Horse meat scandal highlights hidden industry closer to home.

Out of sight and out of mind for most people, thousands of horses are slaughtered in Australian abattoirs and knackeries each year – with many exported for human consumption.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated October 13, 2023

Recent revelations of horse meat being mislabelled as ‘beef’ in Europe have cast a spotlight here on an industry few Australians ever hear about.

A young racehorse injures his knee while training; a brood mare stops turning out ‘winners’; a sweet young filly can’t keep up on the track – their fates are all but sealed.

For thousands of horses exiting the Australian racing industry every year, there are two likely scenarios: pet food or human food.

With the majority of Australians repulsed by the thought of eating horse meat, those horses slaughtered in Australia for human consumption supply an export market to countries throughout Europe and Asia. Behind the glamour of the races is the reality that many more horses are bred than can actually race and win. In the pursuit of prize money, racehorses are treated as disposable.

The racing industry calls this ‘wastage’. See for yourself below.

Video source: The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

While there is no evidence to suggest that Australia has been caught up in the current horse-for-beef scandal gripping Europe, the fact that Australia kills horses and exports their meat is news to many people. These revelations have not only sparked debate about the killing of horses in our own country, but have also challenged many to consider important questions about how we see animals.

The fact that most Australians find the idea of eating horses distressing is understandable. Horses are intelligent, sensitive and social animals. But why, as a society, do we have such a different reaction to the idea of eating cows – who are just as intelligent and who are also capable of feeling joy and fear?

Why does our society tend to see horses as friends, yet cows as food? Where do these beliefs come from? If you’ve ever wondered how we form our values about animals, or if you want to help create a kinder world for all animals, then this video by psychologist and animal advocate Melanie Joy is a must-watch.

Shape a kinder world – for all animals

Find out more about lots of ways you can make kinder choices for animals with our free magazine, Join the Evolution.