What it’s like to watch horses being slaughtered

Posted on the 4th October 2021

People often ask the Campaigns Team at Animal Aid what it is like to watch slaughter footage. It's sickening - but it is only bearable because we know that we can do something about it.

Please, please sign the petition at the bottom of this page - and please try to persuade at least five other people to sign it. If we can get 100,000 signatures, then we could trigger a government debate - and hopefully start the process of bringing this horror to an end.

It’s night-time when a truck arrives at Drury & Sons in Wiltshire. The ramp at the back of the truck is lowered, and our cameras capture the first grainy images of horses skittering down the ramp into the lairage. This shed is where they will spend the last night of their lives.

The gates are closed with a clang, the lights go out, the lorry leaves, and we wait – listening to the rustle of the hay, the occasional whinny, but mostly the silence.

The workers and government vets arrive early the following day, coming and going, switching on lights. Business as usual. The horses watch. Eventually, the slaughterer arrives, and, one by one, the horses are taken into the kill room. Every so often a shot rings out. Many of the horses are scared by the sound, as well as by the metallic clanking that dominates the atmosphere.

In the kill room one of our other cameras records the last moments of each horse – being led into the room, circled into position. The slaughterer holds the halter with one hand, mounts his gun onto his shoulder and aims at the middle of the horses’ head. You want to close your eyes. Instead, you clench your fists and force yourself to watch.

Most collapse sideways in a sea of blood, urine and faeces, their bodies convulsing and shuddering violently until the last moments of life leave their bodies and they become motionless, eyes staring blankly, mouths lolling.

The metallic clanking that we could hear comes from the shackles that are secured around the back legs of each victim as they are winched from the kill room into the butchery.  Another camera transmits the work of the butchers, business-like as they ‘stick’ the throats and then remove the head of each horse. The legs are sawn off, the skin peeled away.  There is so much blood. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

Back in the lairage, the number of remaining horses is going down rapidly. Anxiety builds as the last few horses watch their companions depart, and not come back. On the occasions we filmed there, it was not uncommon to see the last remaining horse become more and more terrified – wide eyes, flaring nostrils, vocalising – they can smell the blood.

We continue to watch, rewind, make notes, count the numbers being killed, look for patterns, look for clues. It’s heart-breaking, and you feel utterly and completely powerless to help.

No animal should ever have to face slaughter.

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