Minister for Rural Affairs held to account over horse slaughter

Posted on the 31st October 2023

Animal Aid has challenged the government’s Minister for Rural Affairs, Lord Benyon, to watch our undercover horse slaughter footage, after we received a copy of a letter that the Minister sent to an MP stating: ‘Provided the animal is fit to transport and the journey time is not excessive, slaughter in an approved abattoir is a humane option for some horses, especially where a horse owner cannot afford euthanasia of their horse by a vet.’

Benyon’s letter was referring to Animal Aid’s exposé of the slaughter of horses –including horses from the racing industry – for their meat. Our footage was featured exclusively on a 2021 BBC Panorama programme entitled The Dark Side of Horse Racing, which showed former top race horse Vyta Du Roc awaiting slaughter at an abattoir in England. It shook the racing industry to the core, but instead of taking responsibility, the industry reacted by passing the blame elsewhere.

Animal Aid’s members have been writing to their MPs about the issue, urging the government to intervene. However, it seems that the government is content to cite the racing industry’s self-promoting rhetoric, which sugar-coats unpalatable truths about the commodification and cruelty shown to race horses.

In his letter, Benyon refers to the racing industry’s self-appointed, ineffectual Horse Welfare Board, stating: ‘I understand the Board disputes some of the claims by Animal Aid with regard to the number of British racehorses being sent to slaughter in GB. The Board believes that actually only four racehorses that have been actively involved in racing in the previous four years were sent to abattoirs in GB in 2022. Of these, only one has been training in GB.’

Animal Aid’s Director has responded to Lord Benyon with the facts about horse slaughter: ‘Regardless of what the Board “believes”, data from the Food Standards Agency show that 144 horses from the racing industry, registered with Weatherbys passports, were killed in a UK abattoir in 2022. I don’t think it mattered to the horses one bit whether they were actively involved in racing or not, when they were slaughtered for their meat. As you will see, the 2023 figures show that horses with Weatherbys passports continue to end up at slaughterhouses.

The breeding of race horses is unregulated, the result of which is that surplus, unwanted horses, some as young as two years, can face a very grim future. It is utterly shocking that the government is content to sit back and allow race horses, deemed to be of no financial value, to be sent for slaughter by an industry which puts profit before welfare.

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