Delicacy in Europe threatened by US drugs
Years ago, while visiting Slovenia, I was offered horse meat as one evening’s dinner options. Like most Americans, I recoiled at the thought and politely declined. European carnivores tend to be no more squeamish about horse meat than beef, bison, lamb or pork, and in fact, many American horses have made their way to European tables. According to a New York Times report today called “Racetrack Drugs Put Europeans Off U.S. Horsemeat,” that noted, some 138,000 American horses were slaughtered for meat in 2o10, many of them race horses. Now, according to the Times report, American horse meat is falling out of favor due to the quantity of drugs injected into the animals, particularly race horses. The Times reported:
“For decades, American horses, many of them retired or damaged racehorses, have been shipped to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to slaughter horses, and then processed and sold for consumption in Europe and beyond.
“Lately, however, European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.
“Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.”
Fueled by the dollars and lobbying efforts of the agro-chemical industry, bans against genetically modified food have been stymied in the US, and at the same time, there are no prohibitions against shipping drugged-up animals to other countries for slaughter and further export. Many racehorses, the Times continues, are injected with painkillers so that they can keep racing despite injuries and pain. Some horse break down, and become the “damaged” animals whose meat sent overseas for consumption.
If food safety and the ethics of the American big-time food industry concern you, read the Times report, which might make your hair curl and stomach churn. It did mine, anyway.
Horse Meat in the US? Whoa, Not So Fast
Meanwhile, according to a report in the Huffington Post last year,
“Horses could soon be butchered in the U.S. for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month.
“Slaughter opponents pushed a measure cutting off funding for horse meat inspections through Congress in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years. Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 18  to keep the government afloat until mid-December.
“It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.
The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. USDA spokesman Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement….The last U.S. slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 in Illinois, and animal welfare activists warned of massive public outcry in any town where a slaughterhouse may open.”
National Public Radio weighed in with a commentary, “Plan to Slaughter Horses for Human Consumption is Met with Distaste.” Legal or not, horse meat hasn’t exactly become an American food fad — and if it ever does, it’s not a fad I plan to follow.