For the first time, the Calgary Stampede is admitting that horses that don't make the cut to compete in the famous rodeo are sent to an Alberta slaughterhouse for meat.

Nearly 100,000 horses are sent to slaughterhouses in Canada every year. Horses that fail to qualify for the stampede are among them, stampede officials admitted.

Every year at the Calgary Stampede ranch, horses are bred and trained to become the top bucking horses in the world.

Of the 500 horses at the ranch, some will go on to compete in the annual stampede, others will be sent to smaller rodeos throughout North America and others will see a less glorious fate.

Those who fail to make the grade are sent to a slaughterhouse in Fort McLeod where they are killed for meat, most of which is exported.

Greg Evans, the veterinarian for the stampede, told CTV News that close to 20 horses will be sent to the slaughterhouse each year.

Evans also said that because the horses have been bred to compete in the stampede, they often cannot find new homes where they can be safely cared for.

"They are a semi-feral animal. They're wilder than the average horse and for a lot of them it's a temperament problem, where they're not going to be comfortable in confinement of any kind," said Evans.

The admission has sparked outrage among animal rights groups across the country.

Peter Fricker, spokesperson for the Vancouver Humane Society, said the entire affair is shameful.

"This is disgraceful given that horses are being created by the stampede for a purpose and then if they're not good enough, they kill them," Fricker told CTV News.

And the VHS is not the only agency protesting.

Even the Calgary Humane Society has voiced its opposition.

"We adamantly oppose this practice, and we would hope perhaps the stampede would look at other options," said Christy Thompson of the CHS, "There are horse rescues in Alberta that I'm sure would help with animals no longer needed."

But the stampede says that's not the case. Officials say they don't want to send horses to the slaughterhouses, but it's a tough reality, as very few bucking horses can be domesticated enough so it's safe for people to be around them.

With a report from CTV's Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks