This month’s Equine news comes from our very talented reported, Pippa Lyons.
The Horse Meat Scandal
Pippa Lyon (Vet News Equine Editor)
The discovery of horse DNA found in value burgers at Tesco and Iceland in the UK earlier this month has come as a shock to many members of the public. A total of 27 products were analysed and 10 of them were found to contain horse DNA. Although both Tesco and Iceland have apologised and removed the products for sale, the offending goods could have been on sale for months!
But why are the British so disgusted by the idea of eating horse meat? Many European countries indulge in the practice frequently and there is no risk to health. Plenty of us are quite willing to eat pigs, cows, chickens and sheep but the thought of eating a horse is taboo. Dr Rodger Mugford suggests that as people see horses as pets we tend to give them extra qualities and values, “As soon as you give an animal a name, how can you eat it?” Horses were a crucial part of our country’s development, working in various different fields and helping in wars which gives them a sentimental value. The reality is, there is a lot of horse meat in our food chain. When horses are worn out or unwanted this is where they end up. In 2011 12,000 horses were killed for their meat in the UK alone and with supermarkets constantly battling for lower prices the suppliers are forced to give better deals which in the case includes horsemeat.
The problem escalates when horses are slaughtered without valid passports and enter the food chain. 8 of these horses have recently been found to contain the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone or “bute” which causes cancer in humans. Any horse that has been administered the drug should have in recorded in their passport; however forged passports are becoming increasingly common for some people to sell horses for meat. Although none of these horses were sold on the UK market, they may have been shipped abroad. The sources of the horsemeat are currently being investigated, hopefully leaving the British public to appreciate where their food may originate and how the animals are treated.