Sunday, December 4, 2011

Solutions Instead of Slaughter: Euthanasia

This is a hard post to write. There comes a time that a loving, dignified death free of fear may be the best option for your beloved horse.  This is NOT transportation in a crowded truck to a death plant with the sounds and scents of a thousand terrified horses.  However, euthanasia can provide one of the solutions for slaughter. 

It was a surprise to discover that the meaning of Euthanasia is from the Greek εὐθανασία meaning "good death": εὖ, eu (well or good) + θάνατος, thanatos (death) refers to the practice of ending a life in a manner that relieves pain and suffering (from Wikipedia). Could there be such a thing as a "good death"? When might the carefully thought out, intentional ending of life be an act of mercy?   How could choosing death ever be a preferred option for our dear horses? Let me volunteer my sweet Lyra as an actual horse who may someday be a candidate for euthanasia.
Some folks would have you think that slaughter is a merciful solution.

The primary instrument of death for horses in Mexican slaughter houses is the 
knife. They are stabbed in the neck until they die. In Canadian slaugther houses
and formerly in American slaughter houses is exsanguination.  The horse is bled 
out. Prior to having their necks cut, they are stunned with a captive bolt gun.  
They are stunned, NOT DEAD when they are bled out.  

Some people would like you to believe that this is a compassionate and painless 
death for your equine partner.  Ask yourselves, what is it like trying to worm your 
horses or put medication in their eyes (thanks Becky for this question). Even the 
most well-trained horse will often attempt to evade such an intrusion into their 
space. They will move and throw off your aim. When the aim of a captive bolt gun
in not accurate, the liklihood of an animal retaining or regaining partial 
consciousness increases. Please view this short video from Veternarians for Equine 
Welfare, it shows a horse struggling in the kill pen (the horse is not stunned in 
this brief footage) Click Here.

In their "Procedures for Humane Euthansia", written as a guide for those who must
perform euthanasia with the assistance of a veterinarian, Drs. J.K. Shearer and 
Paul Nicolette caution that a disadvantage of using the penetrating captive bolt 
gun is that "Death may not occur unless followed by exsanguination. 
The operator must be close to the animal and have it adequately restrained
 in order to get proper placement of the captive bolt. The penetrating 
captive bolt should not be fired when the animal is moving its head."  
This advice is directed at the relatively contained situation of ending an animal's 
life in an agricultural setting, not in the chaotic, overwhelming environment of 
the slaughter house.

The death found at
the end of the 
slaughter pipeline
is not one that I 
will ever choose
for any of my 

This means that if, for any reason, I part with Red, Autumn, or Lyra I will 
need to be extremely certain that they safe, sound, sane, and capable of 
doing their jobs as horses. I need to carefully screen prospective buyers 
and keep track of what happens after purchase or rehoming. This might 
work for Red and Autumn. But what about Lyra, my senior TB mare?

Lyra came from a local rescue. She has been starved twice. I bought her 
because she proved to be "too much" for her intended rider. She is 
extremely sensitive and reactive.  She cannot tolerate being in a stall. 
She paces in a small paddock and will lose weight if contained in one.
In winter I struggle to maintain her weight. She is a hard horse for most
people to love and a harder horse to keep. I despise the Craigs List adds
for older horses. I will never do that to her. There is no way I will ever 
part with her. So?  

I will provide for her because I am responsible for her.  When the time 
comes, I will turn to euthanasia. I promise her "a good death".

If readers have doubts about what the horse experiences when stunned by a
bolt gun, here is "bird's eye" footage of what happens in the stun box.  This
was filmed on July 13 - 14, 2011 in a  Canadian "regulated" slaughter 
facility.  It is beyond appalling.  Thank you "Golden Days" for including this
in your blog post.  This link takes you to "Pasture to Plate", the investagive
findings by the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition.  In the report you will
find a second-to-second analytical review of the last moments of each horse's
life in the stun box.


Cheryl Ann said...

Once again, THANK YOU for your post on slaughter. Yes, that is an option for ending a horse's life WITHOUT the fear and agony of slaughter. I have written to my family and instructed them that when the time comes, my horses are to be peacefully laid to rest and NEVER to be allowed to go to an auction and enter the slaughter pipeline OR I WILL COME BACK AND HAUNT THEM ALL!!! PERIOD. For me, too, there is NO negotiating on this issue! Thank you again!

Cheryl Ann said...

And, yes, a good death is preferable to one of terror and panic. Even if it costs the owner $250 or more, it is worth it for the animals WE LOVE!