Once Spain's Pride, Horses Abandoned by Thousands

Recession leaves former status symbol for dead—literally

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 12, 2013 9:52 PM CDT

(Newser) – Europe's horses haven't been faring very well of late, and their predicament is particularly dire in Spain, where horses that were once a prized sign of the boom are now being abandoned en masse in the bust—to the tune of 60,000 that passed through slaughterhouse doors in 2012 alone. "A few years ago, before the crisis, a lot of people thought: I'll buy a big car, a big house, and why not a horse?" the proprietor of a shelter in Spain's horse country tells the AFP. "They try to hang onto the car and the house, but the horse they just get rid of."

And those that escape the slaughterhouse don't necessarily luck out, with reports of desperate owners leaving their horses to starve or tethering them on a flood plain so they'll drown. The math is simple: While horses can cost upward of $520 a month to maintain, cutting one's losses by abandoning the animal is free, or the slaughterhouse might yield $200 per animal. The malaise touches all things equine: "There used to be lots of horses here, 50, 60, even 100. That's how I made my living," says one dealer. But, "now no one is buying them, the feed is expensive, and no one wants a horse."

Spain's once-prized horses have fallen on hard times since the recession.
Spain's once-prized horses have fallen on hard times since the recession.   (AP Photo/Lilli Strauss)
Spain's once-prized horses have fallen on hard times since the recession.
Spain's once-prized horses have fallen on hard times since the recession.   (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
A member of the Royal Andalusian Riding School from Spain performs during a rehearsal for a fundraising gala, on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008.
A member of the Royal Andalusian Riding School from Spain performs during a rehearsal for a fundraising gala, on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008.   (AP Photo/Lilli Strauss)
A horse neighs while he stands in the snow on the way to Aralar Sanctuary, near Baraibar, northern Spain, Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012.
A horse neighs while he stands in the snow on the way to Aralar Sanctuary, near Baraibar, northern Spain, Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012.   (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
A man rides a horse trough the smoke in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.
A man rides a horse trough the smoke in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.   (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
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