The European Commission has implemented a conditional ban of the import of horsemeat from Mexico following a series of audits by the Food and Veterinary Office.
The audits consistently identified serious problems with the lack of traceability of horses slaughtered for EU export with origins in the United States and Mexico, particularly regarding veterinary medical treatment records. The most recent audit published on 4th December is a damning indictment of the horse slaughter industry and the Mexican authorities’ failure to rectify previously identified problems.
Although the ban has been introduced due to food safety concerns, animal protection group Humane Society International/Europe says the decision could potentially have a positive animal welfare impact in reducing the number of horses suffering in the Mexican slaughter pipeline. Dr. Joanna Swabe, HSI’s European Union executive director, welcomed the decision:
“Banning horsemeat imports from Mexico is long overdue. For years Humane Society International has repeatedly sounded the alarm about horsemeat entering the food chain that does not fully meet EU safety standards. As well as safeguarding EU consumer safety, closing our borders to horsemeat from these countries is important for animal welfare, too. Horse slaughter, regardless of which country it is in, is fraught with inherent cruelty.”
Currently 87 percent of the eligible horses slaughtered in Mexico for meat export to the EU originate from the U.S.; horses are not bred to be eaten in either the U.S. or Mexico. Additionally, the use of veterinary drugs such as phenylbutazone, banned for use in food animals, is widespread; mandatory lifetime medical record-keeping is non-existent in both countries.
As confirmed by the latest audit, the FVO has consistently found questionable the reliability and veracity of vendor statements about U.S. and Mexican horses’ treatment records, meaning such meat entering the EU could contain banned veterinary drugs. The FVO also confirmed HSI’s particular concerns regarding the very poor welfare conditions at export facilities located in the U.S., during transport from the U.S. to Mexico and at the slaughterhouses.
HSI acknowledges that the Commission is at last taking rigorous steps to protect EU consumer safety, but would like to see a moratorium covering Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay where similar traceability problems with horsemeat exports persist.
Source: Humane Society International
HSI’s EU Executive Director Dr. Joanna Swabe is available for interview and comment by contacting:
Raul Arce-Contreras, firstname.lastname@example.org +1 301.721.6440
Four years after strict import requirements for products of animal origin entered into force in the European Union, Humane Society International is renewing its call to the European Commission to halt the import of horsemeat from outside the EU.
Joanna Swabe, HSI EU director, said “These EU import requirements look great on paper, but the implementation thereof by non-EU countries has been farcical. Humane Society International has repeatedly warned that the measures implemented by Canada and Mexico to prevent meat from horses treated with banned substances, such as phenylbutazone, from entering the EU food system are fundamentally flawed and highly susceptible to fraud. Even the European Commission’s own audits have highlighted this, which makes it all the more outrageous that they have failed to take action to suspend the import of horsemeat products that do not meet EU food safety standards.”
Mounting evidence suggests that this issue is not restricted to horsemeat from North America. Food and Veterinary Office audits in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay  indicate that the measures implemented in these countries to prevent meat from horses treated with substances banned for use in food animals are also vulnerable to fraud. The drug treatment histories of horses slaughtered for export to the EU may also have traceability issues.
An investigative report on horsemeat imports recently produced by a coalition of European animal protection groups  corroborates HSI’s own findings, lending additional weight to our calls for the Commission to uphold its own import requirements for products of animal origin and to take urgent action to ensure that meat from horses that do not qualify for slaughter for export no longer ends up on EU consumers’ plates.
1. All FVO audit reports can be accessed here: http://ec.europa.eu/food/fvo/index_en.cfm
Source: Humane Society International
Media contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras: 301-721-6440, email@example.com