European authorities to ban horsemeat shipments from Mexico

Wayne Pacelle
Wayne Pacelle

European authorities have dealt a hefty blow to the North American horse slaughter trade, imposing a ban on the import of horsemeat from Mexico.

The decision follows a series of audits by the European Union’s Food and Veterinary Office.

The most recent audit, published on December 4, found continuing problems around traceability and aired concerns that some shortcomings identified in previous audits had not been rectified.

“It’s a huge moment in our campaign to end the slaughter of American horses throughout North America,” said the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Wayne Pacelle.

“This predatory industry has once again been exposed for animal abuse and reckless disregard for consumer safety.

“The decision to shut down this hub for the North American slaughter industry should result in tens of thousands of American horses no longer facing the dread and terror of long-distance transport and inhumane slaughter.”

The audit by the Food and Veterinary Offices raised concerns around the traceability of US and Mexican horses.

US horses account for 87 percent of the eligible horses slaughtered in Mexico for export to the European Union.

The audit questioned the reliability and truthfulness of vendor statements about horses’ medical treatment records.

The HSUS noted that American horses were raised for use in show, sport, work, and recreation and were regularly given drugs over the course of their lives that are potentially toxic to humans, the most common of them being the pain reliever Phenylbutazone.

The audit also outlined animal welfare concerns throughout the slaughter pipeline, including injured animals and a lack of adequate care at the export facilities on US soil, horses suffering during transport, and many American horses dying in slaughterhouse pens due to trauma and pneumonia.

The audit reflected many of the key concerns raised by horse advocacy groups, including the HSUS, around trade.

The HSUS believes Congress should enact the SAFE Act (Safeguard American Food Exports Act), to halt the transport of horses for slaughter within the United States and also to the country’s North American neighbors.

With Congress last year defunding slaughter in the US, and the EU’s action to shut down imports from Mexico, there is no rationale for not banning this trade, the HSUS says.

Humane Society International/Europe welcomed the decision taken by authorities in Europe, calling the most recent audit a damning indictment of the horse slaughter industry.

HSI’s European Union executive director, Dr Joanna Swabe, said the ban was 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.”

HSI said the European Commission was at last taking rigorous steps to protect EU consumer safety, but it would like to see a moratorium covering Canada, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, where it says similar traceability problems with horsemeat exports persist.

Since July 31, 2010, the EU has required that the only horses allowed to be slaughtered for export within the Union are those with a known lifetime medical treatment history and medicinal treatment records that show they satisfy the veterinary medicine withdrawal periods.

The latest Food and Veterinary Office audit in Mexico concludes that it is not possible to guarantee the reliability of vendor affidavits and traceability for horses of both US and Mexican origin with regard to veterinary medicinal products and residues.

The ban is covered by a transitional period to avoid any disruption trade.

For a transitional period until March 1 next year, EU member states will continue to accept consignments of meat and meat products of horses imported from Mexico and intended for human consumption provided that the importer demonstrates that the products had been certified and dispatched to the Union before January 15.

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7 thoughts on “European authorities to ban horsemeat shipments from Mexico

  • December 12, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Great news in some ways for sure, however, what many may not realize is there was no mention about horse meat coming from Canadian slaughterhouses. So, instead of horses being transported to Mexico, now they will all be headed north to Canada. For some of them, an even longer haul. What I also fear is the Canadian wild horses will now be sought after because of their obvious lack of any drugs being administered to them. There must be a better way to deal with the horses that people no longer want.

    • December 15, 2014 at 12:22 am

      All goes to show how misguided was the decision to close US horse abbattoirs (doing the wrong thing for the right reasons?). If you are going to keep horses you need to have an exit strategy for them. Better to have a viable humane legitimate operation under decent supervision, than an unsupervised corrupt “back-street” response to a pressing economic need. The US should remember their lessons from Prohibition. It was of course an American who coined the expression “Better inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in”.

      • December 15, 2014 at 8:31 am

        Mr. Watson, you really should read the FVO audit. It was not about Mexico really, it was more about our US horses being unfit for human consumption.

        As for the myth that our slaughter process was “well regulated”, consider that the report found the biggest humane violations were occurring in transport. That is still regulated in the US by USDA/APHIS, and those are the very people who oversaw our plants.

        The truth will always come out in the end. In this case it has taken decades, but there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.

  • December 12, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Just like me people everywhere in the US want horse slaughter brought to a halt. This will put a stop to many of the killer buyers that haunt all of the auctions where horses are sold. As the EU found out the tracing of auction horses is impossible. The killer buyers fill in all of the information about the horses they just bought with false and made-up information. Claiming they know all about the drugs the horses have been given when common sense says they don’t. Its all about the money they make on this cruelty and nothing more. Canada is doing the very same thing and I hope the EU will shut them down as well. There is not one bit of difference in what Canada does and Mexico as well as the other Latin American countries that also sell horse meat to the EU.

    • December 14, 2014 at 4:57 am

      Absolutely right, Barbara. Any horse transported from the US has a major possibility of having falsified “treated with no drugs credentials, including Canada” It is a predatory business, where people may say anything just to get a horse out of a pasture. I am jumping for joy that this has been done. The problem is totally overbreeding, without any oversight. The horrific cruelty dosed on these beautiful animals during this process is an abomination that must end everywhere. We don’t eat our friends and companions!!!

  • December 13, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Fight until its Gone!

  • December 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

    And we would rather let them starve to death,suffer immense neglect, etc.? Whose to fund all the rescues, etc. not working from what I can see, and not all people can put their horses into the ground,etc. Then, what about the entire question of food for the world and responsibility to humanity. Isn’t this wasting a food resource? I agree 100% that tracebility of animal, and what went into it is important…so don’t buy anything from certain countries today…as you have no idea what is in the process of raising it, etc. This includes vegetables, fruit, meat,etc.


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