On another trip to document the horses in the back feedlot at the Grof property in Lindsay,ON, the peacefulness of the day belied the reality of the situation.
Birds sang, the sun shone and a warm breeze blew, but it did little to mask the truth of the situation. The dangerous, prison-like fencing, the fresh spring grass just out of reach.
Doomed horses of all breeds, ages and sizes – all with the same destination in common – the Richelieu Meats horse slaughter plant in Quebec.
The majority are draft types, with Belgians being the most common. Also a group of 6 or more grey Percherons are there.
One beautiful Clyde or Clyde cross, with flowing mane and forelock – so long, it hides her eyes from view – nuzzles her companion.
There are surprisingly some horses that were previously seen here in early April – a Pinto or young Paint with a black mare (his dam?), a roan Belgian cross yearling, and a young Belgian cross with a deep chestnut coat.
I can only speculate these horses are being held until they mature, and bring more on the kill floor. Upon further observation, the roan Belgian cross is a weanling, and is still suckling on his Belgian dam/mother.
Many poignant moments happen – the quiet Belgian with chunks of mud stuck in his mane. I want to reach and pull them out, but the barbed wire fence makes that impossible.
The young Belgian who precariously scratches himself on the barbed wire fence.
I take a moment to reach out to a Percheron who came to me over the fence, and capture the moment on film.
This horse and many others know the kind touch of a human hand. But any hands that touch them now will do so perhaps kindly, but with betrayal.
I try not to dwell on that thought and continue documenting these horses, who thankfully appear well fed, however most have several layers of dried mud up their legs, and I speculate how many must have mud fever and other ailments from the wet, muddy ground. I hear one Belgian with a horrible, raspy cough.
They are curious and wary. You get the sense they know they are in a strange and inhospitable place. Many want to reach out but are quite unsure. The older ones sense I come peacefully and gladly accept my kind voice and hand.
It’s very hard to finish photographing and walk away. I linger just because I feel it’s the right thing to do. I’ve been here before and know it’s important to capture these images, since it tells their story, which otherwise would have been forgotten. That offers a level of comfort, however it’s still difficult to turn around and walk away.
I’ve been speaking to them, and now I will not lie to them – all I can do is say a final “Goodbye”. They have each other, and that makes me feel better. They’ll be there hopefully for each other until their final long trip on that big ugly trailer, and they’ll be deceived right up to their final moment by the people who were entrusted with their care.
All I can say is, I’m sorry……….I’m sorry I cannot change your fate, and it breaks my heart.