Every year, 30,000 'meat' horses leave Poland for the slaughterhouses of Italy. There is no rest, no water and no food for many on the road to misery - a five day journey across six countries. Viva!'s campaign has helped to save some 70,000 horses a year. With your help we can save the rest.
A Trade in Misery
In markets across Poland, farm horses, foals and even children's ponies are sold to dealers and loaded into trucks - almost all to face a terrifying and painful journey to Italy where they will be slaughtered for meat. The stressed and frightened animals have no idea of what lies ahead - for the most unfortunate of them, that will be a journey of perhaps five days, without food, water or rest. Sold to supply the Italian appetite for horse meat, these intelligent, sensitive creatures will face every abuse that will enhance the profits of those who buy and transport them.
Many of the trucks in which they are transported are old and most are inadequate and overloaded. Roads twist and turn through the mountain passes and the helpless horses inside are exhausted by their constant struggle to remain standing. They frequently lose their balance and fall. Once down , they are trampled, urinated and defecated on and wounded by their companions.
At staging posts, horses are either dragged off the truck with chains or subjected to violent treatment to induce them to stand. This can involve brutal kickings, beatings with heavy sticks or the use of electric goads. To save time and money, feeding and watering is minimal at best and non-existent at worst. By the time they reach Hungary, just halfway through the journey, many are dehydrated, collapsed or even dead. By trailing these transports, Viva! has found that rest periods are routinely ignored and papers falsely stamped to say the horses have been tended to.
Once they reach their destination, they are bundled from the lorries and unceremoniously slaughtered. Shot with a captive bolt before having their throats cut, many are inadequately stunned. After bleeding and butchering, they end up on Italian dinner plates. Shockingly, recent investigations have discovered that some Italian salamis for sale in British delicatessens and supermarkets contain horsemeat.
The little grey mare who is pictured on this page has become the symbol of our campaign. We never knew her name but she was filmed at a Hungarian 'rest' stop. She had fallen and the truck had to be emptied to reach her. The other dejected animals were off loaded, trembling and shivering, their spirit utterly broken
The grey was made to stand, liquid manure pouring from her body. It was then the dreadful wounds caused by trampling could be seen. She could barely move and collapsed on the loading ramp where she was destroyed. Her exhausted companions were immediately reloaded and the truck continued into the night towards Italy.
We are winning
The good news is, Viva!'s campaign is working. . From meetings with politicians and ministers to national protests, we have mobilised the biggest popular campaign for animal welfare Poland has ever seen. This sad little horse has appeared all over Poland in magazines and newspapers, on bill boards and leaflets, in bus shelters and on TV as part of our campaign. Her death has helped to save the lives of tens of thousands of other horses. Since Viva! opened offices in Warsaw three years ago, horse exports have collapsed from 100,000 to 30,000. Poland's chief vet attributes the spectacular fall in numbers of horses exported to the "social pressures" created by our campaign.
But there is still more to do: 30,000 horses is still 30,000 too many. The Polish government argues that the cruelty has ended but we know that is not true. We have to provide new evidence of abuse to keep the media onslaught going, produce new materials and support the 90 local groups we have established. In short, we need to keep up the pressure to save the remaining horses. Read more.