start to slow down the grade horse (and QH/Paint) pipeline.

  2. Jo

    I have 15 horses on my farm with 8 being rescue horses. This issue isn’t just a horse issue it is an issue with all abandoned or abused animals . No, animals like dogs and cats dont go to slaughter but they do get euthanize more than getting rescued. Maybe if we had laws against all animal breeding nonsense and could possibly figure a way to limit people from breeding. Kinda like China only lets people have one child? Maybe I am dreaming too much?!!

  3. Susan Crane-Sundell (@sabaahslight)

    WE have year round breeding now with stallions being shipped from one hemisphere to the other to expand the number of covers that they can perform. Not only does this vastly increase the numbers of the TB foal crop, but it puts a great deal of strain and stress on the shipped stallions. They are more prone to accidents and physiological problems. This further weakens the heartiness of the foal “crops” exacerbating the number of young horses who cannot hold up under the rigors of racing. In turn increasing the breakdowns and thus the abandonments and/or the hastening of horses to slaughter, The ridiculous circular reasoning leads to the increase of horses sent to slaughter.

    Unethical trainers find ways around rules that disallow racing and stall privileges to trainers who ship horses directly to slaughter from racetracks. And even those fairly unenforceable rules only apply to Thoroughbreds. God spare the numbers of unwanted and discarded quarterhorses, they have no one to speak for them. Add in the old paints, the broken down draft horses and the plain unwanted, neglected and undernourished horses that are swept away out of sight by people who aren’t even expected to be accountable and you can witness the carnage and misery. Just spend one night at an open auction and you will never sleep peacefully again.

  4. Kim L.

    Don’t forget the Nursemare foals. Thrown aside so a Thoroughbred foal can nurse, while mom is then re-bred. Or the hundreds of PMU foals born, simply so mom can donate her urine for Menopause drugs!

  5. Connie

    I didn’t finish reading after I got to the part of food animals. I am not with any organization just don’t understand how some are and some not,what is the difference in meat between cows,cats ,dogs,pigs etc. Also the cruelty is the same.

    1. coltswesternshop

      Connie. There are seriously strict guidelines in every other animal as they are Raised from birth to carcass for their meat and by products so care is taken to make certain they follow standards and Federal Laws implemented for that purpose. Horses are NOT raised for meat. They are given absolutely anything in their lifetime to make their lives comfortable. They are provided with the proper food chain for human consumption restrictions and they are NOT cruelly sent to slaughter. The killing with a bolt in their skull is based on cattle skulls and horses skulls are not only thicker and the horses scared and faster to dart away causing multiple injuries before being unconcious. They frequently awaken and are truly aware of whats happening. The horses transport is the sane dangerous scenario in the US as it is outside. The horses are packed and slip and fall often substaining serious injuries. They are beaten..abused or shocked to load in trailers. Fraudulent papers are often supplied illegally to slaughterplants to get horses in. Horses are stolen for slaughter to increase profits. There are many trailers running illegally and often dumping horses rejected by the plants to die on their own. The horses are from all different locations and they dont require withdrawals or follow through with withdrawals for drugs or quaranteen for illness. They are also not testing each carcass for every medication vaccine or plethra of chemicals legal and non that can jeapordize health for humans. Killer trailers frequent auctions with the ability to spread illness to otherwise healthy horses. The processing…transport and handling is headed under guides for goat. That was just how little the FDA knew on how to classify horses. I really dont see how a trailer load of uninjured farm raised quietly loaded beef cattle is different from a trailer load of wild bedragled underweight injured ill and often healthy animals are pushed into slaughter trucks do you? Its completely the opposite.

  6. coltswesternshop

    Maybe some people are in a vaccum. John Q Public is very informed and most people who are new to horses are the ones who are targeted by proslaughter. People who are involved in the industry know of the slaughter issues bc they also sit at auctions like we all have. The only reason I personally was concerned is because the first statement in the first of the series of videos about how well organized proslaughter is. They are not organized as well as believed its an impression. Its they have people in strategic locations fumbling data and propaganda back and forth. There is a divide in anti horse slaughter and its a credit issue. I dont care who gets any credit of book deals as long as slaughter of horses ends. The scheme which is tactical to take horses that private individuals worked and paid for in every way and toss them into a garbage disposal and grind out cash in beef/horse scandals has been evolving and we need to close it out. I agree that theres people not yet reached. But the ones we are steadily trying to reach are newbies wjo get sucked into the auction kill buy culture and mislead as well as the hardened suppoerters whom many have dropped out of proslaughter because they refuse to be attached to the stigma of outed cruelty and abuse. I think we can teach without widening the gap on whos different from whom in participation to stomp it out. I just do not want to see another hoof laying on the road into a plant again. That horse didnt deserve to lose it going up the highway because a killers trailer was rot ting out. My grandfather saved horses in Dekalb plant and got shaken up and cracked ribs for it. So our drive to stop it is Definitely personal expirience. Illinois stopped slaughter and we want want horse slaughter stopped completely.

  7. Martha.

    I applaud Alex for tackling this issue. And for doing so by not putting the blame on only the Thoroughbred racing industry. Because, in reality, it s a problem that touches every aspect of equine activities and breeding. Not just the “Thoroughbred pipeline” I have seen Quarter horses, Arabians, mini horses, Standardbreds and every other breed and size of horse and pony end up slaughter bound. Or abused in other manners. This is not JUST about the racing industry looking for the next Kentucky Derby winner. It’s about every breeder looking for the next “one” that will get their “name” out there as a breeder.

  8. Alex

    the Breeding problem is exacerbated by the state bred breeding incentive programs … but I won’t go into that here. I hope people do watch the video series, it is NON GORY, and I hope makes the case that horse slaughter is not the correct solution, but one that is sustained by interests not always obvious.

  9. Sara D

    The US (and I’m sure other countries) have an unwanted horse problem because there is an overbreeding problem. How many horses with ok conformation, soundness problems or other serious flaws are being bred out of hope (or serious money)? How many accidental breedings are there? How many backyard breedings because “my mare would make a great mom”?

    How many thousands of Thoroughbreds are being bred for the “what if” factor? With the number of high-profile horses in recent years that came out of moderate breeding. how does that encourage your average Joe to spend just a few thousand in hopes of getting the next California Chrome, when in reality only a tiny percentage is successful – in 2014 alone, 22,000 thoroughbreds were bred in North America; that means only .09% will get to the Derby. As long as the top stallion farms are booking their studs to 100+ mares a season, and as long as there are thousands of studs out there for nothing or next to nothing, we’ll have an overbreeding problem. Stud farms used to book maybe 40 breedings a year – it’s almost tripled for your average stallion, and has tripled for many. Obviously the numbers of breedings/horses registered has dropped by 1/2 to 1/3 from it’s peak in the 1980’s, but there is still a massive glut – slaughter just wasn’t being talked about then the way it is now.

    I applaud Alex’s efforts and agree that we should be diverting horses from the slaughter pipeline but wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to divert excess breedings before they happened?

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