Efforts to prevent the slaughter of American horses for food made significant progress last week. Front Range Equine Rescue, a national nonprofit working to end horse abuse and neglect, discovered that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits use of animals for meat if those animals don't have sufficient medical records.
It's not clear from the information whether this provision is from the Food Safety and Modernization Act. But FRER, along with the Humane Society of the United States, contends that FDA's policy concerning unsafe toxins and drug residues found in meats should result in a ban on the sale of American horse meat.
FRER found more than 125 FDA citations to producers of adulterated meat reported in the past two years. Citations are issued for failing to maintain complete veterinary treatment records for an animal, failing to systematically review treatment records before slaughter to assure drugs have been administered only as directed, or failing to hold an animal for the proper length of time following treatment. Any of these actions leads to prohibiting use of those animals for meat.
No or false verification of safety
Unlike other livestock raised within the agricultural system, virtually all horses sold for meat began as working, competition or sport horses, companion animals or wild horses. "Slaughterers and middlemen have virtually no knowledge about the horses' prior veterinary histories," claims Hilary Wood, president of FRER, "although falsified documents are often used to suggest they do."
"Horses are often used from show rings to trail riding to therapy programs. They're treated with many different drugs throughout their lives because horse owners don't expect they could end up as meat," adds Wood. "We are committed to preventing the slaughter of horses for human consumption to protect human health, the environment, and horses from cruelty and suffering."
In March 2012, FRER and HSUS filed a petition requesting that FDA certify all horses and horse meat from American horses as "unqualified" for human consumption. The petition lists more than 110 drugs and other substances commonly administered to horses that are or should be prohibited.
More than 100,000 American horses are sent to slaughter each year, mainly for consumption in Europe and Asia. The current federal budget stripped away USDA funding for horse slaughter operations. But Wood says it remains to be seen whether that funding will be restored come October.