Horses have not been killed in the U.S. for human consumption since 2007, when Congress withdrew funding for slaughterhouse inspectors. But the slaughter pipeline that begins in places such as Shipshewana now ends in rendering plants at Richelieu, Quebec, and Jerez, Mexico. Last year more than 150,000 American horses were shipped across the border to be killed for meat. Progress has been made, however - this year, the European Union banned imports of horse meat from Mexico, a prohibition long sought by Animals' Angels, which had presented evidence of abuse in Mexican slaughterhouses to EU officials.
Lambright's signs haven't discouraged the couple, who are on the auction grounds for the Good Friday sale. Keith, a retired naval intelligence officer, roams the catwalk, surreptitiously filming the action below. Dressed in a camouflage Bass Pro Shops baseball cap, a Carhartt jacket, jeans, and Timberland shoes, he blends in perfectly with the rural Hoosiers. Sonja, a lawyer who immigrated to the United States from Germany, walks through the pens, pointing out improvements since the last time the couple visited Shipshewana.
"This is better," she says, nodding at aluminum tubs in the barn where the auctioned-off kill horses are penned until they can be loaded onto trucks. "They have water for the horses now. I don't think the pens are so bad, either. The horses aren't crowded. When we first started going here, they put all the horses in one pen, so there was a lot of kicking and fighting and biting."
Nearby, a sweaty, frightened horse rushes a fence, as though judging whether he can jump to freedom. Out of the auctioneer's sight, Sonja begins "flipping lips." Whenever she spots a horse that looks like a Thoroughbred, she inspects its gums for an identifying tattoo.