The European Commission has banned the importation of horsemeat from Mexico following a series of audits by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), which identified significant traceability problems with horses slaughtered for export to the EU that had originated in Mexico and the United States.
Whilst the ban has been undertaken on the grounds of ongoing concerns over food safety, the decision will have a sizeable impact on the welfare of horses in Mexico and the US. Indeed, for the first time in such a case, poor animal welfare at the time of transport is highlighted in the conclusions of the FVO report on which the decision was based.
This comes after research published earlier this year by Tierschutzbund Zürich (Switzerland), Animal Welfare Foundation (Germany), Animals’ Angels (USA), GAIA (Belgium), Eyes on Animals (Netherlands) and L214 (France) uncovered the widespread suffering of horses in the US and Mexico – horses which were ultimately destined for slaughter and export to the EU.
Whilst welcoming the ban, the Director of Eurogroup for Animals, Reineke Hameleers, said: “This ban is of course a step forward for animal welfare in Mexico and the USA, and and not least because animal welfare concerns are directly referenced in the FVO’s report. However, this ban should have happened long ago.
“We now want the Commission to turn its attention to other countries, where similar concerns exist over traceability and the risk of risk of drug residues in horsemeat, particularly with regard to Canada, Argentina and Uruguay.
“The reality in these countries for horses is no different than it was in the Mexican case. Horses are being bred, poorly cared for, cruelly transported and slaughtered in inhumane circumstances simply because the continuing importation of horsemeat from these countries into the EU drives demand. And again, in each of these cases, the FVO has raised concerns about traceability and the risk of drug residues.
“Eurogroup also calls on the Commission to empower consumers so that they can choose to buy meat from countries which have poor animal welfare standards.As a bare minimum, existing country of origin labelling requirements should be extended to include horsemeat. This would be one of the best ways to stem the cruel production of horsemeat beyond the EU’s borders.”