by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Because they can’t feed them,
the poorest people
turn their horses loose
in the desert.

These horses find some
grass and weeds
a couple of months in a year,
but mostly brown stubble,
and water that is impossible
to find.

Finally they round some of them up,
with sand in their bellies,
and ship them to slaughter houses
in Mexico
where men with knives kill them
by stabbing them up to twenty times
before they are brought down,

before they see
grass as tall as their shoulders
near a watering stream.


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

29 responses to “Horses

  1. Thank you for your comment, Russ. Love Ethel

  2. Oh, HSUS has just turned their attention to this type of mistreatment of abandoned horses! This post here is such a powerful statement to draw our attention to this very appalling practice!

  3. Powerful and got me choked up! I love, love, love horses.

  4. OH! my God that is such a horrible story… I do not doubt it’s truth ! Even at my age I never cease to be dismayed by man’s in humanity to animals ( and it each other too) Such a wonderful, wonderful poem the subject is so painful thank you for making me aware! xx

  5. Required reading, not just for children, “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell and Jonathan Swift’s “Houyhnhnms in Gulliver’s Travels”. Horses are truly delicate, elegant creatures…

  6. With any luck, the boogers will catch the purportrators and send them to the slaughter house.

  7. gene3067

    In a way I feel responsible. I wrote my senator asking him to stop the shipping of horse meat as a delecacy overseas (which he did) and ended up forcing the horses to go across the border where they are killed brutally instead of humanely.

    I was too shorty sighted to see this outcome.

  8. It’s horrifying that any animals are brutalized like this – a painful topic, but one we need to all be aware of. Well-depicted, Ethel… though heart breaking.

  9. This poem reminds me of the recent controversy caused by the inhumane slaughter of cattle exported from Australia to Indonesia. Cattle were being brutalised in some of the Indonesian abattoirs.

    There was a public outcry which brought the beef export industry to a standstill whilst the Australian government negotiated to have slaughter practices in the offending abattoirs improved.

    The history of the live export trade – sheep and cattle – from Australia to overseas destinations is a sore and sorry one.

    Whilst food animals are regarded as products rather than sentient beings, cruel and inhumane practices will continue.

  10. Not an admirable trait of humanity, and I’m certain it doesn’t end with the poor and horses. Your writing is powerful and moving, which I enjoyed.

  11. sometimes I despair of the whole human race!!


  12. I notice that there are two cruelties in your poem: the brutal act of the slaughter itself, but also the slow neglect which precedes it – and you hint at the reason for this. That’s quite a message you convey.

  13. eremophila

    I felt the knife slice into me with the reading of this. My horse has been my best friend for over twenty years, and continues to teach me much needed lessons on living with heart.

  14. This gave me chills…but has to be told! How can man be so cruel to his fellow living creatures?…such grace, such beauty, such life-force so cruely discarded.

    I will be feeling the power of this for a long time, Ethel. Please, let me know if there is anything I can support…lend my voice to…to work towards ending this horror..

  15. At the end of World War 1, Military bureaucrats decided they didn’t want to pay to ship home the hero-horses of the famous Australian Light Horse brigade back from the Middle East. These brave creatures had undergone battle and horrendous conditions for years and were deeply attached to and beloved by their riders. They should have all been retired to a nice paddock with a tree and a stream for their services. But no, they were slaughtered in their hundreds instead on the orders of unfeeling bean-counters..
    Another shameful blight on this Country’s honour

  16. A sad poem. I don’t know whether you have seen this, Ethel? It is not too comfortable, but then I suppose that is the point. I am glad I watched it though.

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