This past July 4, Animals' Angels and our international animal welfare coalition partners, Tierschutzbund Zurich (Switzerland) and Global Action in the Interest of Animals (Belgium), met with the EU Commission to discuss the issues surrounding horse meat imports from the Americas.
In the meeting we presented the findings of our comprehensive investigations in Canada, Mexico and the United States which outlined the abuse and torture that defines the horse slaughter industry. We also showed the complete lack of reliable traceability as to where horses caught in the pipeline come from and demonstrated that the so-called "kill buyer affidavits" were often fraudulent. Since the July meeting we have continued to provide the EU Commission with the most reliable information available. On Dec. 10, the Commission's decision to ban all horse meat imports from Mexico was published in the Official Journal. The ban will go into effect on March 1, but all horse meat will have to be dispatched to the Union prior to today, Jan. 15.
"The EU Commission made the only rational decision possible," said Sonja Meadows, Director of Animals' Angels.
AA's EU Consumer Awareness Campaign officially launched in 2012. Realizing early on the utmost importance of educating the primary consumer, Animals' Angels, Inc. has always believed that the European Commission and the EU consumers needed to be made aware of just how much cruelty is linked to the horse meat that ends up on their grocery shelves and how unreliable the verification process regarding traceability and drug residues is. From the very beginning, Animals' Angels, Inc. has released reports and videos in Europe in order to educate and dissuade people from eating horse meat.
Per Sonja Meadows:
At Animals' Angels, we've always believed that ending the demand of the primary consumer would surely impact the supply aspect and in turn save American horses, hence the distribution of our reports in Europe.
The decision to ban the import of horse meat from Mexico altogether is ground-breaking. It was made on Dec. 8, after a recent audit carried out in Mexico by the Food and Veterinary Office confirmed what AA's coalition had communicated to the EU Commission all along. One of the key issues was the inhumane treatment of horses being shipped from the United States to Mexican slaughter plants.
Michael Scannell, director of the Food and Veterinary Office, had already addressed this issue Nov. 30 at a European Parliament Intergroup meeting in Brussels, stating that the EU Commission was "very close" to imposing a ban. He admitted that the transport conditions were completely unacceptable and that animal welfare concerns had certainly influenced the Commission's decision.
The official FVO audit report, which was released a few days later, revealed that previous action plans had not been adequately implemented and that the overall situation remained unsatisfactory.
Post-mortem inspection records in two slaughterhouses indicated serious animal welfare problems during transport and/or at arrival at the plant. Horses of US origin were regularly found dead in slaughterhouse pens due to trauma or pneumonia shortly after arrival. Controls on the effectiveness of stunning were found insufficient. For the first time, animal welfare played a major rule in an FVO audit report, which is a truly exciting development.
There is still some progress left to work towards. The ban on horse meat has not been extended to Canada. While that is somewhat disappointing there are still steps being taken in the right direction. For instance, the EU Commission will institute several regulatory measures including the restriction that only meat from horses that have been in a Canadian feedlot for six month will be accepted, which will impact the business of US kill buyers significantly.
"Of course we had hoped for a complete ban in Canada as well," said Sonja Meadows, "especially given our previous documentation of the poor conditions at feedlots in Alberta. However, this step should make the import of horses from the US more difficult, thereby still saving a number of US horses from this horrific fate."
We at Animals' Angels are very proud of our coalition's EU Campaign and the impact it had. However, until a complete ban is in place, we will continue our investigations into the feedlots and slaughter plants in Canada and of course we will never stop fighting against horse slaughter returning to the U.S.
For more information, please visit our website at animalsangels.org