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The Trip To A Slaughterhouse

Video (This video takes 1 1/2 minutes to load, it's worth the wait.) Its early in the morning when you arrive and the corrugated metal plant building is in full operation. Sounds and smells permeate the air around you and stun your senses like a ocean tidal wave. The sound of horses can be heard across the parking lot -- not the pleasant nickering or occasional whinny that greets people when they enter a barn or stable, but a rapid, frantic neighing. The panic, fear and discomfort in these sounds is palpable. It doesn't take long to find out why.

Horses are queued up awaiting slaughter in a chute that leads to the "killing stall" and are showing signs of terror that few outside of this killing factory ever witness. Another sound mingles with the cries of the horses and pierces your soul like a spear; it's the strange muffled whine that comes from a saw cutting bone still encased in flesh.

Anyone trying to prepare themselves for this ghastly world now realizes this is utterly impossible. As the first whiff of the oddly sickening odor of newly slaughtered flesh hits our nostrils you have a hard time not retching. As you look about, you spot row after row of carcasses being quickly hung in a freezer storage area. As appalling as all this is, worse still is the almost unbearable smell that permeates everything. If you manage not to lose your lunch, there awaits the inner plant.

Now comes the "kill shed" which consists of one room in which various grisly operations are performed by one of six butchers at four work stations. An inspector from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also present to examine parts of every horse being "processed".

The first station is the killing station itself. One man works the kill chute which involves his herding a horse into the killing stall, slaughtering the terrified animal, and beginning the butchering process. This stage takes about ten minutes for each animal, and begins with the opening of a heavy steel door that separates the killing stall from the waiting chute. The man working this station goes into a corridor adjacent to the waiting chute where the panicked horses are trembling violently and urinating on themselves, then prods the next victim into the killing stall with a high voltage electric cattle prod.

You can't escape the fact the building is resonating with the cries of the doomed horses, their mournful sounds echoing off the surrounding walls. This is the most time-consuming part of the operation because the horses are fully aware of what lies ahead, and are determined not to enter the killing stall. They thrash around, trying desperately to turn back, oftentimes trampling over smaller pony, foal or weaker animals blocking their escape. The physical symptoms of terror are painfully evident on the faces of each and every one of these animals. During the 40 seconds to a minute that each horse or pony has to wait in the killing stall before having their life snuffed out, all they know is profound terror.

How could they not? The horses smell the blood, and can see their companions in various stages of dying and dismemberment. During their last few seconds of life, the horses thrash about the confining stall with what comes across as sheer panic. A sorrel mare, maybe seven or eight, mane freshly pulled, new shoes, and a coat that gleams from a curry comb, is prodded into the killing stall, slipping and sliding on the blood, urine and feces from previous victims. She strains frantically, futilely, and desperately towards the ceiling -- the only direction that is not blocked by a steel door. Death comes in the form of a pneumatic nail gun that is placed against her head and fired. The horse's bone fragments are driven into the animal's brain along with the nail.

The gun is designed so that the nail never completely leaves the gun, but simply is thrust into the animal's head and then pulled out by the butcher as the pitiful horse collapses. Sometimes , it does the job on the first try but often the victim struggles a great deal and collapses only after the second or third blow. After the horse has collapsed, the side of the killing stall is raised, a chain is secured to the right hind leg, and she is hoisted up, still alive, to a hanging position. At this point, the butcher drains the body of blood by slitting the hapless animal's throat.

As the neck blood vessels are severed, a torrent of blood is released so great that the butcher is unable to step aside fast enough to avoid being covered with it. This explosive release of blood lasts only about 15 seconds covering the horse's coat and the floor beneath her. The only task left to the man at the first station is to skin her and remove her head which he accomplishes very quickly. The air is now thick with the acrid, salty odor of fresh blood.

At the second station in the kill shed, you witness the headless animal being dropped to the floor, propped up on its back, and then having its hooves and (for mares) milk sack and udder cut off. At this time, any urine and feces that didn't drain from the body during the first few seconds after death now spill freely onto the floor. The body is then slit down the middle, and the hide is peeled partially away. A yoke is then hooked to the stumps of the hind legs, the body is lifted upwards, and the rest of the hide is pulled past a roller secured to the floor and peeled off. What was once a gleaming hide is now crumpled up in a barrel with others undergoing "processing". The animal's body is now at the third station of the kill shed where it is gutted and then sawed in half, becoming two "sides of beef" or rather "sides of horse".

These sides of horse are now sprayed down in order to rinse the congealed blood from them. They are then weighed at the fourth and final station. Following this, the sides are placed in the cooling locker where the residual warmth of their once living tissues creates steam as they await placement in a deep freeze storage locker. From the cooling locker, the meat goes into a main storage area where it is kept for as long as a week. This locker exits to a butchering area where the sides of horse are reduced to parts for the supermarket which end up on dining room tables.

The victim horse's journey is now over.

The Slaughterhouse

In the last 10 years more than three million American Horses have been butchered in the U.S. for consumption by people abroad.

Sadly, horsemeat is considered a delicacy in some countries. France and Belgium buy most of America's horsemeat, but Canada, Mexico, and Japan are also consumers. Not surprisingly, all of America's equine slaughterhouses are foreign owned.

Here's what they do

After being lead into the killing stall, a pneumatic bolt gun is placed against the head and fired. The horse's bone fragments are driven into the animal's brain along with the bolt, which then retracts back into the gun. Unfortunately, after several uses this mechanized killing method doesn't work efficiently which results in the bolt not killing instantly. The horses are left totally conscious as the butcher keeps firing the gun until he is sure the animal is dead..or close to it.

Horses that are supposed to be unconscious at slaughter can be seen writhing - fully conscious - in terror as a conveyor belt carries them towards a gruesome death.

These still aware horses are then hung by their heels, their throats are cut, and they are bled to death. This sanctioned torture is in accordance with United States Department of Agriculture's guidelines.

All this is even more shocking when you consider that most Americans consider the horse a pet and companion. They have a status in our society comparable to dogs and cats and thus are not an agricultural commodity!

The pipeline that supplies the slaughterhouses is very clandestine. Typically, when owners give up a horse, they assume it will end up in good hands. But when that animal enters "the market" it goes into a different world; a world of auctions, horse traders, and slaughter houses.

America's forefathers gave the horse a special status in our culture which is why we do not eat horse meat in this country and should not allow our horses to be killed to satisfy foreign palates. Sadly, it has been reported that people in New York can get horse meat at some deli shops. This should unnerve and revolt all of us!

We do not seek any modifications in the current slaughterhouse procedure because that institutionalizes and "Americanizes" this cruel process. If unwanted horses must be destroyed, painless euthanasia is the only humane way. This method, however, makes horsemeat inedible which means slaughterhouses oppose it.

Through education and direct action, Corral of Comfort Horse Rescue Inc. is trying to wake up America to the cruel killing of horses in slaughterhouses and provide an alternative: A permanent refuge.

This isn't my barn

But they lead me in, a tag is pasted on my hip as I pass through the doorway. The aisle is lined with stalls. There are several horses, large and small, old and young in each stall. Hundreds of stalls line the dimly lit aisle way, with some of the horses being fat and sassy, and others that missed many a meal and don't look as if they have ever seen a curry comb. As I follow the man who holds my lead line, I crane my neck to see those in each stall. Each horse or pony has a different look about them, some being resigned to their surroundings and others showing apprehension or dismay, and still others looking around with interest in their surroundings.

I'm scared, where is my owner and my clean quiet stall and green paddock?

The building is hot, the putrid stench of the manure rising in waves and filling my lungs. Flies feast on the enclosed horses, as some of them have open wounds which seethe with a life of their own from the flies which crawl across their surface. I see two horses who are down, flat out on the ground and not seeming to care that their stall mates bump them or step on them as they mill around in the small enclosure.

The man leading me roughly along shoves me into a stall with 4 other horses. The big black gelding aims a nip at me and I duck for cover behind a kind looking mare. She looks at me with the understanding eyes and gently nudges me behind her, where I gratefully cower.
The barn reeks from the odor of manure and fear, loudspeakers blare over head with a man shouting something and then proclaiming "SOLD". There is a moment 's pause until the drone of his voice starts up again. Horses and ponies are run up the aisle to our right and soon come back down the aisle on the left, nostrils flared and eyes white with sheer fright if not terror.

Before long it is our turn, the gate to the right side of the stall opens and we are prodded down the aisle, which narrows to a chute. I struggle to keep up with the others as we are lashed from behind by the people who shout and drive us on.

The black gelding enters the enclosure at the end of the chute first and the gate slams in our faces to block us from following, and I press firmly to the side of the sorrel mare who is slightly in front of me. Soon the gate opens again and I rush through beside the mare, frantically evading the man who tries to block my escape.

There is a small ring before us, people are peering down at us from above. Row upon row of them, their faces running together and the sound of their panicked voices being drowned out by the same voice I had heard before.

"OK, let's sell the mare first" the voice rings out and before long a BANG and "SOLD!" cuts through the clamor of the crowd as the mare is separated from me by a huge, mean looking man who brandishes a whip in my face. I try to keep up, but she is forced out of the gate on the other side of the ring and I am alone, ALONE, for the first time in my life! "How much am I bid on this colt?" the voice rings out from over head. "Six months old, fine little fella, let's start at $100.00?"

I stand with my legs spread, trembling with fear. A man comes toward me and I clack my teeth at him, but he hits me anyway so I run, and run and run and run until I sprawl in the filthy mess covering the slick flooring of the ring. I manage to get to my feet as the "SOLD to R.C." rings out from the loud speakers. The gate the mare left through is opened and I rush through, frantic to find her.

There she is! I rush to join her and she nuzzles me and I press against her. We are in a big pen now, dozens of horses wheel around and others are being added. I try to nurse and the mare reminds me with a gentle nip that she is not my mom.

Soon those men are back again. This time they herd us into a long narrow trailer.

OUCH, that hurts!

I am slammed into the trailer wall by the weight of the larger horses, each scrambling for footing on the metal floor. Frantic neighs ring out, echoing back and forth across the confined space. The mare falls under the weight of a large bay but she rights herself and I manage to navigate beside her again. Her side is smeared with blood, a gash is open down her side and a crimson river oozes from the wound and drips to the floor adding to the slippery mess underfoot. I see wounds on several of the horses and ponies. One gray is standing balanced on three legs and a fourth is hanging limply at a weird angle. I stand trembling beside the mare as the trailer lurches forward, her blood mingling with the sweat and stale urine on my side.

For hours we ride, I am cold, hungry and torturously thirsty but the ride goes on and on. Some of the horses fall, not to rise again, the others stamp on them as they try to keep their footing in the swaying trailer. My mare sags beside me, her head low to the floor of the trailer, her eyes half shut. I want to lay down, but I don't dare doo so for fear of being crushed. The heat of the day slowly gives way to the coolness of evening, but this too is a short respite for soon it is bitterly cold in the windswept trailer. The lights of passing cars are a monotonous flash across the ceiling of our compartment until finally the trailer grinds to a halt.

We are in front of what looks like another barn, but it doesn't smell right. It reeks of blood. LOTS of blood ..... and fear. The trailer edges back, finally stopping as it presses into the back of the building and it is suddenly quiet except for the sounds coming from the building. A rapid, frantic neighing mingles with a strange muffled whine. I haven't even the strength to be afraid so I stand miserably next to the mare, trying to be as small and unnoticed as possible.
The gate at the rear of the trailer opens and a hand with a stick comes from between the slats and the horse it touches bolts forward, exiting the trailer with a huge leap. One by one the horses in front of me are forced forward. Soon the stick comes down on my back with pain coming out of its end so severe I jolt straight ahead. Lurching forward, I almost pass the sorrel mare, but the stick shocks her forward to and soon we are rushing through the chute and entering the building.

The smell is worse in here. Some horses try to turn back, some falling in the process and being trampled by those behind. A pinto pony falls in front of us and the sorrel mare and I do our best to avoid falling with him as we clamber over his thrashing body. The neighing of the horses has become a constant scream, punctuated by a "THWACKING" sound from behind the gate in front of us. The press of the horses against me is overwhelming, I can't breathe except to pant in the horrible air drenched in the odor of fear and blood. The press from the horses behind moves us steadily forward.

I can't see over the side of the chute, but it must be really bad, because my sorrel mare begins to thrash backwards, forgetting me completely in her panic to get away.... The press of the horses behind is too great and she fails to escape, but my right eye is smashed by her hoof and the pain tears through me as my eye explodes from the blow. The pain is unbearable and I fall to my knees but manage to regain my legs before being trampled to the ground.

A small gate opens in front of us and another shock is administered to the bay in front of my mare and he pitches forward, the gate slamming shut behind him. Before that gate closed I see the interior of a small stall, covered with blood, urine and manure. And something else? I think it was a horse hanging upside down? I can't see too good, as my only eye has blood pooling in it from the side of the sorrel mare. Just as the horses pressing behind me threaten to take me to the ground the gate opens again and my mare is shocked through. I try to follow again but the gate slams shut in my face.

Neighing and calling to her I pitch myself against the gate, to no avail. She answers me, I can hear her above the screams from the other horses, but her neigh is cut off in mid voice and I hear her no more.... Then the gate opens again and I see her, hanging from a hind leg, her throat a fountain of blood and her eyes glazed over as she swings off to one side. Rearing toward her I feel something smash into my head. Stunned, I fall to the soiled bottom of the stall. In a stupor I feel myself being lifted higher and higher as my head swings below me and then a sharp pain... in my throat... I can't see anymore, don't know where my mare is... it hurts...slowly a peace washes over me...........


Go to any barn and chances are that the person touting a bag of carrots, mucking a stall or riding a horse is a woman. Disturbingly, many of these same women unknowingly support the Premarin® industry - an industry that profits from the misery and death of millions of mares and foals while operating under the guise of "the guardian of women's health."

Premarin is the most frequently prescribed estrogen replacement drug today; millions of women use it to prevent osteoporosis and heart disease following a hysterectomy or the onset of menopause. Made from pregnant mares' urine (PMU), Premarin production involves confining an estimated 75,000 pregnant mares each year in PMU farms. There, for six of their eleven months pregnancy, the horses are tied inside cramped pens 3-1/2 wide by 8 feet long.

Urine is collected using a suspended harness, urine bag and surgical tubing. The mares are not exercised and the collection devices chaff their legs and lower bellies raw. The animals are limited to six to eight gallons of water per day (normal intake is ten gallons) to prevent "diluting the product". Mares that can no longer product enough estrogen to sustain a suitable profit margin are sent on a final trip to the slaughterhouse, along with most of the foals born on the farms.

There is an alternative to Premarin. Plant-derived synthetic estrogen such as Estrace ®, Ortho-est ®, Ogen ® and others duplicate human estrogen and have a long clinical record of being both safe and effective. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reports in their Spring 1994 newsletter, Good Medicine: "...a synthetic [estrogen] works as well as, if not better than, Premarin. The synthetic close to a human females' estrogen than is a mare's estrogen. Also the synthetic may have a more consistent potency than animals derivatives... Plant-based estriol may be even better [than Premarin], apparently causing no increased cancer risk."

Many doctors agree. In a recent letter to the New York Times, Phillip O. Warner, M.D., states that most physicians prescribed Premarin as a "Pavlovian response." Warner continues, "The notion that a substance derived from horse urine is natural to the human female is simply a tribute to fifty years of successful advertising."

What you can do

Educate your physician about Premarin®, horse abuse and alternative plant-based synthetic estrogen.

Boycott products from Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories and its parent companies:
Premarin® from Wyeth-Ayerst
Advil and Dristan from American Home Products
Horse products from Fort Dodge Laboratories

Contact Wyeth-Ayerst to inform them of your boycott:
c/o Product Quality
555 E Lancaster Avenue
St. David's, PA 19087

"If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals."
Corral of Comfort: Privately owned and operated.
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