International animal welfare coa-lition calls on the EU Commission to stop horsemeat imports from Australia
Animal- and consumer protection are systematically ignored
Brussels, 3.7.2020 – Together with several European and Australian animal wel-fare organisations and supported by Eurogroup for Animals, the Animal Wel-fare Foundation (AWF) calls for a suspension of horsemeat imports from Aus-tralia. “The European Commission must take action. We urge the EU Commis-sion to remove Australia from the list of third countries from which import of horsemeat is permitted, as an immediate step, since Australia cannot guaran-tee compliance with, or equivalence to the applicable EU requirements», says Sabrina Gurtner, project manager of AWF for horsemeat imports. The animal welfare coalition further criticizes that the Australian traceability system is not able to provide guarantees that the horsemeat is free of drug residues and therefore fails to sufficiently protect European consumers.
Numerous investigations over more than two years, repeated EU inspections since 2007 and reports of Australian authorities revealed non-compliance with, or non-equivalence to relevant EU requirements. Conditional suspensions of horsemeat imports from Mexico and Brazil have already been imposed, follow-ing EU audits in these countries. Consequently, the same measure should now be imposed against Australia, since the last EU audit report from 2019 concludes that the recommendations regarding traceability of previous audits have not been properly addressed, in particular concerning the reliability of the medical treatment declarations of the horse vendors.
«The EU report clearly points out irregularities on which the EU Commission should act upon», states Sabrina Gurtner.
More than 50 percent of the horses slaughtered in the Australian Meramist ab-attoir for export to the EU and Switzerland are discarded racehorses. “Racehors-es are commonly administered drugs which must not be used in horses destined for human consumption”, emphasizes Sabrina Gurtner.
An inquiry of the Australian senate, published in November 2019, points out that the existing traceability system does not meet EU standards. Racehorses are being processed at the export abattoir and this may potentially expose interna-tional consumers to chemicals that are known to have adverse health impacts when consumed by humans. The inquiry committee calls for a National Horse Traceability Register for all horses .
Another inquiry, commissioned by the Queensland Government and published in February 2020, states that the Australian animal welfare standards for both slaughter and transport of horses fall below international standards, such as those of the European Union and of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code .
A film published today by the Animal Welfare Foundation, supported by the Australian Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, shows the findings of a two-year investigation, including undercover footage. Up to eight cameras hid-den inside the Meramist abattoir filmed the handling of the horses and the slaughter process on 22 separate days. The evaluation of the recorded footage shows systematic cruelty against horses. The analysis of their brands proves that the majority of the slaughtered horses are discarded racehorses, including those which have raced just a few days or weeks before.
“Electric shocks into the genitals or the anus are routine. Horses that lie on the ground are also mistreated with electric shocks. Many horses are stunned incor-rectly and receive several shots of the captive bolt pistol. It frequently happens that horses are still conscious when being hoisted for bleeding”, criticises Sabrina Gurtner.
The transport of the animals to the slaughter plants does currently not have to comply with EU standards. Horses are transported in open cattle trucks. “Over transport distances of up to 1.500 kilometres and on journeys lasting 30 hours, horses are exposed to the elements and temperatures of up to 40° Celsius. They are usually not supplied with water or feed. Furthermore, the horses are not transported in individual stalls, as required in the EU. If a horse goes down, it risks being trampled to death”, says Sabrina Gurtner. The coalition believes that in the future the import of horsemeat into the EU should only be allowed if EU animal welfare standards for slaughter and transport are complied with in Aus-tralia and other exporting countries.
The international animal welfare coalition calls on the EU Commission to suspend the import of horsemeat from Australia until all relevant EU requirements re-garding animal welfare and traceability are fully met. “It is unacceptable that a few importers make profit out of animal suffering and moreover put at risk the health of thousands of consumers”, states Sabrina Gurtner.
Link to the film: https://youtu.be/5Ih9RHiDOho
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