On Friday, July 4th, as Americans around the U.S. celebrated Independence Day, Animals' Angels Inc. in conjunction with its international animal welfare coalition partners, Global Action in the Interest of Animals (GAIA, Belgium), Tierschutzbund Zurich (TSB, Switzerland). Eyes on Animals (Netherlands), L214 (France) and Eurogroup for Animals met with some of the top players at the EU Commission in Brussels to continue pushing forward in the fight for winning the freedom of U.S. horses and spreading much needed advocacy on an international platform.
For years Animals' Angels has been at the forefront of efforts to stop the horse slaughter industry from every angle possible. Building on the organization's established mission of openly sharing the information gathered from their tireless investigation efforts, Animals' Angels has established strong and respectful relationships with the key decision makers in Europe who have the authority to put an end to the import of horsemeat. According to Sonja Meadows, Executive Director of Animals' Angels, "Ending the demand for horsemeat would be a powerful step to ensure the safety of our horses. Meeting with the EU officials on July 4th, in which we had the chance to present our evidence against horse slaughter first hand and discuss our findings one on one with some of the most important individuals at the EU Commission, was a significant step forward in our goal to save our horses."
Frightened horses, crowded into a feedlot like sardines, trying to avoid stepping on the decomposing bodies of other horses that have been dead for days. Emaciated horses, staring dully at the ground where there is no food or water to be found. Horses with open gashes on their flanks, hobbling around with dislocated or broken legs. Horses with obvious infections and illnesses. A dying mare, her dead foal still lodged in the birth canal.
These were a few of the images that Animals' Angels and its coalition partners presented during the July 4th meeting. Animals' Angels collected the evidence of wide-spread abuse of horses, destined to be slaughtered and their meat shipped to Europe to be sold in various countries throughout the European Union.
Sonja Meadows had this to say: "We showed video and other findings from our investigations of the Bouvry Exports feedlots in Alberta, Canada, as well as those in Mexico and Argentina. We presented evidence showing that the EU-approved slaughterhouses often flouted EU regulations on a daily basis. We were also able to once again show, in excruciating detail, the atrocious conditions horses must endure during transport and while in holding at feedlots and collecting stations. The stark reality is far different than what the EU officials, as well as the primary consumers, believe to be true."
Another grave concern is the health risk inherent in eating horsemeat. The FVO, the EU authority responsible for the inspection of the slaughter plants, has repeatedly informed the EU Commission that the systems in place regarding identification and medical treatment of horses are insufficient to guarantee EU standards. Particularly with regard to Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay, the FVO has raised concerns about traceability and the risk of drug residues in horsemeat.
The animal welfare advocates and EU officials discussed the conditions for horses destined to be sold as horsemeat for European tables, EU certification of these slaughterhouses, how animal transport regulations of exporting countries differ from those of the European Union, and emphasized that there is a lack of monitoring plans in exporting countries to ensure that these horses are treated humanely until their deaths.
"Since a great percentage of the horsemeat sold in Europe is ultimately sourced from the U.S., it's imperative that the EU lawmakers have relevant evidentiary material in order to make educated decisions on this issue. Animals' Angels is the only U.S. group ever invited to meet with the EU Commission on the issue of horse slaughter," said Meadows. "We, and our European partners, will continue to do all we can to stop the slaughter of horses, by ending the importation of horsemeat into Europe."
The EU Commission members appeared receptive to the reports presented at the July 4th meeting. The animal welfare coalition called upon the Commission to take the strongest and most efficient measure at hand which is to ban the import of horsemeat completely from North and South America.
For more information please visit www.stop-horsemeat-imports.org
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