Holland has just opened it doors on a new equine only crematorium, the largest of its kind in Holland.
Paardencrematorium Westerhout (site in English too) claim that they are dedicated to offering a dignified and peaceful ending to an equines life whilst offering support to the owner at this difficult time. Included in the huge estate is a ‘putting to sleep’ room and a mourning room, equine artwork is depicted around the estate including life size sand sculptures of horses.
Admittedly its not a cheap option, but at least Holland now has these options available since the cremating of horses was decontrolled in 2001. In France however, animals over 40kg are not permitted to be incinerated or buried according to article L226-2 of the code rural. Also, animals over 40kg are not permitted to be transported into another member state for cremation. The only options offered to owners of horses is to have the animal euthanased at home by a vet with the equarrissage service collecting the dead body, or to take the equine to an abattoir.
Take a look at these French sites Adieu and le cheval arc-en-ciel to read more about some French groups that are pressing for a change in French law, there is also a petition to sign for the right to be able to incinerate equines.
Another option we take for granted in the UK but which is absent here is the licensed knackerman or hunt service. They could be phoned and a time and date arranged, often coming out quickly if required. The method of dispatch used is a free bullet. This is reckoned to be the most efficient means of euthanasia. As an owner, you could spend the last minutes with your horse, letting him eat from a bucket of food and then walk away as the gun did the deed. Then leave the most distressing sight, the removal of the body, to someone else. The whole process is done in a matter of minutes, and there is no corpse at the end of the road for days as a painful reminder of the loss of a friend.
Some owners dislike the thought of a bullet, and feel that it is too violent a death. It is a frightening sight when the horse’s body continues moving, sometimes even cantering, on it’s side when the horse is dead. This is a moderately common reaction, often more apparent in thoroughbreds, and is not the horse ‘thrashing in pain’ as some people believe. It is solely the reaction of the nervous system. Unlike an injection, there is no awareness of what is happening.
We would be interested in hearing your comments on this subject and what you would choose for your horse given a choice. Although its not something we like to think about, part of being responsible animal owners is knowing the law and procedures in place for the country in which you live.