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February 20, 2013

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International Call for a Moratorium on the Sale of Horse Meat from North America

Humane Society International

  • It is time the European Commission takes swift and decisive action on the issue of horse meat trade. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

BRUSSELS – As the European Union grapples with an extreme and growing lack of consumer confidence in the quality and origin of meat products labelled as beef but containing large quantities of misidentified horse meat, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International call on EU leaders to take a holistic approach to reforming this food import and distribution industry.

EU consumers expect a precautionary and thorough approach to addressing fraud and ensuring safety. The European Commission must act quickly and place a moratorium on the sale of all horse meat products that originate from North America and other countries that do not meet the EU’s food safety regulations. Additionally, horse slaughter is an inhumane and cruel practice, as horses endure horrific, long-distance transports.

The HSUS and HSI first called on the Commission in early 2012 to investigate concerns that horse meat originating from performance and race horses, particularly from the United States, cannot be regulated into compliance with strict EU standards. In February and May of 2012, the organizations sent letters warning the Commission of this potential threat to food safety. These letters, containing detailed information, were ignored. HSI and The HSUS raised concerns that the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office audit report carried out in November 2011 concluded that traceability and treatment records of horses transported to slaughter from U.S. origins are "insufficient" to meet the EU's requirements for ensuring food safety.

There can be no doubt that substantial numbers of the more than 100,000 American horses slaughtered each year in North America, and sold to Europe, have been administered veterinary drugs, at odds with the lifetime ban on these substances for food animals.

"There is virtually no horse racing around an American track or on exhibition in the show ring who has escaped a prescription for pain-masking drugs clearly prohibited for use in food animals under EU regulations,” said Holly Hazard, senior vice president for equine protection for The HSUS. “In addition, there is no way to track illegal substances such as dermorphin (tree frog juice) routinely used by unscrupulous horse trainers to enhance performance because laboratories wouldn’t even know to test for these drugs. Sport, working, companion and performance horses do not belong in the food supply as the meat simply cannot be guaranteed safe."

It is unacceptable and irresponsible that the Commission has yet to take adequate action with respect to North American horse meat imports, when audits carried out by its own Food and Veterinary Office have consistently highlighted that the systems put in place by Canada and Mexico are fundamentally flawed. This is due to the fact that, unlike in the EU, there is no mandatory requirement in the U.S. for horse owners to keep lifetime medical treatment records for their animals.

While an audit system may be a deterrent for unscrupulous dealers trying to outwit the food supply system, it will have no impact on tainted horse meat originating from North America because the animals are not intended for food, often have between five and six owners before being sold for slaughter, and have no documentation of medical care. The only way to ensure a safe and compliant food chain is to mandate that only animals raised for food be allowed to enter the food chain.

ENDS

Media contact: Rebecca Basu, +1-240-753-4875, rbasu@humanesociety.org

Humane Society International and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organisations. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at hsi.org.

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