The European Union’s decision to end American horse meat imports from Mexico is a fantastic card to play in the political push to end the slaughter trade, the president of the Equine Welfare Alliance says.
John Holland told members in a New Year message that he believed there was real potential for 2015 to mark the end of the slaughter trade in US horses.
His prediction followed what he described as two big developments in 2015 – the federal defunding of inspections at slaughter plants, and the EU ban on Mexican horse meat.
By contrast, this time last year the anti-slaughter lobby was facing the threat of up to four horse slaughter houses opening in the US.
Holland said the European Union was now aware that the US had no system of traceability on drugs administered to horses, and their ban on Mexican horse meat was as much about US horses as it was about Mexican slaughter.
The EU, he said, had listened and banned the import of US horse meat from Mexico, albeit a decade after first being contacted about serious food safety and humane issues.
That ban, which takes effect on January 15, would have several impacts, he suggested.
“It should drive down Mexican slaughter of our horses, and it is a fantastic card to play in the politics of Washington and elsewhere.
“As we all know, Mexico has customers for its horse meat other than the EU. So we all wanted to know what percentage of their horsemeat goes to non-EU countries.”
Holland said a researcher for the alliance recently obtained records of all horsemeat sent by ship, and another obtained from Mexican Government websites the totals for sea and air exports.
“We found that only about 22 percent of their total recent exports have been going to non-EU countries. The largest is Russia with about 13.2 percent (when we had only the seaborne trade numbers, this number looked like about 6.6 percent).
“Interestingly, the next largest customer is Vietnam with 6.2 percent. This was a surprise and is almost identical to the percentage that France had been importing. Switzerland is next with about 5.3 percent.”
Holland said there had been a lot of speculation about China, but it accounted for less than 1 percent, though Hong Kong was taking about 4 percent.
“We expect that Mexico will be forced to drop its prices to attract more customers if they hope to make up their shortfall.
“We have found that Canadian plants like Natural Valley lost money for several years before throwing in the towel, so it may take a while to know what their new business model will look like.”
He said the alliance would find ways to warn the remaining foreign consumers of what European authorities found in their audits in Mexico.
Holland said there was speculation that horse meat from Canada may also be banned, though there was a possibility the country may impose a strict six-month quarantine.
“Quarantine would, however, not bring Canada up to the standards the EU places on its member-country suppliers since some drugs, for example phenylbutazone, are banned from ever being given to a food animal.
“All of these measures will at the very least make the business much less profitable, and if anything less than a ban is imposed, we must expect the cheating that has been the rule with the EIDs [equine identification documents] to continue.”
Holland said it could not be assumed that the organisation’s fight to end horse slaughter was over, but it may be the beginning of the end, with plans for the strategic use of a powerful public relations firm to get the facts and the EU’s decision into the media.
“We will be watching the number of horses going to Mexico closely, as well as Mexico’s exports of horse meat.
“We must also continue to work toward a federal law to remove equines from the food chain forever.”
Holland predicted that the pro-slaughter side would “go back to their play book of spreading stories about how the sky is falling without horse slaughter”.
It would be a mistake to underestimate their reach, he said.
“I can say that 2015 promises to be an exciting year, and we intend to work harder than ever. The successes of the past year were not the exclusive work of one group or another. They were the result of all of us all working together.”