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Kentucky Derby Champion Saved From Slaughter

Written by PETA | December 6, 2016

Update: Thanks to successful negotiations by the Thoroughbred rescue group Old Friends, 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic is back in the United States after being sent to Japan for breeding over a decade ago. He joins War Emblem, who was rescued and sent to Old Friends’ farm in Kentucky last year. PETA first revealed these horses’ precarious futures in our 2009 investigation of the horse slaughter industry in Japan—see the video below. Despite being world-famous champions, both War Emblem and Charismatic may have been indanger of being sent to slaughter, since they were rarely being used for breeding. In Japan, 90 percent of former racehorses, including thousands of Thoroughbreds imported from the U.S., are sent to slaughter. Negotiations to bring them home to the U.S. followed the release of PETA’s investigation on ESPN.

Originally posted on June 5, 2009: 

In 2002, the 1986 Kentucky Derby champ, Ferdinand, was slaughtered after his breeding days in Japan were done.

Fast-forward to 2009: Two more horses, Charismatic and War Emblem—Kentucky Derby champs from 1999 and 2002 respectively—may also face slaughter as their usefulness to breeders comes to an end.

This upcoming Belmont Stakes marks the 10th anniversary of Charismatic’s tragic breakdown.

After breaking his leg in the 1999 Belmont, Charismatic was sold to breeders in Japan. His value as a breeding stallion has dropped dramatically (to approximately US$5,000), and he has been moved to the lowest-ranking of breeding farms.

War Emblem was sold for $17 million and hauled off to Japan to become one of 33 stallions used for breeding at the Shadai Stallion Station. Despite the use of steroids, hormones and psychological measures, he has refused to breed with most mares.
War Emblem

Just a few years ago, horse-racing fans cheered as Charismatic and War Emblem ran away with top prizes at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Now, PETA’s most recent undercover investigation shows what could be in store for these once-celebrated stallions and thousands of other horses sold into the Japanese thoroughbred industry.

Each year in Japan, more than 20,000 horses, including many horses once used for racing, are slaughtered for dog and human food. This video shows the slaughter of a young thoroughbred. As stated in the New York Times, “The video is disturbing. It shows in graphic terms what happens to the unfortunate thoroughbreds who become spare parts in a contracting industry.”

You can blame the U.S. horse-racing industry for the carnage. It routinely breeds tens of thousands of “surplus” thoroughbreds every year, then sells thousands of them to breeding facilities in Japan. More than 2,000 U.S. thoroughbred horses and breeding mares have been shipped to Japan since Ferdinand was slaughtered in 2002.

Just last year, Americans watched in horror as racing filly Eight Belles suffered fractures to both her front ankles and was euthanized just moments after running the Kentucky Derby. How can anyone not be disgusted by the shuffling of thousands of horses off to Japan and into slaughterhouses?

Join us in defending former Derby and Preakness champs Charismatic and War Emblem—and thousands of other thoroughbreds. Demand limits on breeding and a ban on the export of horses to Japan.

Written by Karin Bennett

Commenting is closed.
  • ashley says:

    this is haribleand 3 heartbraking. i love horses and they diserive a chance to live after they get hurt. all the people out there who think this is ok your wrong this is NOT! i have a horse and he went lamb but i didnt give him away or wrose give him to slaughter i still have him and he better than ever this needs to stop now. how can u people do that to horses in fact why do u do that to horses because there useless well maybe people want them you dont give them away for money you wanna keep them for slaughter i think everyone who think slaughter is wrong should stand up do actually do something to make a changeof horses and when you people who slaughter them think would you like to be dead just because you got hurt and broke and arm or a leg come on get real!

  • i do care! says:

    u know it is a shame what happens to alot of the horses but what some ppl dont get is what r we to due with the horses when nobody wants them? i am a horse trainer of race horses i love every one of them like they where my own kids.i will say im not rich by all means from my job. there r some weeks when my owners dont pay me i will go with out eating just so my horses eat! i also will take alot of geld. if they have a good head and make them into lead ponies or will try to find thems good homes… but the prob. alot of us trainers r having is if later down the road is when sometimes they do find them at horse sales or go to the killers then they want to blam us when that happens! also u cant give them away anymore nobody wants them. im just a small poor trainer that loves all the horses.i have saved alot of horses from going to the killers my best horse i had ever owend was killer horse that i paid $300.00 for..he went on and made me alot of money! i had him for 4 yrs. i did everything with him he raced ponied outrode and we went on alot of great trail rides over the yrs. 2 yrs. ago i lost him to colic. not all racehorse ppl r all bad alot do care about there horses. but then there is some horses no matter how much u try to help them they just dont want help! i had a reg. horse one time he tried killing me i went in to feed him and he grabed me by the arm threw me on the ground. when it was all over my arm and 5 ribs was broke and all i ever did was love him and thats the thx i got from him and i had saved him from going to the killers. so not all horses u can always save. so i hope whome ever read this dont ever think all racehorse trainers r bad some do care what happens to them!

  • Christian S. says:

    This video helped me to understand how race horses are so unfortunate.I own a horse of my own and to see what realy happens to horses that people don’t want anymore makes me want to do the same to the people that are slaghteringabusingor neglecting horses . I may only be 12 but my voice matters.

  • katie says:

    im a horse owener of hercules my horse i hate how they kill horses it kills me each time i hear about it ALL YOU OUT HELP THE RACEHORSES THEY CAN HAVE A NOTHER CHANCE

  • vicky says:

    I would like to say that I spoke with the owner of a thoroughbred retirement facility here in ky and he informed me that they receive reports on war emblem charismatic and silver charm all from japan every 3 months and they are taking every measure to ensure their safe return to the KY equine retirement home Old Friends when their breeding time in Japan is complete. Hopefully everything goes well. Its not a complete solution but its a step and its nice to know there are people out there in higher positions who are actually doing something about the situation. But all we can really do is wait and see I suppose.

  • sadienpopsmomluci says:

    I really don’t get how humans can slaughter horses for food. It’s like killing your best friend because you are hungry?? This isn’t inhumaneit’s plain crazy! How do you look at a living being as an objectit’s beyond me

  • lauren says:

    this is murder. i hope you can bring an end to this crime! i support you 100

  • Sheila says:

    I have had many sleepless nights and have not viewed this videoit is a nightmare that has to end Thank You PETA for trying to stop this barbaric and inhumane ending to one of God most beautifull creaturesit is beyond me to think of killing and eating a horse.

  • jess says:

    yea who wants to go protest at the next horse race? for one I am appalled by such selfish actions of the people who are supposed to be promoting horses welfare. The racing industry is clearly screwed up

  • t says:

    Every horse feels pain and gets scared. It doesnt matter if you are a race horse champion or a regular horse.Maybe if the American people and goverment had not shut down our slaughter plants these horses would not suffer as much as they are now.With these plants being closed all horses are subjected to more abuselonger time to be scared and no regulations to protect what life they have left. They are sent abroad to strange countries with no regulations or care. America throws them away with no regard. Shame on us Shame on you.

  • tracie says:

    Why not geld this horses and give them away to places that could use them or people that will love them. I know that I would love to own a Kentucky Winner even if heshe is broken down or old. It’s just the fact that I have them and gave them a good home that would make me happy.

  • JCO says:


  • wendi says:

    i dont think they should show this stuff on here cause this is horrible. they should not do slaughtering that is cruel and mean everyone should find a nice home for them. plus if they are really in bad shape why send them to the killers. why dont they just put them down and cremate them. that way they could have them with them. i think that is just wrong of them doing that. and dont think they should show this on here cause if a little kid sees this how bad do you think they would feel. thats all i haft to say it really hurts seeing that.

  • Mistysandtivioscowgirl says:

    I have watched the video and yes it is sad to watch. However horse slaughter is a must just like beef slaughter. People in other countries do eat the meat and it is usefull in oter products that we do use here in the US. Something that Im sure the author here has not thought of but I would like to share is since the killer plants here in the US have been closed the horse market is flooded and I cant eaven sell my well bread and trainned ropebarrel horse for a decent price. If the US was unnable to send unwanted horses overseas that is only that many more horses with no home.

  • katie says:


  • Tonya says:

    It saddens me to hear that Charismatic and War Emblem may end up like Ferdinand. Why can’t we horse lovers and supporters raise money or have the breeders who bred both these horses back home to the US. Thank God for PETA and their investigators. I know several other Thoroughbreds are over in Japan breeding. There has to be something us horse loving citizens can do to bring both them home where they belong. Both horses were great and fast racehorses here in the US. Just because they can’t breed to a mare doesn’t mean that they can’t live out their lives back on US soil.

  • anesha Bayne says:

    The Slaughterhouses are inhuman and cruel. There is always something that you can do to keep a horse from being slaughtered or starving. Anybody heard of the 4H program???? walk trot…..??? Doesn’t a champion of the race field deserve to be a champion of life?? So why end their’s just because they cant race or breed to the owner’s wishes?? We have horses that aren’t able to be ridden they’re pasture buddies to the other horses. I’ll tell you this those horses are just as good as any other. What happened to the connection between people and horses?? I have bad days and go visit my “LAME” horses. They don’t shoe me away but welcome me with love and rubs. They’re playfull still and are beautiful to watch run the pastures. There is always something to do or somewhere to go if YOU were “no good”. Just as that there is ALWAYS somewhere for a “BROKE” horse to go besides the slaughterhouse. Slaughterhouses are inhumane desgusting and they need to be shut down. Greed is no exception the government can control exports of all kinds but to what lengths are we willing to go to to make them control this export??????????

  • Shan says:

    I will probably receive some back lash for this comment however… there are sides to this issue that are not being addressed. My state does not allow for slaughter. Here is what has happened. Horses are being abandoned because people cannot afford to care for them. I read a story the other day about an abandoned horse that was found with it’s brand cut out of its hip. Where I live right now you cannot even give a horse away. Hay prices went sky high. Now what is the lesser of the two evils? Do you allow for a horse to be humanely slaughtered euthanized or do you put people in a situation where they abandon a horse in an area where they hope it can graze and live? When you have no one to take on these animals and you have no way to be humane and put them down to keep them from being abandoned or starved to death you create an even more cruel environment. I do not like the thought of a good useful animal being put down but I can tell you I would rather see an animal put down humanely rather than dropped along side some meadow and starve or be eaten by the coyotes.

  • J.D. says:

    You know this is really funny to me because all that you people have time for is grip about horse slaughter. Well if you people would actually pull your heads out of your butts you would actually relize that horse slaughter is really good for the U.S. Things to consider about this would you rather see a horse straved to death or to see them taken care of properly and by the way have any of you ever thought why the horse market gets worse every year. Well I’ll tell you why its cause all of you PETA people desided to ban horse slaughter. And by the way in many countries horse considered to be a delicuse to eat were I come from sure anit from the East end of the U.S. the way I look at it horses were put on this earth for two things to be worked and to put food on the dinner table and if you dont like that I can tell you where to stick it.

  • beverly nix says:

    I hate slaughter horses!! I dont want kill the horses!! PLAESE!!! they don’t want to lose the vauable bloodlines that these horses bring. if kill the horses then sometime they no many horses some poeple will reaily madalso i realiy mad. why japan want to eat the horses i cant understand!! I do not eat the horses NO WAY!! this horses are imoport good for tranning horses and joy ride the horses alone!!! this horses live all of the state never use the slaughter house.

  • A.G.B. says:

    The horses that race in the Kentucky Derby after they retire should not be slaughtered at all even if they break something. They should live a happy normal life in their retired years.But if the horse breaks a bone and if they can’t fix it then they can be humanely euthanasied. Butif it can be fixed that is fine and they to can live a happy normal life in their retired years. People need to find a different way to make dog fooddog treats and human food.I am so againist this it needs to be fixed now!!!!!!!!!How can people even stand looking at them when they are alive one second and then their not. People need to step up and do something about this!!!!!! This has gone to far!!!I would be so happy if someone went and burned down every horse slaughter house.I don’t even know how the horses even trust the killers.I want the horse slaughtering to be illegalto be banned and prohibittedforbitted.

  • Marty Reeh says:

    After Ferdinand was slaughtered Japan faced a severe backlash from the racing industry. American stallions sent to Japan are subject to “buy backs” if they are no longer useful to the Japanese. Japan has to toe the line if they want the use of any American stallion. Don’t think for a minute that no one is monitoring these stallions because they are. After Exceller and Ferdinand were slaughtered the racing industry will not tolerate slaughter of their champions. Any Japanese owner of an American Stud knows that sending that horse to slaughter will not be tolerated and they don’t want to lose the valuable bloodlines that these horses bring.

  • Madeline Wynn says:

    This needs to stop! I lost my best friend from him being slaughtered and I went to an auction and had no horses but a huge barn and there where 20 horses and i came back home with 14 STOP HORSE SLAUGHTER

  • Ariel says:

    This NEEDS 2 stop now.

  • janan says:

    stop horse slaughter i am against it soon their wont be any more horses

  • Sara says:

    i have a book and it told me and a hole buntch of others that theres bin 1000oooooooooooo horses that have been slauterd! trust me i know what its like! it not funny!i just wish it would stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • stranger says:

    if you think that is ok youre rong maybey just maybey they want to servive! think peopole think!!!!!!

  • Rachel says:

    Please! Ban exporting horses to Japan! It’s horrible! Help stop this. I will try to help too this summer. I will post a link on my website too.

  • Shawna Flavell says:

    Laura Thanks for your comment. We will be responding to it via email shortly.

  • saf says:

    the reason the racing industry sells horses to japan is all about $$$. it isnt about giving them a lovely retirment or weather or not somebody would love to give a retired champion a great home. its about the owners of the champion making money off it’s genes by selling it to a stud in japan or wherever. The home does not matter its the money.its disgusting and the governement should step in and regulate the industry just like they regulate everything else in the country. They can control import and export of goods why not animals.

  • Daniel says:

    You could have PETA buy the horses. Give them away in some sort of raffle to the person who can best take care of each horse. Or if someone here can afford to buy a horse…