The slaughter of horses for meat is a hot button issue that we’ve talked about on several occasions. I believe that animals raised as companions should not end up in commercial slaughter facilities. We don’t send our unwanted dogs and cats to slaughter and sell their meat abroad; our horses should be immune to that fate as well.
In debates like these it is easy to lose track of the personal stories involved. I ran across one in the spring 2013 issue of the AWI Quarterly (Full disclosure. I used to work for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI)). The piece is written by Brittany Wallace a seventeen year old high school junior and student at Cape Cod Community College. She lives in Harwich, MA, where she keeps company with eight horses (four of them rescues) at her family’s Memory Lane Farm. She recently spoke at a press conference with AWI and several members of Congress. Here’s her story.
Imagine finding your beloved horse on Facebook, in a kill pen bleeding to death with a severed artery, when you thought she was safe and happy in a loving home. That’s what happened to me, Brittany Wallace, on the morning of November 13, 2012, right after my dog Kona had died of kidney failure. My parents bought Scribbles for me when I was nine years old—the same day they bought our dog Kona. During the five years Scribbles and I were together, we were inseparable. We did everything together as a team.
The point came, though, when I outgrew her as a rider. All I wanted was for Scribbles to be happy. She is a strong-willed mare, with an unending amount of talent. I could have pushed her a lot farther, but she would not have been happy doing it. So we put her up for sale, figuring that if something came along that felt just right then we would do it, but we always wanted to be part of where Scribbles went.
It turns out that the woman who sold us a huge Belgian Warmblood named Maybe (another horse I grew to love) was interested in taking Scribbles. We had turned down many people who wanted to buy Scribbles because it didn’t feel right, but this seemed to be a perfect situation, almost too good to be true. Scribbles would be used as a beginner western riding lesson and pony camp horse. I was allowed to come ride her and visit whenever I liked—which I did often in the early months after we parted.
Then a day came when I went to see her and she had vanished. They say she was sold to a loving home. When we sold her, we had a written right of first refusal agreement should Scribbles ever be sold again. We were not given that right; if we had, we would have taken her back. We continuously asked for names, numbers and farm names, but nothing was provided—always an excuse.
On that November morning, I was on Facebook. It was a tragic day already, with the death of my dog. I was doing research for a thesis paper I was writing for school on how I thought horse slaughter should be outlawed, to keep my mind off Kona. As I scrolled through Facebook I saw a picture that a transporter we knew with connections to horse auctions shared of an injured horse in urgent need of help. This horse was in a kill pen at New Holland auction in Pennsylvania, ready to be shipped to slaughter with a severed artery. In the pictures, all I saw was pools of blood surrounding the horse’s leg. Kelly Smith from Omega Horse Rescue was there and noticed the injured horse. She quickly pulled her from the pen and got her medical attention. I scrolled through the pictures thinking how awful this was, and how could anyone do this to a horse. Then I saw a picture of the horse’s face. That’s when I knew that was Scribbles, my first horse who I was told was in a loving home.
When I called up the transporter and told her that this was my horse Scribbles, she assured me that it was not her—for there are many bay mares at these auctions and the possibilities were slim to none. I remembered that Scribbles had a distinct scar under her tail and asked if she or Kelly could look. Sure enough, the scar was there. We spoke with Kelly, and arranged to take her home, but first Scribbles had to spend a month at Omega, healing from her injury. Kelly was amazing; she updated us with many pictures and phone calls on how she was doing.
Then the day came to go get her. It was late at night on December 13. It was below freezing out. I walked into the barn and the beauty in Scribbles' eyes took my breath away. Kelly had her all sparkled up, and had red bows on her just like a little girl’s dream Christmas present. The tears never stopped. Words can’t describe the magic in that barn. When I was little I taught Scribbles how to bow. I asked her to bow to show Kelly, and she continuously bowed down to us as if to say thank you. She remembered me. She knew her family had come back for her. Scribbles jumped up onto the familiar trailer to take our long ride home from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts.
As much as I’d like to say this is the end, it’s not. Scribbles was and still is a perfectly good horse, with no issues. She was wanted just like every other horse out there. It isn’t fair we do this to these animals. Horse slaughter is going on right now to horses just like Scribbles. It could be your horse. I will not stop until every horse is given the chance to live, and avoid the tragic fate of slaughter. I hope you won’t either.
Reprinted with permission of the Animal Welfare Institute
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Images: Brittany Wallace and Scribbles