Imported horsemeat to the EU puts consumers at risk

Imported horsemeat to the EU puts consumers at risk
Dying horse at an assembly centre in Argentina, credit: Animal Welfare Foundation

NGO investigations and EU audits have revealed massive problems with animal welfare and the import of horsemeat from overseas. The issue was discussed on Monday at an online event at the European Parliament which was organised by several NGOs and Eurogroup for Animals.

Horsemeat imports from overseas have been criticised by international animal welfare organisations for many years.

As a result, all Swiss supermarkets took horsemeat from overseas off their shelves. Several Belgian, Dutch and French retailers followed their example. Yet, around 17,000 tons of horsemeat from overseas continue to be imported every year to the EU and Switzerland, according to Eurogroup for Animals.

An international animal welfare coalition, via a petition which has already gathered nearly 120,000 signatures, is currently calling on the European Commission to immediately suspend the imports of horsemeat from countries where EU requirements on food safety and animal welfare are not respected.

“Since 2015, European importers have been trying to get to grips with the blatant animal welfare violations in their partner slaughterhouses overseas by producing new manuals and arranging on-site visits”, said Sabrina Gurtner, Project Manager at the Animal Welfare Foundation. “However, the importers' attempts to control the production conditions have been ineffective to this day.”

The most recent EC audit reports on horsemeat production in Uruguay and Argentina confirm “serious questions about animal welfare at the time of killing”.

The same EU audit reports also indicate that the audits did not reflect the everyday situation. “The inspections are announced in advance and slaughterhouses and horse dealers have developed a system to mislead the inspectors”, explains Gurtner. Footage recorded by NGOs shows that pens are emptied before the audits, or that sick and injured horses are exchanged with healthy animals.

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