Exposing 'Kill Buyers' Who Feed the Horse Slaughter Pipeline

Two high profile cases this month involving "kill buyers," who buy horses at auction to send them to slaughter, have brought the bloody, predatory business of horse slaughter out into the light of day. They've also shown the kill buyer for what he truly is – the worst enemy of horses in the United States today.

Every year, kill buyers funnel more than 100,000 American horses – working, racing, and companion horses, and even children's ponies – into the horse meat trade, going from auction to auction and gathering up young and healthy horses for slaughter for human consumption, often misrepresenting their intentions in the process.

Most horse owners who take an animal to an auction are unaware that their horse could die in a day or two with a sharp-throat-cutting exercise or a shot to the head. But at auctions all around the country, kill buyers bid against legitimate horse owners and horse rescuers, just so they can make a fast buck.

In fact, some kill buyers outbid rescues, only to resell them the horses-often for a lot more money.

Kill buyers and other key players in the horse slaughter industry trot out the notion that they are somehow "helping" horses by sending them off to slaughter, but there is nothing noble about their enterprise. Horses are dragged and whipped into trucks and endure long journeys without food, water, or rest. Many die or sustain injuries during transport, including broken legs and punctured eyes. The idea of providing veterinary care to an animal about to be slaughtered is unthinkable to these profiteers.

Take, for example, Dorian Ayache, a well-known kill buyer who was responsible for the deaths of several horses after causing two major accidents while transporting horses to slaughter. He reloaded the surviving and injured horses onto his trailer and proceeded to take them across the border to Mexico, where authorities rejected several due to their severe injuries. Ayache's operation was shut down by federal authorities, but he continued transporting horses under another company name. He was eventually charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States government, for knowingly violating transport safety regulations, and for tampering with evidence. After Ayache pled guilty to a mere violation of a safety regulation, a federal court sentenced him to three months in prison, a $5,000 fine, and prohibited him from further commercial interstate transportation activities.

Ironically, horse slaughter advocates say that their enterprise prevents people from starving and abandoning horses that they don't want. But it's actually the kill buyers who routinely abandon horses, especially at the border when they are rejected for slaughter. They are also responsible for terrible cases of neglect. In a Kentucky case that the investigating animal control officer called "the worst case of animal cruelty I've seen," law enforcement found dozens of emaciated and dead horses on a kill buyer's property. Larry Browning was charged with 14 counts of animal cruelty and 49 counts of failure to dispose of a carcass within 48 hours. But earlier this month, County Attorney Jeff Dean struck a plea deal. Despite the overwhelming evidence of criminal animal cruelty, the county attorney decided to drop the cruelty charges – a great miscarriage of justice, considering that Brown had been investigated twice before by Animals' Angels and found to have horses in very poor condition.

Browning and Ayache aren't the only two kill buyers to have been recently exposed. In Mississippi, authorities discovered over 150 dead and emaciated horses; it was revealed that the kill buyer also has a criminal history of livestock larceny. And in South Carolina, authorities found dead and emaciated horses on the properties of two alleged kill buyers. One was also being investigated after a video was posted online, showing him beating his girlfriend's dog.

These are just the latest examples showing that the entire horse slaughter pipeline is nothing but misery for the horses caught up in what is essentially a predatory enterprise. Frankly, I'm astonished that anyone could believe the propaganda that these kill buyers are helping horses. The only solution to protect horses from slaughter is federal legislation that will prevent horse slaughter plants from opening in the United States and stop the export of horses abroad for slaughter. Please take action today and urge your members of Congress to pass this legislation to end horse slaughter once and for all. And please join us in our work to secure more safe homes for horses and more protections for horses from the cruelties that threaten them.