Horsemeat – Hiding in Plain Sight

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Butchers_Boy1Written by Heather Clemenceau

In South Florida, 18 horses have been found slaughtered since the beginning of the year – and many more have been stolen – making it obvious that many in our international community don’t view the consumption of horse meat as taboo.  While many countries have no qualms about depersonalizing North American horses and horsemeat, it appears that horsemeat permeates the food chain in ways unimagined.   In fact, European consumers may be eating horse meat without realising it, due to inadequate labelling, a recent survey for the Humane Society International (HIS) revealed.  Not only have Europeans been eating horsemeat without realizing it,  but it can also be found in the most innocuous of places,  including picturesque country bakeries and dog food outlets attempting to capitalize on the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) craze.  Not only is it available at various Italian butchers as I’ve previously identified,  I’ve found that horsemeat is available in Dutch bakeries in southern Ontario,  and offered for sale for dog food on Kijiji and Craigslist.

I think it’s fair to say that the purchasers and consumers of these products believe that the horses are raised locally and humanely and would be surprised to learn that they are not raised for consumption and certainly do not meet European and even Canadian standards in many cases.

“Horse meat imported to Europe from third countries may also pose a risk to human health,” said Joanna Swabe, HSI Europe’s director. “Horses in the US are companion, race or work horses routinely given veterinary drugs banned for use in food-producing animals in Europe. Current measures are failing to stop these drugs from entering the food chain.” Dutch activist group Wakker Dier commissioned a study that shocked international media with the news that up  to one-third of all dutch snacks contain horsemeat (also know as rookvlees).  Although horsem2010-07-20-1butchersstalleat consumption is declining in the Netherlands and the Dutch overall do not have a problem with horsemeat, the activist group maintains that labelling is critical so that people who do not want to eat non-food companion animals are able to distinguish via proper labelling.

As a rash of horse killings plague South Florida, the odds of consumers unknowingly ingesting horse meat increases, especially if purchasing meat from an unlicensed meat vendor selling mystery meat from the back of their vehicle. Purchasers might not be able to tell the difference between horse and cow meat because they look very similar.  The slaughtered horsemeat is said to sell for up to $40 a pound. These horses are not bred for consumption, meaning they have almost certainly been treated with equine medications, resulting in contaminated meat – and that’s 50 shades of toxicity.  Not only that, but the horses have often been stolen from family farms or acquired by duplicitous means and cruelly slaughtered often while conscious.  Horsemeat is also a conduit for trichinosis, where there have been fatal outbreaks in Europe.  The dewormer that is effective against trich is also prohibited in animals used for food consumption.  Wormers are often not effective once a parasite encysts in the horse’s muscle.  So there the parasite waits, waiting to be eaten and colonized by a gourmand.  If that fact alone doesn’t result in late-night visits to WebMD,  I don’t know what will.

siftingthepast_kitchen-with-pieces-cook-and-kitchen-maid_unknown_16th-centuryWe must act to stop illegal slaughter..  Jorge Ortega, who was arrested for selling horsemeat in Florida, has made a plea deal – under this deal he will serve 18 months probation and will pay more than $1,000 in restitution to the USDA. He also must not have any contact with any horses, and after successfully completing probation, the charges will be dropped.

Dropping the charges sends the WRONG message about horse slaughter in Florida, an issue that puts horses and humans lives in danger.  We must send a strong message to law-makers in Florida that these types of lenient sentences are not acceptable! To quote Richard Couto of ARM – “Ortega had his hand in many of those farms, as far as killing the animals and selling their meat.” These slaughter farms are violent places that no one should have to live near.”  Please take action to encourage lawmakers to appropriately punish people who illegally slaughter horses!

Canada K-9

From Kijiji – Canada K-9 sells raw horsemeat for dogs. The proprietor claims that he has a “license” to obtain horsemeat or horses “when available.”

Across Canada, there appear to be a shocking number of potential suppliers of horsemeat.  I have no way to quickly authenticate or vet these links,  and it’s been some time since they were updated,  but this site lists 99 possible suppliers of horsemeat across Canada – far more than I ever imagined if the list is accurate.  A truly heartbreaking compilation of companies. Restaurants serving horsemeat are found in Calgary,  Toronto,  and British Columbia,  the site of the latest “Stop Slaughtering Us” billboard.  Horsemeat is also available variously throughout Quebec as well,  in grocery stores as well as restos.

horsemeat dog food

From Kijiji – Raw horsemeat available “government inspected.”

The Norwich Deli of Norwich, and the Dutch Village Bake Shops in Orono and Whitby sell smoked horsemeat sourced from Roos Meat in Brownsville, Ontario, which is supplied by Claude Bouvry in Alberta.  While that meat will be  legal for resale throughout Canada,  horsemeat is also advertised on Craigslist and Kijiji as dog food,  where it’s origin seems more than a little uncertain.  I wrote to two Kijiji advertisers offering horsemeat for dog food.  I figured there’s no pointing in mentioning the cruelty issue,  so I sent an attachment from a veterinary news article citing Ivermectin residues in horsemeat as being dangerous for collie breeds, with no response from the proprietor, although the ad is still running,  suggesting that the pursuit of profit trumps both science and good business practices.  I also contacted the propsiftingthepast-u_boy-with-sausages-and-dog_pieter-snyers1681e280911752_rietor at Canada K-9 dog foods in Oshawa, to ask where he sources his raw horsemeat supply.  His mysterious response?  “Well its not easy, but I have a licence to be able to get it when available.”  Sounds like someone with occasional access to a secret stash of Zyklon B….Recent discoveries in Ireland also revealed that horsemeat has been found in beef burgers,  in the case of Tesco burgers,  a DNA analysis revealed that the product contained 29% horsemeat.

Please take action in the Jorge Ortega case as outlined in the links above.  Please send a polite,  fact-based message to the delicatessens mentioned (on the web and on Facebook) as well as any horsemeat suppliers you may find on Kijiji or Craigslist.  The EU’s expanded residue testing program will eventually yield worse than anticipated results for North American horsemeat, if it has not already.  Businesses selling North American horsemeat need to be told why more than 100,000 horses slaughtered each year should never be consumed as food for humans or animals.

 

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About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

8 responses »

  1. Several months ago my wife was shopping for meat as she usually does, at a butcher shop we have frequented for a short time. When getting home she said, believe it or not they sell frozen horse meat, as she seen it in their freezer. Iwrote the owner of the butcher shop, and explained the drugs administered to these animals and their real potential for human health issues. I also mentioned the cruel inhumane transport and slaughter of these animals. I asked him for a reply to my letter, which he did, his comment the CFIA has certified the meat as safe and the CFIA assures humane transport and slaughter. Most Canadians see the CFIA, as an agency in desperate need of a COMPLETE house cleaning starting with that incompitent G. Ritz, who in my opinion should be criminally charged for deaths at Maple Leaf Foods, and ecoli sickness at XL in Alberta.
    Needless to say, we no longer purchase from this irresponsible butcher, and have at every opportunity passed this message on to others.

  2. I sent the Governor of Florida a letter about the gross amount of backyard butchers they have in their state and how they merely receive a slap on the wrists when caught for torturing animals and selling their NON USDA inspected meat. (I’m sure I’m not the first person he’s heard from.) I got no response. It will probably take someone like 20/20 (the news show on ABC) to bring it to light and embarrass the state of Florida into stepping up. It pisses me off that Florida pushes the issue aside because I live in a state that borders Florida. This is too close for comfort. What further disturbs me is that children live in many of these homes and witness the awful ways in which these animals are butchered. I am reminded of a case in my state where a child witnessed her father butcher goats by hanging them and slitting their throats as they struggled for their lives. It disturbed me to hear this second hand. Imagine the devastation to the seven year old who actually saw it. This is child abuse, as well, capable of causing post traumatic stress and worse. Unacceptable.

    • The problem is not only that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, but that the crime is so lucrative that there’s little incentive to stop, especially as in the Jorge Ortega case, his record would be expunged after he completes his “sentence.” I have a tactic that I use for various states, when Tennessee was considering horse slaughter, and Wyoming, for example. I just start posting news articles on their Facebook TRAVEL pages. I email about 500+ people in the Canadian government every month, and I get few responses myself, so I know where you’re coming from. Sometimes embarrassing states and governments will prompt people to take action. Thanks for reading!

  3. Hopefully this will post as email etc. has’nt been working today but strangely internet is?? However, when I spoke with Metro Grocery chain the other day about more meat safety concerns and more of my outrage regarding Ontario Horses slaughtered for their sale profits, one Metro response back to me was ” but we don’t sale horse meat in Ontario”

    • I had a similar response when I wrote to IGA – they seemed to believe also that because I’m in Ontario that it doesn’t matter. I guess it’s OK to offer the pharmaceutical grade of meat to Quebeckers….

    • You are so right! They are just woefully ignorant and no one with any authority is trying to educate them. Disgusting.

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