From April 2010 the EU will be clamping down on imported US and Canadian horse meat due to concerns over contaminated horse meat.
European authorities have already cracked down on horse meat producers within the EU, requiring a passport and microchip ID system that specifically documents whether a horse has received certain drugs. Owners must state that their horses are intended/not intended for human consumption by using the page on their equines passport marked section IX. Every time an equine receives a drug that is not permitted to enter the human food chain,such as Bute, it must be entered onto this page by the administering Vet.
The new EU rules will require that either slaughtered animals have complete health records showing they have not received banned substances or a undergo a 180 day quarantine period. Canada has said that they will likely abide by the 180 day quarantine, as mandated by the EU.
For years anti- horse meat campaigners in the US have pushed the point that their horsemeat is unsafe for human consumption as there is no passporting system or way of tracking where horses have come from or what chemicals they have been given.
At the moment we are unsure what the impact of this will mean for equines. France imports 85% of its horse meat at present. Most horse meat on supermarkets shelves in France will be of Argentine, US and Canada origin.
This is a beaurocratic ruling that raises so many more questions than answers;
- With euthanasia options already so limited for equines in France, will owners of equines (especially older ones) who cannot enter the human food chain because of drugs, be tempted to just abandon their equine?
- Will equines, such as racehorses and trotters, who frequently enter the human food chain at present be forced to be quarantined for 180 days to be clear of drugs?
- If the above happens then this could this mean injured and suffering equines left untreated whilst in quarantine?
- If left untreated for 180 days could we see a rise in epidemics like strangles, EIA?
- What will the US do with an even greater rise in the number of unwanted equines?
- Will horse meat prices be forced to rise so much so that it will be nonviable to slaughter equines for human consumption? If this happens what will Europe do with all its excess horses e.g from the racing industry?
- Will there be in increase on the blackmarket for horse meat as witnessed at present in Miami?
Whilst potentially safeguarding the human consumer in the EU, the huge impact this will have on equine welfare has been largely ignored.