NGO investigations and EU audits have revealed massive problems with animal welfare and the import of horsemeat from overseas. The issue was discussed on an online event at the European Parliament which was organized by several NGOs and Eurogroup for Animals.
New video footage proves that horses are systematically abused, mistreated and neglected. Severely injured and sick horses do not receive veterinary care or euthanasia. Downer horses are pulled off the trucks with chains and left to die. In Canadian feedlots, newborn foals still freeze to death at temperatures as low as minus 36° Celsius. — Sabrina Gurtner, Project Manager, Animal Welfare Foundation
FOOD SAFETY AND ANIMAL WELFARE CONCERNS
Horsemeat imports from overseas have been criticized by international animal welfare organizations for many years. As a result, all Swiss supermarkets took horsemeat from overseas off their shelves. Several Belgian, Dutch and French retailers followed their example. In 2015, the biggest Swiss meat importer GVFI (Basel) also stopped these imports on the ground that the equines’ traceability is not ensured. Yet, around 17,000 tons of horsemeat from overseas continue to be imported every year to the EU and Switzerland.
An international animal welfare coalition, via a petition which has already gathered nearly 120,000 signatures, is currently calling on the European Commission to immediately suspend the imports of horsemeat from countries where EU requirements on food safety and animal welfare are not respected.
The EU suspended Mexican horsemeat imports, following issues similar to those that occurred in Uruguay, Argentina, Canada or Australia, and it led to a decrease in production and exports. Yet, now we witness an increase of Argentinian horsemeat imports into the EU, so any positive impact has been hindered by the lack of coherence of the EU approach on this dossier. The EU should send a clear message to its trading partners stressing that respecting the rules matters, and suspend imports where requirements are not met. Then, it should use its trade negotiations to incentivize progress and only restore imports if rules are respected . — Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals.
The most recent EC audit reports on horsemeat production in Uruguay and Argentina confirm “serious questions about animal welfare at the time of killing”. The same EU audit reports also indicate that the audits did not reflect the everyday situation. “The inspections are announced in advance and slaughterhouses and horse dealers have developed a system to mislead the inspectors”, explains Gurtner. Footage recorded by NGOs shows that pens are emptied before the audits, or that sick and injured horses are exchanged with healthy animals.