June 1, 2018 
Animals' Angels & Animal Welfare Foundation call for horsemeat ban

Washington, DC/Frankfurt/Brussels
Animals' Angels (AA) and its European partner Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) are calling on the European Union Commission to ban the importation of horse meat from Argentina and Uruguay. Through in-depth investigative reporting carried out by AWF the agencies have confirmed, once again, that horse slaughter facilities in the two countries are failing to comply with even the most basic of the European Union's animal welfare regulations and traceability requirements -endangering not only the health of the horses, but also threatening the safety of unaware consumers across Europe.

Dying horse at Lamar Plant - Photo: AWF 

"The treatment that was documented by AWF is shocking, but not surprising," says Sonja Meadows, president of Animals' Angels. "Our alliance has demonstrated the cruelty inherent in the production of horse meat in Argentina and Uruguay since 2012, and unfortunately, not much has changed."
The 2017 investigations examined the Lamar and General Pico slaughterhouses in Argentina and the Clay and Sarel facilities in Uruguay, all of which are approved to export horse meat to the European market. Despite the EU's high standards for imported meat, however, the animal welfare groups describe sweeping disregard for the EU's animal welfare regulations. Undercover agents-with video cameras-have documented horses with untreated wounds, crowded pens that encourage stress and injury, mistreatment by staff, failure to humanely euthanize seriously injured or dying horses, unsafe transportation, lack of basic protection from severe weather, and the slaughtering of animals with infected wounds.

Photo: AWF

"The abuses that were witnessed are wrong and illegal," says Meadows. "From the moment the horses arrive in over-crowded and poorly designed trailers to enduring harsh weather and untreated ailments to their slow and painful death, there is suffering everywhere you look.  These conditions fall far short of the treatment we should provide to any animal, and they certainly don't meet the high bar set by the European Union."
And Animals' Angels concerns aren't just for the horses. "Although the focus of our organization is on animal welfare," says Meadows, "this is also of critical concern to consumers-we are talking about a massive level of fraud."
Meadows explains that among the disturbing revelations of these most recent investigations was that slaughterhouses were removing, placing, or manipulating horse tags-which ostensibly provide certification of the animal's ownership and medical history-directly prior to their slaughter, a practice that undermines the EU's requirements for detailed documentation and raises questions about the horses' origins.

Horses at plant - Photo: AWF
"It may not be obvious how dangerous this practice is to human health, but it is incredibly alarming," says Meadows. "We have reason to believe much of the horse meat that ends up in the European market began life as sport or leisure animals. These horses likely received medication and treatment that could be dangerous to the end consumer, not to mention any injuries or infections they were carrying at the time of their death."
The traceability of horse meat, in particular, is critical for effective consumer and animal protection. In August 2015, the EU imposed a ban on horse meat from Brazil, due to ongoing corruption and an outbreak of glanders, an equine disease that can be transmitted to humans who consume the infected meat. But without adequate documentation, Brazilian horses are still finding their way to Uruguayan slaughterhouses and into the European market. In 2015, police reported that 2,000 horses had been smuggled from Brazil to Uruguay, but the true number could be much higher.
Pressured by independent groups, concerned consumers, and a 2015 ban on Mexican horse meat, European horse meat importers, headed by the Belgian FEBEV, have established a partnership with the University Leuven in Belgium. The companies say the university will conduct independent research into the slaughterhouses' procedures. But groups like Animals' Angels say the partnership is too little, too late.

Emaciated horse - Photo: AWF
"FEBEV wants to create consumer confidence in imported horse meat, but this is simply the latest in a charade of consumer deception," says Meadows. "What the Animal Welfare Foundation documented in these slaughterhouses are not exceptions or isolated instances. This is a highly crafted system of cruelty, designed to produce the cheapest horsemeat possible for European consumption. The only way to protect the safety of these animals and the health of consumers is to stop the importation of horse meat from Argentina and Uruguay."
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sonja inspecting trailer

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