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Friday, August 03, 2012

New Public Health Concerns Emerge as Horse Slaughter Once Again Rears Its Head

Boosters of horse slaughter have been venue shopping—from Missouri to New Mexico—in their bizarre attempt to re-open equine abattoirs on American soil. When horse slaughter plants previously operated in the U.S. they were typically a blight on their communities, causing housing prices in nearby areas to decline and local economies to suffer. So far, no community in the nation wants to be known as the one that is killing Mr. Ed

But if any of these plants do open in the U.S., it’s becoming uncertain whether they will have any remaining markets to sell their product. There is increasing evidence that horsemeat originating in the U.S. poses a public health threat to the small pockets around the globe that fancy it. A recent notification made by the Belgian authorities to the European Commission confirmed the presence of two unauthorized substances, Clenbuterol and Phenylbutazone, in horsemeat that was imported into the European Union from Canada in June.

Horses_in_pen_270x224These unauthorized substances were found in frozen horsemeat that was subsequently distributed to Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. According to a recent audit conducted by the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office—Europe’s equivalent to our U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration—85 percent of the horses slaughtered in Canada originate from the U.S.

Clenbuterol and Phenylbutazone, known as Bute or horse aspirin, are commonly prescribed medications for horses and have been banned by the FDA and USDA for use in animals raised for human consumption. These drugs are administered to thoroughbreds and quarter horses, which are not only the horses used most for racing in this country, but are also the most common breeds sent to slaughter.

The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue have petitioned both the USDA and the FDA to have horsemeat declared “tainted” and unfit for human consumption. The U.S. has no system in place to track the medications that are given to horses over their lifetimes. Therefore, there is no reliable way to remove horses from the food chain once they have been given prohibited substances. While horse slaughter apologists are rallying for a return to horse slaughter on U.S. soil, the USDA and FDA are rightly being asked to take a hard look at the serious and far reaching food safety concerns associated with slaughtering U.S. horses. 

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 1176 and H.R. 2966, would prevent the senseless slaughter of American horses in the U.S. as well as the export of our horses to slaughter plants across our borders. This legislation will also keep tainted meat out of the food chain and prevent further food safety issues in both the EU and the U.S.

The Europeans have been well-justified in placing restrictions on American-produced meat products, such as hormone-laced beef, Ractopomine-treated pork, and chlorine-washed chickens. It’s time for them to restrict imports of drugged-up horses, where the food safety case is even more obvious. And here, back at home, we know that Americans don’t want their horses butchered, shrink-wrapped, and air freighted to Europe as a high-priced appetizer. It’s a barbaric, unsafe, discredited business. Contact your members of Congress and urge them to support S. 1176 and H.R. 2966, to protect horses and consumer safety.

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