Friday, October 8, 2010

Another Day in a Country Knackery

I think to myself “Am I crazy?” My boss has given me the day off work for R&R because he thinks I’m stressed. He’s right; I am stressed, but mostly my own doing. I sit inside the company car I borrowed ready to make the 4 hour drive; I better call ahead and make sure someone will be there. He answers the mobile number I have dialled, he seems nice enough. I lie and tell him I have a sick horse that I need shot and that I want to come down and check out his facilities, I don’t want my horse to suffer. He assures me that it won’t suffer and will be the first killed on the day, he hesitates but after some chit chat he allows me to meet him at 1pm. I better get moving. I ask my self “Am I crazy?”

The drive is long, but I arrive at the gate of another country knackery, only this time I’m in central Victoria. I remember the words Tegan once said to me “harden up princess” but today would be different, it's not kill day. I get out of my car, the air feels hot but the smell of death is present. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be, but it’s an unforgettable smell, distinct, one that I’ll never forget. The holding pens are not far from the road and the slaughter house is on the other side, just a small tin shed. I was surprised at the amount of horses in the yards, maybe 6 all together. It’s a small country knackery only really servicing the local area, processing fresh pet food for the local grey hound trainers. I walk up the driveway to where the holding pens are and see 2 beautiful QH’s, they are amazing, fat and seem healthy, both geldings. The pens are filled with mud and I think to myself “are they always like this”, “is it from rain, or just a lot of waste”. The horses seem scared and won’t come anywhere near me.

I turn to walk over to the slaughter house but I see an old man about 80 walking towards me, he introduces himself to me and says “don’t worry, they were signed over to be killed, health problems i'd say”, but I find this hard to believe. I have been told many times by people in the industry that some top performance centre will have their horses slaughtered when they hit a certain age; this includes hacks, and western performance. I have also heard that another “horsey organisation” that have their horses slaughtered as well, this makes me think that those big QH’s are not sick at all.

The old slaughterman show’s me around while sharing with me the process….

First the horse will go into the crush and be pushed into the shed, it will be shot with a rifle between the eyes which will kill it instantly, it won’t feel a thing. The horse will then be bled and cut up. He assures me that this way is better than having the horse put down and is not wasteful. I hold my hand over my mouth the whole time trying not to vomit at the smell and he laughs at me, probably thinking to himself “harden up princess”. He tells me that kill day is tomorrow and if I bring my horse down at 8am he will do it first, if only he knew the truth he would probably kick me off his property, I wanted to take some photo’s but it was impossible. I ask him if he would sell a horse to the public and he says that he will not. Some knackery’s do, some don’t. This one does not, I feel sad for the beautiful horses waiting in the pens, but I drove here knowing I could not save any anyway; I had to prepare myself for that. While I’m talking with this old man I hear the sound of a truck horn and on inspection I see that my car has blocked the entrance of a cattle truck trying to enter the knackery with what appears to be a load of horses, my gut sinks as I run to move my car thinking about a story one of the young volunteers told: She wanted to ride her horse Krystal to the knackery and hijack one of the trucks and let her horse Krystal drive the truck home.. If only Jackie and Krystal were here now.

The truck is overloaded and smells of urine, I can only imagine how scared the horses are. I drive forward closer to the pens and let the truck pass, there are so many horses loaded in there it’s hard to make out what they are, there must have been a sale or something near buy. In a matter of minutes the truck has backed up to the ramp and most horses are in the pens, biting and kicking each other. Two horses remain on the truck; one big brown horse is laying down. The truck driver fixes a halter to its head and tries to drag it down the ramp, it won’t get up but it’s not dead. The other horse won’t leave its side. It looks like a mare and her foal. The mare is thrashing around but can’t get up, i'd say maybe a broken leg. The old slaughterman goes for a bobcat looking machine and the driver moves the truck forward, the horse is dragged off and the foal jumps after her, while on the ground the mare is shot dead in front of her baby, the foal is then shot dead as well. I’ve seen enough, I leave without even saying goodbye and there is no way they will see me tomorrow.

I’m driving home distressed, I think to myself “Am I crazy??” yes, I am crazy. Once again, I smell like death, only this time I didn’t save anything. So much for my day of R&R, I ask myself “Am I stressed?” the answer is yes, but I do it to myself, most normal people would have driven to the coast for a swim at the beach, but me… I trek through the mud at another country knackery!

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