Doping at US tracks affects Europe’s taste for horse meat

Horses tagged by the USDA for slaughter for human consumption.
Horses tagged for slaughter for human consumption.
Banned drugs toxic to humans are being found in horse meat from U.S. racehorses sent to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

Cross-posted from The New York Times


PARIS — For decades, American horses, many of them retired or damaged racehorses, have been shipped to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to slaughter horses, and then processed and sold for consumption in Europe and beyond.

Lately, however, European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.

Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.

In October, Stephan Giguere, the general manager of a major slaughterhouse in Quebec, said he turned away truckloads of horses coming from the United States because his clients were worried about potential drug issues. Mr. Giguere said he told his buyers to stay away from horses coming from American racetracks.

“Racehorses are walking pharmacies,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian on the faculty of Tufts University and a co-author of a 2010 article that sought to raise concerns about the health risks posed by American racehorses. He said it was reckless to want any of the drugs routinely administered to horses “in your food chain.”

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This is not news to anti horse slaughter advocates of course. But we are extremely grateful for Mr. Drape’s continued exposure of the drug problems facing U.S. racehorses, which now includes the problem of being slaughtered for human consumption full of banned pharmaceuticals across American borders.

However, what about Canadian racehorses?

Canadian racehorses, as we have seen, are routinely slaughtered for human consumption and also administered the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (bute) and widely abused medication for breathing problems clenbuterol (clen) just like their U.S. cousins.

Slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico should be rejecting all racehorses, not just the ones from the United States.

The other depressing question: What happened to the truckloads of U.S. racehorses turned away from slaughterhouses in Canada, if indeed they were.