Press Release from the Humane Society of the United States
Horses Not Raised For Food Receive Medications Banned by FDA and the EU
The Humane Society of the United States issued a report detailing the food safety risks associated with consuming meat that originates in American horses. Horses in the U.S. are primarily used for companionship or competition, therefore they are not treated in the same way as animals raised for human consumption. Horses are commonly given pharmaceuticals that have been banned for use in food-producing animals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office.
“The slaughter of American horses poses a potentially serious health risk to human consumers, yet tens of thousands are still slaughtered for their meat,” said Dr. Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture at The HSUS. “New measures put in place in the European Union to address this risk are vital steps to ensure horses who are regularly given phenylbutazone and other EU-banned substances are kept out of the slaughter pipeline.”
Americans don’t eat horses, but each year more than 100,000 U.S. horses are transported over the border to be slaughtered in Canada and Mexico, and the meat is exported for consumption in the European Union and Japan. Indeed, research shows that horses originating in the U.S. comprise a large percentage of the total slaughterhouse output of Canada and Mexico. The EU has found horsemeat from Mexican slaughterhouses contains harmful residues of several EU prohibited substances. A study of the medical records of race horses sent to slaughter shows that horses with a history of phenylbutazone use are making their way to slaughter plants despite the United States’ and other countries’ ban of the use of the drug in food producing animals. Phenylbutazone, commonly called “bute,” is an anti-inflammatory regularly given to horses, and it is known to be hazardous to humans, even in trace amounts.
In 2010, the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office evaluated food safety standards for imported horsemeat and found that many countries do not keep adequate veterinary pharmaceutical records nor are there systems in place to differentiate those equines raised for human consumption from those that are not. Therefore, effective July 2013, the EU will require that all horses presented for slaughter at EU-certified plants in countries which export horsemeat to the EU have a veterinary record listing all medications they have been given over their lifetime. This new regulation would render nearly all American horses ineligible for foreign slaughter.
The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have filed legal petitions with both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to block companion, working and show horses from being slaughtered for human consumption, due to the associated health risks. The petition documents more than 110 examples of drugs and other substances which are, or potentially should be, prohibited in food-producing horses, describes the horrible way in which horses die at slaughterhouses, and outlines the environmental devastation that has been associated with slaughter plants. View the full white paper:
Horse Slaughter Facts
• Even though horses are not currently slaughtered for human consumption in the U.S., our horses are still being subjected to intense suffering and abuse through transport and slaughter over the border. Undercover footage shows live horses being dragged, whipped, and crammed into trucks in with interior temperatures reaching 110 degrees. Horses are often shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest. Pregnant mares, foals, injured horses, and even blind horses must endure the journey.
• In November 2011, Congress chose not to renew a prohibition on spending tax dollars to facilitate horse slaughter, which had been in place for five years, potentially opening the door for a return of horse slaughter plants on American soil, despite broad opposition in this country to the practice. USDA documented a history of abuse and cruelty at the U.S. plants, including employees whipping horses in the face, horses giving birth on the killing floors, and horses arriving with gruesome injuries.
• It is not only horses who are old, sick and infirm which fall victim to horse slaughter. USDA statistics show that 92 percent of all horses sent to slaughter arrive in “good” condition—meaning they are sound, in good health and could go on to lead productive lives.
• Horse slaughter actually prevents horse rescue; rescue operators are routinely outbid by killer buyers at auctions.
• The operation of horse slaughterhouses has a negative environmental impact. All three of the last domestic plants to close were in violation of local environmental laws related to the disposal of blood and other waste materials.
• Congress is considering the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 1176 introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and H.R. 2966 introduced by Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to prevent horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S. and stop the export of American horses for the purpose of slaughter in Canada and Mexico.
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