The European Union (EU) is close to imposing a ban on the import of horse meat from Mexico.
The director of the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Union Commission, Michael Scannell, revealed that a ban was close when he addressed the recent European Parliament’s Intergroup meeting in Brussels.
He also voiced concerns around some of the serious welfare issues identified around the long-haul transport of horses from the United States to Mexico, saying some animals arrived dead or unable to stand.
He also revealed that stricter conditions would make it harder for Canada to export meat to Europe that was derived from horses imported from the US .
Scannell told the meeting, which discussed issues around horse meat imports to the EU, that his office felt the need to highlight any contraventions around animal welfare that were a cause for concern.
“In general, the worst contraventions we know are in relation to transport.
“By way of example, we will publish a report in the next number of weeks in relation to Mexico where we saw animals which arrived dead from the United States or non-ambulatory, i.e., they weren’t even able to stand.
“Conversely, what we see in relation to slaughter is by and large acceptable.
“There are relatively few establishments approved for export of horse meat to the European Union.
“It is quite a lucrative trade and the establishments concerned know that they are under an awful lot of pressure, and that they are being very closely watched.
“One of things they can control relatively well is slaughtering conditions, and by and large what we see is acceptable.
“And I emphasis in that context, slaughter, by definition, is not pretty; even the most compliant slaughter techniques in the best-performing abattoirs do not look nice.
“So, on transport, as I say, totally unacceptable conditions; on slaughter, by and large, acceptable.
“And then a final point if I may. The commission, in the light of the various FAO [Food and Agriculture Organisation] reports, is not blind to the need for improvements.
“And we have been engaged for quite some time in protracted discussions with a number of third countries with a view to raising conditions.
“We are not happy with the progress that has been made in certain cases, so very recently, following some very difficult negotiations with the Mexican authorities in particular, we are now very close to taking a formal decision to ban imports of horse meat from Mexico.
“We are also very close to imposing stricter conditions [around] the so-called six month rule in Canada.
“So, in both cases, this will make it a lot more difficult – impossible in the case of Mexico, difficult in the case of Canada – to continue importing horses from the United States for subsequent export of horse meat to the European Union.”
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