Australian Government figures state that 30,000 – 40,000 horses are slaughtered each year in Australia. On this page you will find an overview of horse slaughter in Australia, including links to sources of more information. Please be aware that the nature of the information on this page is such that it may be distressing for some.
Australian horse slaughter is a multi-million dollar industry, composed of the following:
- Two abattoirs that slaughter an estimated 700 horses a month between them (which equals 8,400 in a calendar year). The meat is exported for human consumption in a number of countries, including Russia, France, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Singapore and Japan.
- Thirty three knackeries that slaughter somewhere in the range of 22,000 – 32,000 horses a year for pet food, meat meal, tallow, hair, hides and other products. Some of these are sold domestically and some are exported.
- One butcher in WA was granted a special license in July 2010 to sell horse meat for human consumption within Australia by the Western Australian state Minister for Agriculture and Food, Terry Redman of the National Party. The butcher has stated in the media that he slaughters 20 horses a year, and is currently selling the meat to other states and territories of Australia.
It is estimated that there are around 1.2 million horses in Australia. 30,000 – 40,000 horses thereby makes up an estimated 2.5 – 3.33% of the Australian horse population slaughtered annually.
Latest News and Current Issues
- Horse meat for human consumption in Australia was approved by the current WA state government (Liberal/National Coalition) ~ The Western Australian state election (March 9th, 2013) held the most likely chance of the special license to a single butcher being overturned, however there was not a change of government. (Members of the opposition, the ALP, were present at a protest held in 2010, you can read about it here in our archives)
- There is speculation that the horse meat scandal in Europe may affect Australian horse meat exports. Article published in the Courier Mail Feb 2013: “Australian slaughterhouses face uncertain future if European horse meat scandal reins in exports” *warning contains details of horse slaughter that some may find distressing*
- Conditions at an Australian knackery: Dec 2012 ~ Animals Australia page “Help stop horse abuse at Laverton Knackery” ** warning contains graphic details** Link to newspaper article.
- RSPCA has recently renewed calls for CCTV in all abattoirs (for all types of animals slaughtered) – Link to RSPCA Australia media release
What sort of horses end up being slaughtered?
A study from 2008 into horses at an Australian abattoir included some limited information on breeds. (Doughty, 2008 – see link in “Sources” below)
The study found:
- 40% of the horses in the study had thoroughbred racing brands
- 12.9% of the horses in the study had standardbred racing brands
- An estimated 10% of horses slaughtered in abattoirs were brumbies (although other sources, including RIRDC, have published estimates of 20%)
- This leaves a remainder of between 27.1 – 37.1% of horses slaughtered estimated to be from other domestic sources, including pleasure, performance, station bred, working horses and potentially some thoroughbreds and standardbreds that were not branded.
How old are the horses?
The export abattoirs require a certain standard of meat quality, and so prefer young healthy horses in good body condition. Knackeries, by contrast, can “process” horses, ponies, donkeys and other equines that are aged, sick, neglected, etc, as well as healthy ones. Grey horses, for example, are not slaughtered in abattoirs due to the health risks of malignant melanomas, so if a grey horse is slaughtered it will be in a knackery.
The same study as above (Doughty, 2008) found that in an export abattoir:
- 59.8% of the horses were aged 7 or under
- 40.2% were over the age of 7 (of which only around 4.5% were over the age of 15)
- (Of the horses they found with brands, 60.9% of the thoroughbreds and 55.8% of the standardbreds were aged 7 or under.)
Is the number of horses slaughtered for export going up or down?
The number of equines slaughtered for the export market has been decreasing consistently over the past 25-30 years. Figures quoted below for 1987 – 2007 are from Doughty, 2008 (See “Sources” below for link).
1987 – 59,921 horses (exact figure from AQIS)
1997 – 29,277 equines (estimated as exact figure not legally available)
2007 – 11,415 equines (estimated as exact figure not legally available)
Current figures from Courier Mail article published Feb 2013:
2013 – 8,400 horses (700 per month)
Sources and Further Reading:
- “An epidemiological survey of the dentition and foot condition of slaughtered horses in Australia” by Amanda Doughty, June 2008. Research undertaken at the University of Qld. To download a copy of the report visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase website at this link and scroll down to “Doughty 2008 Slaughter horses.pdf (1.26 mb)” ** Warning, Doughty report contains photos taken during the horse slaughter process in an abattoir **
- “Horse Slaughter in Australia” by Geraldine Chapman, published on Eques in Feb 2008.
- “Australian slaughterhouses face uncertain future if European horse meat scandal reins in exports” published Feb 2013 in the Courier Mail.
- Quest Equine Welfare have several relevant articles written by Jane Duckworth available for download on their website, including “Unwanted: The Disposable Horse” (Aug 2010) and “Horses for main courses?” (Jan 2011)
- Other relevant articles on the Quest Equine Welfare site include a one page flyer on overbreeding and slaughter that you can print out and post up to raise awareness about these issues and also an article called “‘Saving’ Equines from the Meat Buyer – a fallacy?” which discusses horse slaughter and how it relates to overbreeding, neglect and other related issues from their perspective.
- There are multiple organisations that take in horses bound for slaughter and rehome them. Whatever your opinion on this, their stories are certainly worth seeking out as the range of horses that end up in this situation may be truly eye opening. If this is something that interests you please take a look at the Directory page to find organisations sharing such stories.
- The campaign against the sale of horse meat for human consumption within Australia has a website and Facebook page, however we need to include a *WARNING* that these contain multiple, graphic images of horse slaughter on just about every page. The website is at this link and the Facebook page at this link
- Animals Australia have multiple relevant pages ~ “Horse meat scandal highlights hidden industry closer to home”, “Wastage” and “Help stop horse abuse at Laverton Knackery” *warning contains potentially distressing content, including video of horse slaughter*
- The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses obtained the undercover footage at Laverton Knackery. They have a website, which also contains details, images and videos of horse slaughter which requires a *warning* for distressing content. It is horseracingkills.com.
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