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January 31, 2013

Horse Meat Scandal in Europe

The HSUS has been battling against the slaughter of American horses for human consumption for many years. With kill plants shuttered in the United States, the field of battle is increasingly on foreign soil; our neighbors in Canada and Mexico are taking in American horses and slaughtering them, while European and Asian nations (Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, and others) are importing that processed horse meat for human consumption. 

In all these nations – thanks to the work of our investigators and program staff with The HSUS and Humane Society International – we are finding a trail of cruelty and deception, which is fomenting public concern among European citizens about the integrity, honesty and wholesomeness of the global horse slaughter enterprise.

AMERICAN_HORSES_TO_MEXICO_2_73331
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
American horses being loaded onto a double-decker
truck in Texas, bound for slaughter in Mexico.

A recent HSI investigation found horse meat to be a “hidden ingredient” in several types of cheap convenience foods sold in local markets, and that most Europeans have no interest in consuming horse meat. In the last few weeks, major supermarket chains in Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom were found selling beef burgers and other products that contained as much as 29 percent horse meat (according to DNA tests). Millions of burgers have been recalled, and in the U.K., Burger King has dropped a supplier that was linked to the burgers contaminated with horse meat.

We’ve said all along that this is a disreputable, predatory industry, with no authentic standards or professionalism. The fact that horse meat is being comingled with other meats is no surprise to us, though it has been a major surprise to European consumers.

The European Union, which restricts imports of American pork because pigs are treated with ractopamine, and American poultry because chickens are treated with chlorine, should not be permitting adulterated horse meat to enter their economic markets. It is indisputable that American horses – whether they come off the racetrack, out of the show ring or from a ranch – are treated throughout their lives with drugs prohibited for use in food producing animals, both here and in the EU. The fact is, Canada and Mexico do not have sufficient protocols for safety testing, yet somehow the EU is allowing these products in.

There are many very good reasons to oppose horse slaughter, including the malevolent presence of killer buyers misrepresenting their intentions at auctions, inhumane long-distance transport, and cruel and clumsy slaughter methods. But if altruistic and humane concerns are not sufficient to convince policy makers to act, then consumer protection standards related to food safety and authentic labeling should be enough to put the horse slaughter industry out of business.

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