A great many racehorses, estimated at 15 percent of all slaughtered horses, find their way to sales and auctions and, ultimately, to slaughterhouses. These unfortunate horses are slaughtered, processed and sold for meat consumption in Europe and Asia.
The concern in Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses is that horses may not be free of drugs and may, therefore, not be used for humans. New European food safety restrictions have been tightened up, and racehorses are among those most affected by them. In some instances, the restrictions may require lifetime medication records to accompany the horse when it is sold for slaughter. In addition, these same rules may even necessitate horses be retained in feedlots for up to six months before they can be killed.
European safety officials have become concerned about the drug content in the ex-racehorses. They have declared racehorse meat to be toxic for human consumption because of their repeated drug injections. As of this writing, those officials are also expecting medication records for every horse bound for slaughter despite the fact that a small percentage are racehorses. They continue to contemplate requiring feedlot holds for six months.
Just a couple of months ago, Stephan Giguere who is the general manager of a horse slaughterhouse, admitted that he refused truckloads of horses coming from the United States. His clients were troubled about the drug problems. Giguere told his kill buyers not to purchase horses coming from USA tracks.
“We don’t want them,” Giguere said. “It’s too risky.”
Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a faculty veterinarian at Tufts University and co-author of a 2010 article, sought to raise concerns about the drug situation and to enlighten people about possible health risks surrounding American racehorse meat.
Racehorses are walking pharmacies,” said Dodman. “It is reckless to want any of the drugs routinely administered to horses ‘in your food chain’.
There have been many alarms raised about drugs used for horses. In fact, it is not just the racehorse industry that uses drugs regularly. All horses at one time or another may require painkillers. Certainly, all are regularly wormed with various available drugs.
It is a law that horse headed to Canada or Mexico are free of specified drugs and have been for six months prior to being slaughtered. It even states that people involved in the shipping of slaughter-bound horses have affidavits stating the horses have been free of drugs for six months.
Easy to say, but reality is a totally different thing. The required affidavits are easily forged or falsified. Consequently, our American racehorses frequently show up in slaughter-bound loads within weeks or days of leaving the track.
In Mexico, 80 percent of the horses slaughtered are from the United States. For Mexican-killed horses, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers discovered countless problems during audits. Purportedly, the commission’s report stated that Mexican officials were not permitted to query authenticity or veracity of sworn affidavits.
Per the commission’s report:
The systems in place for identification, the food-chain information and in particular the affidavits concerning the nontreatment for six months with certain medical substances, both for the horses imported from the U.S. as well as for the Mexican horses, are insufficient to guarantee that standards equivalent to those provided for by E.U. legislation are applied.
According to the New York Times, authorities in the United States, Canada and Mexico concede that supervision of the horse slaughter business is lenient.
One documented case: A thoroughbred was butchered in a Canadian slaughterhouse and tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which found the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone in muscle and kidneys. They also identified clenbuterol. This finding prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to send a warning letter to Ronald Andio, Ohio feedlot owner who sells horses for slaughter. Andio was warned and reprimanded for selling a drug-tainted horse for slaughter. It has not been possible to get further information on the letter, nor on the case against Andio, which still remains open.
Most of the attention is focused on racehorses. However, the officials are missing the bigger picture. That is, horses are always administered drugs of some sort or another, the very least being wormer and painkillers.
Horses for human consumption? Not likely! The writer wouldn't eat a horse on principal let alone ingest the medicines with which they are regularly treated.
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