Updated. Horse advocates have long warned that toxic horse meat from slaughtered American and Canadian horses is ending up on the dinner tables of Europe.
In February 2010 a peer reviewed scientific study entitled “Bute and Slaughter Horses Toxicology Study” (pdf) branded USDA studies asserting U.S. and Canadian horse meat as chemically harmless as bogus.
Following extensive lobbying started by us, with European food safety activists later joining in, the EU issued sanctions requiring the quarantine of horses intended for the human food chain who had been administered a laundry list of prohibited substances. The most common among those drugs are phenylbutazone (bute) and clenbuterol.
However, an agreement was struck between the EU and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that effective July 2010 documentation — the Equine Identification Document (EID) — containing the medical history of a slaughter horse intended for human consumption is all that would be required.
That policy is clearly failing which is clearly demonstrated in the findings described below.
The European Commission’s RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) reports in July 2012 that the
“unauthorised substances clenbuterol (0.0023 mg/kg – ppm) and phenylbutazone (0.0013; 0.0015; 0.0010 mg/kg – ppm) in chilled deboned horse meat and frozen deboned horse meat from Canada”
were found during routine testing. Source: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/rasff-window/portal/index.cfm?event=notificationDetail&NOTIF_REFERENCE=2012.1078.
Last year there was this:
“In May of 2011 a report was released by the European Commission Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) regarding inspections of EU regulated plants in Mexico slaughtering horses for human consumption during the latter part of 2010.
“. . . . a number of serious infractions and actions taken were cited. Some of these violations that failed to meet EU regulations included; hygiene and water quality provided for the horses, non-traceable carcasses some of which were in contact with EU eligible horse meat, presence of EU prohibited drug residues, falsified sworn statements regarding veterinary medical treatment histories including cases of positive results for EU prohibited drug residues.”
So, the EU have stiffened requirements a bit. Or have they really?
Effective July 2013, the EU are demanding that all horses slaughtered for human consumption at EU-certified plants in countries that export horse meat to Europe must have a veterinary record listing all medications they have been given during their lifetime.
This new regulation if enforceable would render nearly all American horses ineligible for foreign slaughter.
However, if the EID system currently in play in Canada can be forged, absent and not even asked for at the slaughterhouse door, then what makes this procedure any different or more effective?
Have these officials ever seen how slaughter horses are transported in, and by whom? The drivers employed are not always stellar characters, and it is highly doubtful they are going to know what paperwork goes with what horse.
It is very similar to USDA stickers that fall off during the dangerous journeys these horses made in deplorable conditions in the U.S. We have been told they just stick them back on to a horse who does not have one. They also take them off dead horses and put them on live horses who have lost their stickers. You see just how unreliable it all is.
A horse slaughter plant worker in Canada told Tuesday’s Horse a few weeks ago that it is nearly impossible to keep accurate records of how many horses show up, their gender or what breed they are, never mind what drugs they have been given in their lifetime.
“Nobody cares”, he told us. “The only ones you get much of a look at are the downers because you have to drag them in. The other horses, they get them in there and kill them so fast. The plant manager usually figures it out by how many pounds of horse meat get produced and so then, how many horses would that take. Then he weighs that up against how many horses they have bought off the middlemen and makes the numbers work out.”
So under the new EU requirement, veterinary records for each of them will be demanded, right? He just laughed.
“Nobody’s going to look too hard, I guarantee. If you got it fine I guess, but no matter. Because there’s horses to be killed and money to be made. Got to protect the bottom line.”
We tried to get a Commissioner to go on record, but were only able to get a blind quote. In it she stated to a colleague of ours in the UK that there would be regular, annual unannounced inspections at all EU-regulated plants where horses were slaughtered for export to EU countries, and a single infraction would mean a complete shut down.
The Commissioner added that if the U.S. were to open any horse slaughter plants they would have to be EU regulated before they would accept horse meat exports to member countries.
In the meantime, legislation banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption sits idle in both the Congress of the United States and the Parliament of Canada.
Despite best efforts, it seems pretty obvious that the United States and Canada are not going to take the right and ethical step and ban horse slaughter any time soon, so why doesn’t the European Commission say enough, and declare an outright ban on the import of horse meat from the United States, Canada and Mexico?
Because, as the slaughter man said, there’s horses to be killed and money to be made. Got to protect the bottom line.
Horse meat is ugly.