Many failed or older racehorses will be destined for slaughter, and may go to local knackeries — to be used for pet meat, for example — or be purchased for slaughter at the two horse abattoirs in Australia (Peterborough in SA and Caboolture in QLD). Approximately 2,000 tonnes of horse meat is exported from Australia for human consumption in Japan and Europe annually (ABS figures). Over 25,000 horses per year are killed in this way in Australia.
The long-distance transport of horses to slaughter for human consumption is not well monitored or regulated. Travel is usually stressful for horses, and research shows that even travel of 6 hours causes suppression of the immune system (an indicator of welfare problems). Horses may be transported for several days to Australia’s two export slaughterhouses.
Some horses considered unwanted (‘wastage’) by the racing industry will be sold on for riding, eventing or other uses, but the majority will not be wanted and are likely to be sent for slaughter, either directly through auctions or ‘eventually’ when they have no further use.
It is difficult to estimate the portion of those horses slaughtered that are from the racing industries. However, given the large number of foals born for racing each year, the high attrition rate in the industry, and the high consistency of the number of horses in the racing and breeding sectors of the industry, that portion is likely to be significant. A study by Doughty (2008) found that 52.9% of horses studied at one Australian export abattoir carried brands indicating they were of racing origin and a further portion fitted the breed specifications for racing horses, but had no brand (i.e. perhaps they were discarded before being registered to race). [Ref. Access to the Doughty (2008) and Hayek (2005) studies at http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-is-horse-wastage-in-the-racehorse-industry_235.html]