A look into the disturbing fate of retired racing horses, and the people who try to save them.
About the Episode
Bucky B Lucky is the grandson of Seattle Slew and a winning racehorse himself. The four-year-old thoroughbred is recovering at a rescue facility in Monroe – after being saved by horse lovers, who spotted him at an Enumclaw livestock auction, where he had just been sold to a meat buyer, and was on his way to a slaughterhouse in Canada to be killed for human consumption in Japan or Europe.
So how does a racehorse go from the winner‟s circle at Emerald Downs to an overseas dinner table? In this episode of "KCTS 9 Connects," we examine the disturbing practices of the horse racing world, where after an animal loses its speed and youth, it is simply sold to the highest bidder – often a slaughterhouse.
A Horse of a Different... Flavor?
John Steinbeck once said, "It is in the things not mentioned that the untruth lies." In other words, when you don't admit something, it's pretty much the same as lying.
I thought of this quote when we first found out about Bucky B. Lucky, a thoroughbred racehorse rescued by some good samaritans. Bucky, a former champion who raced at Emerald Downs in Auburn and a descendent of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, was headed for the slaughterhouse and eventual sale for human consumption -- that's right, I said HUMAN consumption -- in Canada, Japan or Europe.
Okay, aside from the fact that I didn't know that they regularly eat horses in Canada, Japan and Europe, what I really didn't know is that racehorses from Emerald Downs and tracks around the country are sold for slaughter and consumption after their careers. I assumed they were "put out to pasture," so to speak - retired to live their lives comfortably on a farm, or perhaps giving pre-schoolers a ride around the stable.
But no. Turns out, racehorses do regularly end up on the dinner table. Keep in mind, a racehorse's career ends when it's about 3 or 4 years old. Horses generally live to be about 20. This would be like executing an 11 year old child because they weren't useful anymore. And then eating them. Bon appetit.
What's most bothersome about this story to me isn't that the horses are sold for slaughter. Despite this country's affinity for horses (exemplified by stories such as “My Friend Flicka” and “Black Beauty”), as animals go, horses don't quite hold the same sanctified status as dogs or cats, which are generally only put down for humane reasons and we wouldn’t dream of eating them. Like it or not, though, horses fall somewhere closer to cows, pigs and deer on the “Would-I-Eat-It?” scale.
No, what bothers me is that this is the sort of “dirty little secret” of horse racing. Not that I expect them to post a sign at Emerald Downs saying, "Be aware, some horses will be slaughtered and eaten after this race." But it shouldn't be a de-facto secret. It's true that no-one at Emerald Downs will deny it happens. But it’s not exactly common knowledge until a grandson of Seattle Slew almost becomes Seattle Stew.
Whether you think of horses as pets or livestock, riding companions or racing fodder, furry friends or food -- you deserve to know the truth. Full disclosure. It shouldn't be a "thing not mentioned."
Ethan Morris, Senior Producer