S2 E8: Susan Wagner: Stop Sending Our Horses to The Slaughterhouse

Susan Wagner is a hero to horses everywhere. She is the President and founder of Equine Advocates, a horse rescue in Chatham New York. They rescue horses from horrifically abusive situations and have saved hundreds that were literally en route to the slaughterhouse. For decades, they have been an enormous force in the fight against horse slaughter.

 We don’t slaughter horses on American soil anymore – the last horse slaughter plant closed in 2007, instead we send 100,000 horses a year to horrific deaths in Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses. The horses are from every industry, including: quarter horses, racehorses, draft and plow horses, summer camp horses, wild mustangs, and even backyard pets – the slaughter pipeline doesn’t discriminate. It’s gruesome, terrifying, and way too popular.

 The horses are sent to auction by their owners and are placed in filthy, over crowded pens with a ton of other horses - many of whom are sick and injured. From there, many are purchased by kill buyers – who are specifically at the auctions to fill their trucks with enough horses to head either directly to the slaughter plants or they’ll take them to a feed lot to fatten them up pre-slaughter and then transport them to the Mexican and Canadian plants. The horses can spend up to 30 or 35 hours on these trucks, packed in without food or water.

Once they arrive at the slaughter plant, they are soon after stunned and then killed. The process is cruel and often the stunning doesn’t work because the horses are afraid and duck and dart their heads so that the guns miss them, so a few moments later when they are hung by their back leg and have their throats slashed, they are still totally conscious.

It is a barbaric and cruel industry – so horrible that we don’t allow it in the US yet somehow, we are totally fine with shipping tens of thousands of our horses over the borders to go through these agonizing miserable deaths.

 Susan founded Equine Advocates in the 90s, after having spent 15 years working for the racetrack. During her time at the track, she had no idea that the slaughter industry even existed – neither did many other people back then, it was a secretive world and that unless you were directly involved it was a complete unknown. It wasn’t until she left the racing world and got a job at the NY zoological society that she learned that we slaughter horses that was the moment that she changed everything.

 She started Equine Advocates from her apartment in Queens in 1996, rescuing and saving abused and slaughter bound horses while working to change laws and policy all over the US.

In 2004 Equine Advocates established a 140 acre sanctuary in Chatam, NY. There are 82 horses who have permanent homes at the sanctuary, most of them came from horrifically abusive situations, or were on their way to the slaughterhouse or both.  It’s like they all won the lottery – they live safely, in beautiful surroundings, with everything they need – including a ton of love.

The lucky horses that have made it to Equine Advocates come from every industry including the horrible world of PMU. PMU horses are horses used to make Premarin – a hormone replacement drug made by Pfizer that women have been taking since the 1940s for menopause. It was discovered years ago that it causes cancer and a whole lot of other terrible things, but there’s still a huge market for it. In order to make it, horses are kept pregnant kept in tiny confined stalls with concrete floors. It’s a living hell – they can’t move or lie down, they can’t do anything except eat, drink and urinate. Their urine is captured to make the drug. Shortly after the horses give birth, the babies are taken away from them soon after so that they can be impregnated again and produce more of the drug. The foals are either brought to feed lots, fattened up, and slaughtered or they become Premarin horses. It’s a bizzaro, unnecessary, and horrible business, but it seems, if there’s a market for it big drug companies don’t have a problem with all the abuse behind it.

I think a lot of women still don’t know what’s involved in this drug. Susan has rescued a ton of PMU horses and their off spring and has also been a big opponent of the Premarin industry. Actually, anywhere that horses are being abused or sent to slaughter, Susan is out there fighting.