Challenges related to burial, recovery and cremation have forced horse owners to seek alternative methods of carcass disposal. While horse carcass composting has been successfully demonstrated, industry-wide acceptance has been limited. Therefore, UMN researchers assessed the perception and experience of horse owners and veterinarians in carcass composting.
Horse owners and veterinarians were asked to conduct a survey on euthanasia and carcass disposal practices. Most of the respondents were middle-aged women with long-term involvement in the equestrian industry. Horse owners (86%) and veterinarians (84%) who preferred chemical euthanasia tended to prefer burial (58% and 42%, respectively) over other carcass disposal methods. Only 12% of horse owner respondents had ever attempted composting, and only 25% of veterinary respondents had ever recommended composting. Respondents of horse owners (47%) and veterinarians (67%) said they would be more open to trying and recommending carcass composting when more scientific research was available. Most horse owners (74%) and veterinarians (72%) had not used or recommended composting due to limited knowledge of the practice.
Composting horse carcasses shows potential as the primary disposal method for the equine industry. Research and education programs are key to the industry-wide acceptance of horse carcass composting.