Written by: Heather Clemenceau
How many times have we seen the picture below depicted as gruesome evidence of horse (and foal) slaughter? I’ve no doubt that many people have been disturbed or reduced to tears by what it depicts, a dead mare and foal on a cold floor, seemingly devoid of any sort of compassion in their final moments. Ever since I first saw the picture, I wondered what was happening – was it a picture of a slaughter operation? If so, it seemed to be uncharacteristic in many ways from what we’ve seen elsewhere and know about slaughter, stunning and evisceration.
Google and Tin Eye’s reverse image search engine are great tools that can be used to find the date that any image first appeared on the internet. This image first appeared on a Polish website in 2011, and has been copied on many social media channels since then. Because the entire site is in Polish, and the video in question no longer seems to work, I wouldn’t advise visiting it because I don’t know if there’s anything malicious about the website itself in terms of viruses or harmful codes. But if you want to view the original video that has been recently copied to Youtube, you can see it here [graphic and disturbing].
But back to my search for the truth behind the image…….The following may be hard for many to read so proceed with caution…
I shared this picture with a veterinarian and asked that person to comment on what they saw. Because this image was captured in a foreign country we can’t be absolutely certain what we’re looking at, but our veterinarian found the image to be inconsistent with a slaughter operation and more likely to be an example of a necropsy or possibly an effort at an emergency caesarian.
Horses are generally stunned in a chute, then hoisted with one rear leg and hung from the line where they are bled out. They then travel along the line where they reach the evisceration area. As many of us have seen from the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition youtube videos, it’s a brutal operation where horses are left bloody and covered in excrement and urine.
In this screen cap, there’s no chute, the mare has not been hung and is instead shackled. She is still wearing a halter, which in a slaughter operation would have been long removed. There is a channel in the floor for removing bodily fluids. There is no evidence that the mare’s throat was slit and no evidence that she was bled out. We don’t know how she died, whether her death was natural or sudden in a large animal clinic, or whether she was euthanized with barbiturates.
We know mares and foals are dying in feedlots and slaugherhouses in real life in Canada. Through Access-To-Information requests, the CHDC has publicized evidence that pregnant mares are being shipped to slaughter, sometimes delivering in trailers or in the actual slaughterhouse itself (both are issues of non-compliance and/or violations of Canada’s Health of Animals Regulations). We know mares are enduring transport in late stage pregnancy and giving birth to their foals in these places of death. We don’t really know the context in this sad photo, but the above clues suggest (but don’t confirm) that this is not a photo of a horse being slaughtered for food. At least this is what I am going to choose to believe based on my conversation with a veterinarian who is familiar with commercial slaughter operations. Despite all the evidence of cruelty toward horses already available and assaulting us every day, I want to believe that this is one less example.