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 horsemeat 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.
We 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!
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.
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 proprietor 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.