Kill buyers (euphemistically called "horse traders") are the funnel that feeds US horses into the slaughter pipeline. Kill buyers have contracts with horse slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico to provide guaranteed amounts of horses within specific periods of time. To achieve this required amount of horses for slaughter, kill buyers own horse and livestock auction houses and kill pens (euphemistically called "feedlots") in the US where horses are sent before their final journey to slaughter in Canada and Mexico. If the kill buyers fall short of their horse meat commitment, they will go to extremes to acquire the number of horses they need to meet their contracts. For example, they will bid against private individuals at kill buyer-owned auctions, lie to distressed horse owners needing to rehome a horse by telling the owner that they (the kill buyer) will give their horse a good home or use it for a horse therapy program. Kill buyers notoriously scour Craig's list for horses that are "free to good home" and will pose as a family to acquire a horse from an unsuspecting owner. That horse will be sold to slaughter. In some instances horses are stolen to meet kill buyer quotas. Kill buyers routinely operate in flagrant violation of federal, local and international laws.
They appear to be part of a longstanding international organized crime ring that controls the movement of US horses across the borders to Canada and Mexico, as well as other countries. They are protected and empowered by corrupt federal and local agencies who not only ignore their illegal activities, but may actually collaborate with the kill buyers. For example, kill buyers routinely falsify the equine health certificates and violate federal transport and humane laws, yet they are so protected within this corrupted system that federal, local and international regulatory and law enforcement agencies turn a blind eye. Numerous horrendous traffic wrecks involving overloaded cattle trailers jammed with horses en route to slaughter have been documented and yet authorities fail to correct the situation. A particularly egregious example of an illegal collaboration between a corrupt federal agency and kill buyers occurred recently when the Bureau of Land management illegally sold 1700 federally-protected US wild horses to kill buyer Tom Davis who immediately sent them to the slaughter pipeline via kill buyer Dennis Chavez' kill pen in New Mexico. The Department of the Interior investigated this incident and found wrongdoing on the part of BLM, Davis and the New Mexico border inspector, but there have been no punitive actions taken to date. Yet another example of a federal agency collaborating with kill buyers occurred with the Fort Polk Army horses in Louisiana. In this instance the US Army allowed kill buyers posing as private citizens to round up a historic herd of cavalry horses that had lived for years on the army's lands. The army took no effective precautions to prevent the horses from being sent to slaughter despite numerous phone calls, and emails voicing warnings and objections from the public.
Because of the contracts kill buyers have with slaughter houses, a guaranteed number of horses are shipped to slaughter annually and that number doesn't change no matter what. Despite this fact, the kill buyers have developed an extremely lucrative secondary market selling kill pen horses to gullible people who believe they are "rescuing" horses from slaughter. The fact is that the slaughter house contracts require a set number of horses go to slaughter and no amount of money or donations decreases that number. So for every horse "rescued" from slaughter, another must take its place. The kill buyers have formed a network of pseudo-kill pen rescues that extends from the Pacific Northwest to Texas, Louisiana and the Midwest. These kill pens post heart wrenching photos of horses on Facebook and use female marketers to induce mostly middle-aged women to send them donations to supposedly "rescue" these kill pen horses from slaughter. In some instances the donors take possession of the horse for which they sent money, but in many instances donors simply send money to "rescue" the horse sight unseen. In these instances they may wind up paying thousands of dollars in fees, transport, veterinary and quarantine bills for a horse that may not even exist. Often, these monetary transactions are engineered through multiple individual pay pal accounts as a means to avoid paying taxes on these donated monies. Literally millions of dollars feed into the kill buyer network via this horse rescue scheme. And yet there is not a single less horse going to slaughter despite all the "rescuing". As the kill buyers have become more sophisticated in marketing their "rescue" horses, they have begun to target horses that have the most appeal, such as mares and foals, paints and palominos. They may even out bid private individuals for these horses at auctions, thus depriving the horse of an opportunity for a real home. And if by chance a kill buyer is "outbid" by a private person or rescuer - the kill buyers still win. Because kill buyers own the auctions, that exorbitant amount of money bid on the horse will go into a kill buyer's pocket at the end of the day. And another horse goes to slaughter.