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Slaughter of horses for human consumption in Italy, 2019: a slight reduction in numbers, but the precise figures are by no means clear


According to BDN*, slaughter within Italy of horses, donkeys, mules and hinnies in 2019 totalled 37,313, of which 13,877 were imported live from abroad.

To date, Puglia continues to be the region with the highest numbers slaughtered (11,098, almost 30% of the national total) and of imported animals (5,220, i.e. almost 40% of the total). 

Compared to figures from 2018 (41,126) there is a drop in numbers. But let us not forget that last year, when reporting these data, we pointed out a discrepancy between the total number and the sum of the separate data provided by the Regions, which amounted to 36,814 animals.
Data provided by ISTAT (frequently but erroneously used as a point of reference) does not count, in that these are based on sample surveys: in fact according to ISTAT, the number of equids slaughtered for meat in 2019 was 22,575.

Looking more closely at the BDN figures, a few numbers give pause for thoughtThousands of horses each year undergo gruelling, exhausting journeys to their deaths. 5,455 From Poland travel to Puglia (2,662), Veneto and Emilia Romagna. Over 3,600 are imported from France, nearly 2,000 from Spain, and about 1,000 from Slovenia.

“When we talk about horsemeat for human consumption, we invoke culinary traditions in some Italian Regions, but also the myth that it has a high nutritional content” – comments IHP President Sonny Richichi – “whereas the reality is that there is no obligation to state on the labelling where this meat comes from, or the high risk of contamination from drugs used in horse racing and other equestrian sports. Increasingly frequently, too, the public views with disgust the idea that an animal considered a pet can end up on the butcher's block and on a restaurant menu.”

In order to have a fully accurate picture of the consumption of horse meat, we need to look not just at the slaughter for meat carried out in this country but also imported meat products, which should urgently be the object of rigorous examination.

Yet this would not be taking into account the phenomenon of illegal slaughter operations, which the official data in some measure contradict. IHP has frequently reported the systems employed by fraudsters and, to a certain extent, by unscrupulous traders, and in particular two investigations conducted with LE IENE and SKYTG24.

*Banca Dati Nazionale dell'Anagrafe Zootecnica, istituita dal Ministero della Salute presso il Centro Servizi Nazionale dell'Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale Abruzzo e Molise