The fall in the number of horses crossing from the US into Mexico for slaughter has been disappointingly small since the European Union (EU) imposed a ban, horse advocacy groups monitoring the trade report.
The Equine Welfare Alliance and Wild Horse Freedom Federation yesterday released the second part of their two-month investigation into the Mexican horse-meat trade, following a ban imposed by the EU.
The ban, imposed on January 15, followed unfavorable Food and Veterinary Office audits.
The groups had anticipated a greater slowdown in the trade, given that 77 percent of horse meat exported from Mexico in 2014 was bound for EU countries.
Their hopes that the ban might result in a 70 percent fall in the trade, or even an end to the slaughter pipeline to Mexico, now appear to be dashed.
“A great deal of what happens to the traffic of slaughter horses to Mexico will depend on future EU decisions concerning other third-country suppliers, as well as economic developments in coming months,” the groups said in a report which details the second part of their investigation into the trade.
“To date, the reduction has been disappointingly small, but we expect a slowdown in the range of 30-50 percent of the flow of US horses shipped to Mexico for slaughter, as well as a decline in the offering price, rather than the much hoped for shutdown of the slaughter pipeline.”
The groups said the EU ban represented a serious blow to the Mexico-based horse slaughter plants, but the development of new markets took up some of the market share lost.
“As a result, it is expected that the Belgian and Dutch multinationals controlling most of the horse-meat distribution business worldwide will switch to servicing EU customers from suppliers in countries that are still approved by the EU while they reserve Mexican horse meat for other markets where food safety requirements are less stringent such as Russia, Vietnam, and other third world countries.
“Switching their EU clients to horse meat from countries that are still approved by the EU may be only a temporary measure, however, because several of these countries were recently subjected to audits with equally negative results to the Mexican audit, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Uruguay.”
The advocacy groups anticipated that juggling the markets and providers would come at a cost to the Mexican plants, since the meat will most likely bring a lower price.
“While it might be possible that one or more plants will close down after a protracted period of losses, much depends on the Russian market,” they said.
Russia, a significant past customer for Mexican horse meat, had itself banned the meat for a year ending in August of 2014 due to drug residues.
Russia was expected to be a significant alternative market after its ban expired, but the devaluation of the Russian ruble appears to have derailed that alternative. As things stood, the fall in the Russian currency against the Mexican peso meant that the cost of Mexican horse meat to a Russian consumer had doubled.
“The loss of Mexico’s primary customer for their horse meat will result in a decrease in the demand for live US horses for slaughter in Mexico, although such a decrease will be lower than the initially expected 70 percent.”
The investigation by the groups involved observations of the Eagle Pass border crossing in Texas, where many horses are exported to slaughter in Mexico, and an exhaustive search of US, Mexican, EU and international trade records.
Before the ban, 87 percent of the 105,406 horses slaughtered in four EU-approved plants in Mexico in 2014 came from the US, and 78 percent of the meat from those horses was exported to the EU.
Investigators at the export pens found and reported multiple violations of the Commercial Transportation of Equines to Slaughter regulations [9CFR88]. Specifically, they noted violations of the mandatory six-hour offload rest period for the horses.
The investigators also observed one violation of a rejected blind horse, and they filmed a donkey being trampled in the back of a livestock trailer as it departed the pens.
While the exports of horse meat from Mexico to the EU were largely curtailed after the deadline, Equine Welfare Alliance investigators detected two shipments of horse meat to the EU that were shipped after the January 15 deadline.
The shipments were reported to pertinent EU authorities.
The group said that, given the “rampant violations” found in the investigation, more frequent monitoring was planned for the future.
The latest part of the study can be read here.