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.
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