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Italian Horse Group Exposes Dangers of Imported U.S. Horse Meat

Report from Italian Horse Protection Association

EU Taking Second Look at U.S. Horse Meat Dangers

In the USA there is no differentiation between FPA (Food Producing Animal) and non-FPA equidae; horses are simply not considered as part of the food chain. US’ horses are slaughtered in Canada and Mexico (and perhaps in the USA re-starting in 2012). Horse meat is exported primarily to Europe (France, Belgium, Italy and Germany are the main horse-meat eating countries). The significant point here is therefore that any horse, not being considered part of the food chain, can be treated with any and all drugs which the vet – or indeed simply the owner – considers necessary, with no formal requirements to observe or fulfil.

The European Union, quite rightly severe (although in our opinion not sufficiently) with its own producers, from whom it demands a strict record of all drugs administered to animals destined for human consumption in the name of the health and safety of the consumer, accepts a mere declaration by the owner of the horse that no drug which is inadmissible in Europe has been administered to the animal, or that due time has elapsed between the administration of drugs, and slaughter. This document should also contain all the necessary information for identification of the equine.

Volunteers from the Equine Welfare Alliance (an alliance of animal rights associations, with members in 18 countries among which Italy, represented by IHP) travelled to New Holland in Pennsylvania, USA to a market for horses destined for slaughter in Canada, to see just how these declarations worked. The volunteers photographed as many declarations as they could manage to get their hands on for a moment: they were all actually blank with just a signature and then just stuck onto any horse, indiscriminately. In one case, there are two pages, one with just a signature and no further details about the horse, the other a blank piece of paper with the name and address of the vendor, plus a comment on how strong and healthy the horse is, and the phrase ‘no drugs’. The practice begs the question, even if the forms were filled in correctly, as to what guarantee there is that the vendor is telling the truth? The Equine Welfare Alliance immediately sent their photos to the competent authority in the EU but has to date received no reply.

Take a look at the certificates.

Given the situation, some university researchers (Nicholas Dodman, Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Massachussets; Nicolas Blondeau University of NIce “Sophia Antipolis”, Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology , France, and Ann M. Marini, University of Bethesda, Department of Neurology, Maryland) put to the test a theory, cross checking the data of some of the animals sent for slaughter with the data banks from racecourses where the horses had run. Those data bases contain the records, required by anti-doping laws, of treatments with phenylbutazone (commercial name: Bute), a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug commonly used on horses but which is prohibited in Europe for horses destined for human consumption.

By means of a complex procedure, the researchers uncovered information about the data of races of 16 horses out of 50 of those under study. The result of the study is that all the horses whose data was located had been treated with Bute, some of them only one week before slaughter. However the data uncovered was relative to race dates, while not all treatments administered are logged if they are not close to the date of a race. Horse meat exported to Europe, therefore, is very likely indeed to contain traces of prohibited substances, and not only of fenilbutazone.

Read here the full text of the article by Dodman, N., et al. Association of phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk. Food Chem. Toxicol. (2010), (doi:10.1016/j.fct.2010.02.021)

After having read the results of this research, we looked further and found a shocking list of drugs and hormones, in every day use on horses in America but severely restricted (or indeed actually prohibited) in Europe because they are dangerous, some very dangerous, to human health. Some hormones permitted in the USA but prohibited, or at any rate strictly regulated in the EU, can be considered so dangerous that some transatlantic health organisations advise, for example: “It is recommended that pregnant women do not handle this product and that the person carrying the container for the oral administration of the product should wear at least two pairs of disposable gloves and be assisted by someone who can open the doors for them, in order to avoid the risk of contamination”.

Digging even deeper we came across something that we would never have wanted to find. Two inspection reports of the EU dated autumn 2010, one in Canada, one in Mexico, following an EU inspection to ensure that horse meat produced there reached an acceptable standard for European public health.

The results of the two inspections are chilling: two slaughter houses in Mexico are completely inadequate, yet anyhow authorised to export meat to the EU. The Mexican authorities “promised” the inspectors that they will not issue export certificates for meat from those two abattoirs. Other slaughter houses “ONLY” had the problem of non-drinkable water, hygiene issues, and, naturally, no check on the veracity of the certificates about drugs. The inspection concluded that the slaughter houses, even though authorised to export to Europe, are not in line with the set standards. Imports to date have not ceased. The situation in Canada is slightly better but even there, apart from some hygiene problems there is absolutely no check on the presence of drugs, apart from the ridiculously inadequate declaration of the vendor.

Read the Canadian inspection report.
Read the Mexican inspection report.

This situation is not only very serious from the point of view of public health, due to the amount of dangerous or very dangerous drugs the consumer is ingesting, but is it totally scandalous, if we think that the authorities who are supposed to watch over these things are perfectly aware of what has been going on since autumn 2010, quite likely even earlier, and who not only have photographs showing how the ‘certificates’ are produced, but also have the word of their very own inspectors, who declare in writing that there can be no guarantee for the public health.

As if this was not enough , it is a common myth in some Countries that horse meat should be given often to children and pregnant women, and to cure anaemia. In other words to all those who should be the object of increased health protection. Health protection that the EU fails to give.

Click (HERE) to visit our good friends in Italy

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11 replies »

  1. This is an excellent expose.

    I won’t eat horsemeat, but I understand why some people do (cultures of the horse people of Mongolia, Tibet, etc…drugs and mass production slaughter aren’t issues there).

    The bigger issue is the institutionalized lying, fraud to consumers and cruelty to equines. No living thing deserves that.

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  2. The problem with drugs may have a simple solution. Microchips could be installed when a veterinarian administers any drug to a horse. A simple scan would reveal what drugs had been given, dosage and date. This wouldn’t address owner admisistered medications, but a start.

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  3. Way back in WWII my neighbor ate horse meat. It was something they had to do to survive. But this person doesn’t do that any longer.

    And before you bash her just know that life was more than difficult in many parts of Europe at the time. Food was scarce. It was something you did to survive.

    But we don’t have the issues today that we had then. And feeding toxic horse meat to prisoners is setting each state up who does so to huge lawsuits. Feeding toxic horse meat to school children IS NOT the answer. I know there are many folks struggling to keep a roof over the families head and sometimes lunch is the only meal kids get the whole day.

    There has to be a better way. Maybe we as a society can’t afford to feed each kid steak and eggs for breakfast but there should be a way that kids can come in early and have something good to eat before school. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen kids come to school with the large size Doritos bag of chips. They have weight issues and tell me they are going to share. They also have the big two liter bottle of soda.

    Parents have the money to give the kids to have them buy breakfast on the way to school but where is the accountability? Perhaps an answer is this–the restaurant sets up a monthly account for the parents. And the kids get a good breakfast without parents doling out cash for the kids to buy whatever they want.

    When you feed horse at school a lot of kids won’t have the choice to make a good decision. They are so hungry. Schools need to be proactive. And we can help them by alerting your county school administrators of the dangers of horse. It may be as simple as the county wasn’t aware of the dangers.

    Me? I had to remind my sister the other day that I don’t eat red meat. It messed up her plans for Christmas dinner for a moment. I don’t have a problem with the rest of my family eating red meat as long as they respect my food choices. And I’m happier because while I’m only one person more are following me–that until BLM gets their act together more people will boycott beef.

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    • To even condone HORSE FLESH on an children lunch is satanic! How dare!
      The Donner party ate people because the were starving. America has NO STANDARDS! How can we ask the Japanese to stop killing Whales while Horse flesh is being peddled? ? This is why joining any cause in America, I learn, will end up making me and hypocrite! I support stop killing the Whales, stop killing and caging for FUR Trade to find I am rubbing shoulders with HORSE FLESH CANDIBALES!

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  4. Italians are getting smart. The menus would be full of statements like “American Quarter Horse” steak, while the cost outrageous. A friend of mine who visits Italy at least 2 or 3 times a year was shocked to find his family eatting this meat. There were also in their area of Italy several cases of cancer and other diseases. When he explained how US horses were kept and what the process actually was they no longer consume horse meat. He showed them a long list of pharmeticals which are continaully administered. The Italians were shocked that their families were put at such risk. He was a good promoter for horses not being slaughtered and sent to their countries. It
    comes without saying if a horse is remotely taken care of, her/she could never be consumed by a person. Again, lies, lies and who is at risk here? I sure hope the Europeans get on the case of the EU. Lets make more friends around the world by poisoning and killing them and their families with our beloved horses.

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  5. Oh America how low hast you sunk into the mire of your vices and greed oh America!?How much lower can it get or were hast thou not spread thy loathsome accursedness America? To eat man’s oldest means of support and transport, to have no respect or honor reflecting through habits acquired, such as cannibalizing the Equines members of the civilized world it helped to bring about, while the elite watches them in races; Horse are team-members in national sports, they are members of Olympic sports, Horses carry Princes and City Guard alike, are the dreams of little Girls, grace famous paintings, horses helped Americans to become an conquerors and now?: in the very land Horses should be revered, honored and pastured, exports them slaughtered like cattle as in an meaningless commodity. Slaughtering and selling Horses is simply detestable beyond words….

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  7. If any horse meat vendor in Europe japan and Asia south America had one ounce of integrity or pride in horse meat products they sale to the Public they would ban and refuse to buy one Ounce of horse meat from Mexico Cannda and USA …. If any of the countries that consume horse meat think for one instance that they r getting a product free of drugs or sickness they r delusional.

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