The European Horsemeat Scandal

“You can’t have your horses and eat them, too. Equines are favored animals. Americans consider horses to be sporting, recreational and companion animals and as such, equines regularly receive drugs and medications that are carcinogenic to humans and other animals. Their meat is unfit and unsafe for food. Equines are not bred for food. To slaughter them is as barbaric and unacceptable as it would be for us to slaughter dogs and cats, which are also eaten in other cultures. All equines need to be removed entirely from the food chain immediately.”
– Susan Wagner, President Equine Advocates

As the European Horsemeat story has picked up steam in the news over the past few weeks, it’s been hard to unravel exactly where the horses came from, where they were slaughtered, and where the horsemeat entered the food chain. What started as a “UK horsemeat scandal” now encompasses much of Europe. 

The ‘Labeling’ Issue
We know that the vast majority of European citizens are rightfully concerned about how this could happen. While open borders across Europe can make it harder to track, control, and inspect food, Europeans in general pay a lot of attention to the origins and labeling of food, especially given past issues with mad cow disease and concerns with cross-contamination of genetically-modified food. However, more needs to be done, including the introduction of regulation at a European level and better enforcement of existing inspections, as discussed in this NY Times article.

The Fraud Issue
It’s hard to say how much deliberate fraud has been involved in this contamination of the food chain, but it certainly gives Americans pause and makes us re-examine our trust in major food chains like Nestle, Asda (owned by Walmart), Burger King, IKEA, Bird’s Eye and other companies who also sell their products in this country.

These two topics seem to be the major focus of the past few weeks, but there are other issues about which the public needs to be educated.

The Health Issue
Certain European officials are still declaring that even if ‘bute is found in the food chain, this would be a low-level health threat.  But yet, we know that ‘bute stays in a horse’s system for its lifetime and is absolutely harmful to humans and other animals. Phenylbutazone, or bute, is a painkiller commonly used in horses that specifically states on the label, “Not for use in horses intended for the food chain.” And with new findings that horsemeat has been found in children’s school lunches and in hospital food, it becomes even more critical for Europeans to take action.

The Slaughter Issue
The British don’t eat horsemeat, but yet horse slaughter is still legal and slaughterhouses still operate in England and Ireland. We’re hearing a lot about the concerns with horse meat entering the food chain, but less than we’d like about the inhumane practice of horse slaughter itself.  While some great stories have been written and (Warning: graphic video content) investigations taken place , we are absolutely horrified to read about the practice of the Romanian Horse Mafia rounding up and abusing horses before selling them for slaughter. Nevertheless, we’re hopeful that casting light on these issues will give new life to the same debate going on here around horse slaughter and the need for it to be declared illegal.

Next:  Could this happen here in the United States?
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