A first-hand account of horses being transported across Europe to slaughter


World Horse Welfare's Senior Media Officer Carys Samuel describes witnessing horses being transported across Europe to slaughter

Campaigns leg 3

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At the first control post in Redics, Hungary, we spent some time talking with the owner. He was clearly striving to make the facility as pleasant a place as possible for the horses and cattle who passed through its gates. As he showed us his paperwork, a lorry-load of horses arrived.

Some were snorting and blowing, obviously wondering where they had arrived; some were pawing agitatedly at the sides of the truck; others – possibly the most upsetting – were simply standing still. I think these ones were the most upsetting to see. Their dull eyes gazed out of the narrow slats, not seeming to care or take interest in where they were – quite unlike any horse arriving at a new place that I’d ever seen before.

All the horses hungrily ate the hay which was pushed through the sides of the lorry but instead of a happy, contented munching it just felt like they were eating purely out of necessity. I can’t imagine how standing up on a moving truck for hours at a time drains every ounce of energy and life they may have once possessed.

After they’d finished feeding, the engine started up and they were off – facing another eight hours on the road before arriving at their next stop.

That next stop turned out to be the control post at Prosecco in Italy, which we visited around 24 hours later ourselves.

I’m not any kind of an expert in horse behaviour but on that day I saw so many strange and unsettling behaviours being exhibited. Horses desperately shifting from foot to foot trying to get comfortable; horses lying down with their heads tied awkwardly above them because they were so exhausted and in need of rest; horses frantically pawing at the wall and water trough in front of them or licking the concrete blocks; and so many just shut down, glassy-eyed and seemingly oblivious to their surroundings.

None of these things are normal for horses. Being loaded onto a lorry and travelling for hours at a time with little or no chance to rest, feed and drink is not normal. Thankfully we no longer see the horrendous injuries and distressing, dramatic scenes of horses trampling each other because they have nowhere else to stand but this more subtle – and in some cases invisible – suffering is equally unacceptable.

So many remarkable and impactful changes have already been achieved through the tireless hard work and support of every single person who has played a role in our campaign. Now we look towards the next steps in our journey to put an end to this suffering for good.

Together we will reach our goal of stopping the long distance transport of horses to slaughter by 2027 – but we cannot do it without you.

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