Time to ban horsemeat trade in all of North America, as investigation in Mexico uncovers horse sold as beef

By on October 30, 2017 with 19 Comments

Mexico is forging ahead on animal protection. Earlier this year, its Congress made dogfighting a felony throughout the nation. Mexico City adopted an extraordinary charter on animal protection. A number of major food retailers in Mexico have said they will change their purchasing practices to stop buying eggs and pork from operations that confine hens and pigs in small confinement cages and crates. Our Humane Society International/Mexico office and partner organizations are working hard to keep this important and strategic country trending in the right direction and to also crack down on other abuses of animals.

One of those abuses involves the slaughter of horses for human consumption. A new study in six Mexican cities has found horsemeat in nearly 10 percent of meat products that are being sold as beef or that are not clearly labeled. The samples of meat were collected from common vending points, including butcher shops, supermarkets, street markets, and street stalls.

The study, commissioned by HSI and conducted by researchers at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, also found high levels of a veterinary drug commonly prescribed for horses, clenbuterol, in some raw meat samples. Clenbuterol is not approved for food producing animals, and can be harmful to humans.

The researchers collected 433 samples of cooked and uncooked meat from an assortment of vendors across Mexico, of which nearly 10 percent tested positive for horsemeat. Samples were collected in six cities: Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Mexico City, Pachuca, and San Vicente Chicoloapan. The samples included four types of meat samples (ground meat, regular tacos, crispy tacos, and thin steaks [bistec]) and were either unlabeled or labeled as beef. The samples that tested positive for horsemeat were obtained at informal selling points such as street stalls and markets, and most vendors appeared to be unaware that there was horsemeat in the products they were selling.

Mexico is the second largest horsemeat producer in the world, after China. According to the Mexican Ministry of Trade, between January and August 2017, Mexico exported almost 1,500 tons of horsemeat, worth more than $4 million, to Japan, Russia, and Vietnam. Mexico not only kills thousands of its horses for human consumption each year, but also slaughters tens of thousands of perfectly healthy American horses. U.S. kill buyers acquire working, racing, and companion horses and even children’s ponies and try to make a fast buck by funneling them to horse slaughter plants over the northern and southern borders. Just this year, as of September, kill buyers have shipped more than 60,000 horses to Canada and Mexico to be killed for human consumption.

Horses in the United States are raised as companions and partners in work and sport, and not as food animals. As a result, they are commonly treated with drugs deemed unfit for human consumption. In 2014, the European Commission suspended the import of horsemeat from Mexico to the European Union due to food safety concerns. The HSUS has documented, via undercover footage, the incredible suffering faced by animals: downed, injured horses slaughtered for human consumption despite being ill, horses suffering in export facilities on U.S. soil, and horrific welfare problems during transport. The same drugs would put at risk Mexicans, Canadians, and the Japanese, as well as visitors to those countries and others who would sit down to a horse steak – either knowingly or not. No one is immune from drugs long deemed unfit for human consumption.

Beyond the issue of self-interest and public health, Mexico should not be complicit in this grisly trade, and the United States should not use Mexico as an export market for an enterprise that’s illegal on our soil. The practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption should stop across North America. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 113/S. 1706, which would cement the existing prohibitions on domestic horse slaughter and build on that provision by stopping the export of horses for slaughter abroad, is just one important policy vehicle to help us achieve that goal.

The evidence that we’ve obtained in Mexico reveals that this ugly enterprise is trying to trick Mexican vendors and consumers. It’s a disreputable industry, and the country’s lawmakers should build on their recent good works and establish protections for animals who have changed the course of North American history for the better. It’s a small act of reciprocity for North Americans to honor the role of the horse in North American settlement, commerce, and recreation and end the most extreme form of human-caused exploitation of these noble animals.

P.S. Americans can take action today to protect U.S. horses from being slaughtered for human consumption. As our companions in sport and leisure, we owe it to them to make sure that their lives do not come to a terrifying end in a slaughterhouse to feed the international demand for horsemeat.

Categories
Equine, Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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19 Comments

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  1. Carol landry says:

    This is sick! Leave the horses free! They have many human-like feelings and understand what is happening to them. It’s so horrible! PLEASE end this cruelty!!

  2. john reiter says:

    Horses are the most beautiful part of America and were here first. No one should ever eat or mistreat a horse in any way.

  3. Marjorie Farabee says:

    Please include donkeys and mules.

  4. Kathleen Mindak says:

    This has got to stop why do they keep getting away with it. How do these peopke sleep at night knowing what they’re doing to those beautiful hotes that helped us build this country. Holding pens are a slow death they must be free on their Land. Not cows

    • Julia Milford says:

      We need to put a stop to the BLM because they round up these wild horses that they are suppose to be protecting and selling to known kill buyers

      • JR Anderson author of The Fancy Hat Veneer, an expose of the vile horseracing industry says:

        The BLM is only a TINY part of the problem. Every breed specific group is pro-slaughter. Just google groups like the American Quarter Horse, Arabian Horse groups etc. The racing industry offers MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in EACH state for breeding incentives to Thoroughbred breeders. This supports and encourages breeders to produce as many foals as possible with the full knowledge that only a portion of a percent will ever be “good” enough to race and that the majority will be savagely butchered in Mexico and Canada. Breeding incentive programs are a matter of public information so look them up and education yourself and others.

  5. Peggy says:

    I am so hopeful that the slaughtering of our most noble horses will come to an end this year. It is heartbreaking to think of the horrible end many of our beautiful horses have to endure.
    Thank you, Wayne Pacelle for leading this fight and I pray you are successful soon.

  6. Loretta says:

    They’ll do anything they don’t have any laws there this has to stop.

  7. Susan Kayne says:

    Mexico is in the horsemeat business because it is hugely profitable. Is it up the USA to police their conscience — without first addressing the root cause on our own soil?

    The problem with the horsemeat trade begins long before a clenbuterol-laden burger is served on the streets of Mexico. It starts in the breeding sheds across America where greed takes precedence over sentience, and tens of thousands of horses are mated for short-term gain without any consideration for their natural lifespan of 30-years or more.

    So, until every pro-horse organization addresses and exposes the real source of the problem, overbreeding and irresponsible ownership, and until every Breeder and Owner is forced to assume financial responsibility for the humane aftercare of each horse they alone bring into the world, the merciless killing of our American horses will continue, and likely increase.

  8. Angela Grammatico says:

    This HORROR must END, NO HORSE MEAT !!! STOP HORSE SLAUGHTER

  9. Denise Hoover says:

    Want these horses to be safe them stop killing horses for meat …I’m against this all way …how can I stand up for these horses

  10. Barbara Shipe says:

    They are pet’s not food, people have gotten to the point they will eat anything. Horse’s worked hard to build this country and this is what they get for it. I tell you the more time goes by the worse people get against animals.

  11. Susan Kayne says:

    Mexico is in the horsemeat trade because it is hugely profitable. Is it up the USA to police their conscience — without first addressing the root cause on our own soil?

    The horsemeat trade begins long before a clenbuterol-laden burger is ever served on the streets of Mexico. It starts in the breeding sheds across America where greed takes precedence over sentience, and tens of thousands of horses are mated for short-term gain without any consideration for their natural lifespan of 30-years or more.

    So, until every pro-horse organizations exposes and addresses the real source of the problem, overbreeding and irresponsible ownership, and until every Breeder and Owner if forced to assume financial responsibility for the humane aftercare of the horses they alone bring into the world, the merciless killing of our American horses will continue, and likely increase.

  12. Kathi Gillin says:

    There is no place for this in a civilized nation. This needs to be outlawed around the world.
    These beautiful creatures deserve our protection.

  13. John Scheib says:

    The HSUS needs to stop any support what-so-ever of horse racing. No more discussions of “cleaning it up.” That will never happen. Horse racing relies on the horrific breeding, racing and slaughter practices that are neatly hidden from the pubic at every turn. Do not kid yourself, if you are not advocating for the swift end to this activity, you are deeming it legitimate in some form. Dog racing, dog fighting, cock fighting and horse racing breed, abuse and kill their animals. Please reconsider all of your stances on support. HSUS has the power to tell the truth to your audience about horse racing. Compare horse racing to your list of reasons why you called for the end of dog racing. The horse industry has money, fame and celebrity. Walk away from those temptations. Walk away from the false premise you will change it. Even in a changed form tens of thousands of race horses will be needlessly killed every year. Cut that number by 2/3rds and it’s still absolutely immoral. Please declare HSUS a strong force in abolishing racing. Then you will show those of us who know the truth about racing that you stand behind a humane world for animals.

  14. International Horse Registry says:

    Well said Susan!

  15. JR Anderson author of The Fancy Hat Veneer, an expose of the vile horseracing industry says:

    It is interesting that the HSUS published this article regarding the slaughtering of tens of thousands of USA horses for meat as if it is something new. It has been going on forever. How hypocritical of the HSUS to write such an article while they publicly do not oppose horseracing….ONE OF THE PRIMARY FEEDS INTO THE SLAUGHTER PIPELINE.

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