Life-Saving Horses in Taiwan Retiring, for Better or Worse

Life-Saving Horses in Taiwan Retiring, for Better or Worse
What you need to know

The retirement of horses after they have been used to provide serum for human vaccination has caught the attention of animal rights watchers in Taiwan.

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Three horses in Taiwan on Aug. 12 were retired after 10 years of providing serum used to manufacture human vaccines for treating snakebites. But an investigation has revealed that instead of being sent to Cingjing Farm (清淨農場) in central Taiwan, the three horses have been put back to work at ranches in southern Taiwan.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced the horses’ retirement in a press release two weeks ago.

The horses were bought from the U.S. at a price of NT$350,000 (US$11,000) each between 2006 and 2007. They were only aged three to five when they arrived in Taiwan, and the CDC says the horses usually live for a further 10 years after being retired. The CDC “thanked the horse for their services" and wished them “all the best” in their retirement life at Cingjing Farm.

However, reporters at Taiwan Animal News (TAN) said on Aug. 25 that the three horses had not been transported to the farm, but were instead at ranches in Tainan.

While 15 other horses were sent to the National Immune Horse Ranch at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology for retirement, in an interview with TAN, Chiang Cheng-jung (江正榮) of the CDC said the three animals were being transported to Cingjing Farm after being “bought at an auction.”

Chiang also said regulations state that while the horses cannot be used to provide serum, they can still serve tourism, education, exhibition, and entertainment purposes, and successful bidders should treat the animals according to the Animal Protection Act.

But why were the horses nowhere to be seen at the farm?

TAN reports that the bidder who bought the horses is Chen Yu-chi (陳玉奇), a well-known horseback rider who owns multiple ranches and manages horseback riding shows at Cingjing Farm. According to TAN, this is probably why the CDC believed the animals were being sent to the farm when in fact they were sent to two ranches in Tainan owned by Chen.

Chen told TAN that this was not the first time he had purchased “serum horses” from the CDC. The owner bought five such horses five years ago, and while three of them have since died, two are still in good health and one has given birth to two foals.

Chen says he will increase human interactions with the horses for a year before any training. He also plans to build a special area for the horses to inform the public of their services.

TAN has nevertheless questioned whether this is the “ideal retirement life” for the horses and whether the CDC should look into the matter.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole