Are horses still sent to the glue factory?
NO. AND THEY KNOW IT, too, the cocky devils. So if you're looking to threaten a horse, don't waste your breath muttering about how if he doesn't spit out that grass and get moving he's going to end up stuck under a picture of somebody's spinster aunt in a dusty scrapbook. Tell him instead that you'll pack him off to the pet-food factory. It's a far more realistic threat and he'll straighten right up, believe us.
Animal glue, which derives its adhesive properties from collagen, a compound found in bones, skin and connective tissue, has existed for millennia. The oldest found dates back 8 000 years. Though it's been supplanted in most applications by modern, synthetic glues, which last longer and cost less, bookbinders prize animal glue's slow setting time and furniture restorers appreciate that it's reversible and non-toxic.
The thing is, they don't make it out of horses anymore. It seems there are simply too few to go around these days. “Years ago, when there was an abundance of horses, there was a lot of animal glue from that,” says Jay Utzig, technical director at glue-maker Milligan & Higgins. But commercial glue-brewers need access to a predictable, scalable supply of animal parts; horses don't fit the bill. Cows and pigs are the preferred ingredients nowadays. “You can make it from rabbits, you can make it from sheep, down the line,” says Utzig. “The reason you see beef and pork is because it's abundant, it's typical.”
Some ex-horses, as we mentioned, end up in pet-food factories, as well as in other unsavoury places. Certain equine components are used in biofuel; others in soaps and lotions. But we'd like to believe that, for the most part, faithful old horses gently lope off into one final golden sunset, where they are swiftly consumed by rabid wolverines. PM