Monday, June 7, 2010

Horsemeat making consumers sick

Courtesy Laura Allen
Animal Law Coalition
Will food safety concerns mean the end to slaughter of US horses? Visit this link for more info and how you can take action to urge Congress to pass HR 503/SB 727 to end the slaughter of US horses for human consumption. http://www.facebook.com/l/657ec;animals.change.org/blog/view/will_consumer_safety_concerns_end_slaughter_of_us_horses
Will Consumer Safety Concerns End Slaughter of U.S. Horses? 
The number of American horses that are slaughtered is driven by a demand in some other countries for horsemeat, where it's usually a pricey delicacy. The demand has dropped dramatically over the years from a high in 1989 of 348,400 horses to 134,059 horses slaughtered in 2008. In 2009-2010, demand has dropped even more. In Europe, in particular, demand in the past year has dropped as consumers have learned of the shocking cruelty of horse slaughter in North America.
The demand for American horsemeat may soon plummet and end altogether, especially in the European market. Indeed, the second largest grocer in Belgium and Holland pulled American horsemeat from the shelves.

But there's more good news for our horses and those calling for an end to the slaughter. Beginning July 31, 2010, the European Union will begin enforcing restrictions on the sale of meat from horses that have been given certain drugs and steroids. This means that, where horsemeat is destined for the E.U., Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouses (where U.S. horses are sent for slaughter) must obtain veterinary records of all drugs or medication provided to the horse in the preceding six months. By 2013, all horses to be slaughtered for human consumption in the E.U. must be accompanied by veterinary records from birth that show the horse has never been given banned substances.
This is impossible for American horses.
American horses are not tracked, and there is no way to know the drugs, steroids or medication given to them. Horses in the U.S. may have several owners, and those that end up at slaughter are usually purchased at auctions or otherwise by kill buyers. These kill buyers probably know nothing about the horses' veterinary or drug history which, beginning July 31, will mean the horses cannot be slaughtered for sale of their meat in the E.U.

Also, a recent study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, Association of Phenylbutazone Usage With Horses Bought for Slaughter: A Public Health Risk, brings home just how dangerous American horsemeat is for consumers.  The study examines the presence of phenylbutazone in American horses sent for slaughter for human consumption. Phenylbutazone is a widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), more commonly known as PBZ or bute. PBZ is basically aspirin for horses. It is used, for example, in the racing industry.

"PBZ is [also] a known carcinogen and can cause aplastic anemia (bone marrow suppression) in humans", states Ann Marini, M.D., Ph.D., one of the study's authors. The study shows when bute was used in humans, there were side effects, like bone marrow suppression leading to death, in over 90 percent of the cases. And traces of PBZ remain a contaminant in horses "for a very long and as yet undetermined period of time". That means PBZ is there when people eat the horsemeat.

Like the E.U., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans bute in horses that are to be used for food.
John Holland, a founder of Equine Welfare Alliance, pointed out in testimony before legislators this year, "There are lots and lots of drugs in these horses ... Because [horsemeat] is sold to foreign countries [for human consumption, our inspectors] looked the other way." The new restrictions will change that for the E.U. market. It won't be long before consumers in other countries also realize the danger.
This is just one more reason why it is essential that Congress pass the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503/S.B. 727) to end the commercial slaughter of American horses.
Photo credit: Louis

Thektkckhxfmemr-30x30-cropped Laura Allen is the founder of Animal Law Coalition, general counsel for Equine Welfare Alliance and Executive Board member for Saving America's Horses - A Nation Betrayed.

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