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Tortured horses, meat from North and South America imported to EU, Italy included


Horses tortured: American meat arrives in Italy

PRESS RELEASE – Volterra (Pisa) - 12 JUNE 2019
Europe imports meat that comes from abusive treatment and also with inadequate health controls.

Shock revelations in videos filmed by an international group of associations, leading to demands for an EU-wide ban on imports.

Tens of thousands of horses destined for meat are badly abused pending their slaughter, reveal two shocking documentaries filmed in Argentina, Uruguay and Canada by a European network of associations. A scenario which contrasts sharply with the belief that horses overseas live a dignified life in open prairies, and that their meat is both traceable, and disease free. The reality is grimly different, with all traces of abuse and cheating cleverly wiped out when EU checks are carried out on the thousands of tonnes of horsemeat imported annually from North and South America.
We support the demand for an all-Europe ban on this horsemeat produced through torture” affirms Sonny Richichi, President of the Italian Horse Protection ONLUS, the Italian hub of the network of associations coordinated by ASF (Animal Welfare Foundation, Belgium) and TSB (Tierschutzbund, Zürich Switzerland),the authors of the video in collaboration with Animals’ Angels, USA. Richichi affirms, “We have a mission to show the crude reality of this trade, especially here in Italy where the slaughter of horses for meat is a particularly delicate topic: the high consumption of horsemeat, both nationally produced and not, makes it an issue both of ethics and of health concerns for consumers. We are against all forms of exploitation of horses and other equids, and their slaughter for meat. In this particular Europe-wide campaign, we aim to end the importation of horsemeat produced through cruelty, and also without adequate health and safety checks and regulation."

The images filmed in Argentina and in Uruguay show that the long journey of these horses to the abattoir begins at auction, where the animals are penned in large numbers together for hours with no food and no water. They are then herded up and violently forced onto badly overcrowded livestock trucks which are totally unsuited for such transport. They arrive at their slaughter destinations exhausted, many of them injured, but this is only the start of their sufferings. They remain there - sometimes for months – without any form of veterinary care. In addition to this atrocious treatment, the films show that even the traceability of the meat from these abattoirs is minimal, since they accept animals with no ID ear tags, or with suspiciously fresh (i.e. illegally applied) tags; in effect they are simply not identifiable, and therefore their state of health cannot be guaranteed. What is more, the videos document how, when EU controls are announced, the abattoirs cancel out all trace of their normal procedures.

Nor are things any better in Canada. Protection from the elements is virtually inexistent, the ground is covered in excrement which is frozen in winter and mixed in with the mud in summer; so for the animals even simply lying down to rest, or moving about, Is a source of pain and discomfort. The hay is frozen, the water is filthy, wounds get infected and are not dealt with, and many of the animals simply eventually die – there is no thought of euthanasia or medical treatment. Pregnant mares miscarry, to the general indifference of their keepers, and if they do manage to bring their foals to term, the newborns soon freeze to death in temperatures that can reach 30C below zero. And note that in Canada, horses that arrive from the USA have to be quarantined for six months – an endless agony indeed.

According to Atlas Media/MIT data, Italy is the biggest importer of horse meat in terms of money, at 23% of the value of the global trade (436 million dollars in 2017). Among the non-EU countries exporting horsemeat, according to Eurostat, in 2018 Argentina imported 2,527.8 tonnes of horsemeat directly to Italy. Italy does not import directly from Canada or from Uruguay, but those countries export to various European countries which have intense commercial interaction with Italy: Belgium (3,281 tonnes of horsemeat to Italy in 2018), France (1,459) and Holland (503).
In 2018 Belgium imported no less than 2,797 tonnes of horsemeat from Argentina, 850 from Uruguay and 24 from Canada; France imported 473 tonnes from Argentina, 180 from Canada and 88 from Uruguay; Holland imported 3,514 tonnes from Argentina, 2,797 from Uruguay and 113 from Canada. There is therefore a very clear risk that some percentage of the horsemeat imported by Italy from the European market comes in reality - and therefore fraudulently - from overseas farms which we are denouncing for their brutality and violence towards live animals. Italians therefore don’t actually know what is really there on their plates.

The welfare associations have been reporting this situation since their first investigations in 2012. Since then, import firms have declared that they would check out, and then rectify, the criticisms; in order to do this they joined “Respectful Life”, a project launched by the Belgian federation of meat import companies (FEBEV), and some Italian importers are also members of this project. FEBEV reports an improvement in checks and standards. However, “[F]resh video shot between summer 2018 and the first few months of 2019 show that the horses continue to suffer systematic torture” declared Sabrina Gurtner, Project Manager, Animal Welfare Foundation.

So in real terms, nothing at all has changed, and the Associations therefore demand that the EU now ban all import of horsemeat obtained through torture.

Trailer (You Tube):
North America
South America

Full videos (YouTube):
North America
South America

Italian campaign page