From: Andrew Wasley, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published March 19, 2013 06:22 AM

America has a Horsemeat Problem too

Few Americans are aware that their country's horses are being exported and slaughtered abroad - often in appalling conditions - to supply European taste for a meat that's shunned at home. Andrew Wasley reports.

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Herded down a concrete shute, the horses -- black and brown and grey; fat, healthy, thin, lame -- have little idea of the fate that awaits them. But one by one, the horses are separated from those behind, a metal trapdoor swinging down to confine each to a metal box. There's blood and filth on the walls and floor. Flies buzz.

Each year, thousands of horses -- abandoned pets, ex-racehorses, farm animals -- are rounded up and trucked across the country south into Mexico, or north into Canada, for killing and processing and dispatching abroad, many to Europe, a major hub of horsemeat consumption.

It's a murky and often-informal business, with numerous buyers, sellers and middlemen in on the game. And it's part of a much bigger, international trade in horses and horsemeat now in the spotlight in the wake of the European horsemeat scandal. This was initially triggered by the discovery of equine meat in "beef" burgers on sale in Ireland and the UK, and has now widened to include numerous meat products.

Seizing their chance, long-time critics of the horsemeat industry have stepped up efforts to close the trade down, citing appalling horse suffering and health risks to humans through controversial drugs entering the food chain.

For welfare campaigners, the cruelty begins well before the slaughterhouse. Most horses destined for the international meat market begin their journey being trucked to auction houses across the US. From there, they are transported on to feedlots, and then exported across the border to slaughter facilities in Mexico or Canada. Activists say that horses are frequently crammed into vehicles -- many not suitable for carrying livestock -- and forced to endure lengthy journeys without adequate food, water and rest, leading to injuries and exhaustion.

Horses feeding image via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate, the Ecologist.

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