How Did Hundreds of Research Horses Make it into France’s Food Supply?

France has found itself deep in another horse meat scandal following the discovery that horses who were used in a research lab made their way into the food chain.

French authorities arrested 21 people, including meat dealers, veterinarians and butchers, following raids that reportedly went down in 11 regions in France and one in Spain after a tip-off that hundreds of horses, including 60 who had been owned by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Pasteur, had their papers falsified by a forger somewhere along the line and were sold for slaughter.

The drug company said it had sold around 200 horses over the past three years who were all microchipped and accompanied by paperwork specifically stating that they were not fit for consumption. A spokesperson also said they were unaware of the fraud and were cooperating with authorities.

Though it said there was no health risk because the horses only had their blood drawn to develop antibodies for tetanus and rabies, the discovery has raised more concerns about the supply chain when it comes to meat.

Last February Europe found itself in the midst of a scandal involving horse meat being mislabeled as beef in a range of processed foods. While officials are downplaying the health risks in this case, consumer affairs minister Benoit Hamon said this was more worrisome because instead of being fraud, this type of incident could post a health risk to diners, reports the AFP.

However, the concern about whether these horses pose a health risk is still dwarfed by that fact that horses in general are not safe to eat. They’re regularly given a host of drugs that are not intended for use in food animals, including a known carcinogen. Unfortunately, as long as there is a demand for horse meat, somebody will find horses to kill regardless of where they come from.

In the U.S. the battle is still going to keep horse slaughter out over food safety and ethical concerns because it wasn’t a humane option before and it isn’t one now. Three businesses requesting USDA inspections for horse slaughter were approved this summer, but were stopped with injunctions after equine advocates including the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, Marin Humane Society, Horses for Life Foundation, Return to Freedom and five private individuals sued to stop them. One company has since given up and turned to cattle, while the other two are eagerly waiting to get their operations going in New Mexico and Missouri and they may just be able to start.

This week the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver lifted the emergency injunction it put in place after animal advocacy groups appealed a ruling that would have allowed them to begin slaughtering horses again for the first time since 2007. A final ruling won’t likely be for months, but equine advocates have vowed to continue fighting this predatory industry.


Meanwhile, please sign and share the petition urging Congress to protect both horses and consumers by supporting the SAFE Act, which will ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. and ban their export abroad for that purpose.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

already signed, thanks for sharing :)

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe2 years ago

Petition signed and shared.

Michael A.
Michael A.2 years ago

So sad

Kim Janik
Kim Janik2 years ago

Very sad but interesting.

Pam Bacon
Pam Bacon2 years ago

I don't really care that anyone who is eating any animal or animal by-product gets sick. I'm vegan but forget the whole cruelty aspect. Animals are fed all types of antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. The people who raise them in filth and treat them abysmally just "say" that everything has been withdrawn from their diets for a certain period but who's enforcing this? Is every slaughtered animal tested? I don't think so. You couldn't afford to buy meat if that were the case. And this whole thing about getting farmers to stop buying over the counter antibiotics to feed? What a joke!! They couldn't keep animals living in filthy conditions and stressed out from abuse alive long enough to prep them for slaughter. And even if you could get them to, there's still a bucket load of antibiotics, etc., already in the feed. If you want livestock food without the "extras" you have to buy from a special supplier or special order it. Which makes it expensive. Again cutting into the farmers' profit margins. And just think of all the filth from their living conditions that follow them to slaughter... Do you actually think they get cleaned up, much less sterilized? Where does that filth end up do you think?

Nelson Petrie
Nelson Petrie2 years ago

So long as people are driven by their desire for meat -horse, cow, lamb, buffalo or whatever - animals are going to be slaughtered. It seems the French government is indifferent to such issues and as it governs people's taste they are not seriously trying to ban the import and/or slaughter of horses. The French government is not serious about people's health.A mere token comment by the French Consumer Affairs Minister will certainly not resolve this issue. Why can't they just slap a ban on horse slaughter?

Frederik De Roeck
Frederik D.2 years ago

Signed but at the same time I have some serious trouble with this kind of petition, since it seems to imply that killing a horse is wrong but killing a cow or chicken is totally okay.

Shirley S.
Shirley S.2 years ago

Signed petition in disgust & anger.

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez2 years ago