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Horse Slaughter and Horse Meat


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#1 Exmoor Pony Club

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:15 PM

Horse Slaughter Alarms and Horse Meat found in the UK food chain

The news during the past week has been full of equestrian welfare issues for horses and ponies in the UK. Horse meat has been found in supermarket burgers and foods, and appalling abuse of horses and ponies at the Red Lion Abattoir in Cheshire has been uncovered by Sky News.

Included below is information from our sister website, Equinetourism.co.uk:

Outrage at Illegal Welfare Abuses at British Slaughterhouse
World Horse Welfare Calls for a Stop to Inhumane Slaughter of Horses in the UK
Sky News horse abuse video in Cheshire Abbattoir: http://news.sky.com/...elfare-breaches


"Disgusting, appalling and totally illegal," is how Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, describes the treatment of horses at one of Britain's main equine slaughterhouses as was revealed in footage obtained by a Sky News investigation aired today.

This horse came around from the stun gun and regained consciousness - horrifying the vet watching the video footage
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"What we have seen is a complete, systemic failure of the slaughterhouse to comply with UK welfare laws, and of the Food Standards Agency which should have been enforcing the law - but clearly has not. We are now calling for all operations at these premises to be suspended until new procedures are put in place and the FSA guarantees the plant will comply with the law. We are also calling for Defra to install and monitor CCTV in all English slaughterhouses to aid enforcement," said Owers. "The public and horse owners need to have confidence that slaughter is carried out humanely in Britain. While it may be a sad fact, there is a role for humane slaughter of horses to help prevent them from suffering long and painful deaths due to illness or neglect."

The revelations come as Defra is finalising the arrangements to introduce new EU regulations to protect the welfare of animals at slaughter which will come into effect this summer.

The footage revealed a multitude of illegal practices resulting in unnecessary suffering for the dozens of horses shown in the film. "We saw horses being treated appallingly every step of the way - from a poor level of care before slaughter, to slaughter in groups of two or three which is illegal and extremely distressing to such social and intelligent animals, to botched or incomplete stunning that appeared to allow some horses to regain consciousness before they were killed.

"These practices are disgusting, appalling and totally illegal and they must be stopped immediately," said Owers. "Any chief government veterinarian would agree. There must be a full investigation, and operations at this plant must cease until new procedures are put in place and the FSA guarantees full compliance with the law."

Just some of the many breaches of the ‘Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations of 1995 evident in the footage included:
  • Shooting in groups of two or three - the law requires that animals are pithed or bled without delay after stunning.
  • This requirement cannot be met when animals are stunned in groups. Bleeding horses one at a time after being stunned in a group causes totally unnecessary delay for some of the animals in the group. Some horses in the footage appear to be regaining consciousness before being bled. In some cases the footage showed that the first horse to be stunned was the last to be bled, increasing the likelihood that the horse would regain consciousness before they were killed.
  • Horses were permitted to be within sight of another horse being stunned or killed - this is specifically prohibited by the regulations as witnessing such an event can cause significant distress to horses- as is evident in the footage. Even when shot singly, horses should not be shot in the sight of other horses, but in the footage another horse or horses are often present and can even see inside the ‘stun box'.
  • Animals were not pithed or bled without delay after stunning; in some cases the delay was considerable - the Regulation clearly states that horses should be pithed* or bled without delay to prevent them gaining consciousness.

    In all of the footage viewed, World Horse Welfare did not see any animals being pithed and therefore they should have been bled without delay - but in many instances this did not happen. In many cases the delays in bleeding the animal were lengthy and completely unacceptable.
  • Animals were not restrained in an appropriate manner prior to stunning/killing so as to spare them any avoidable pain, suffering or agitation - World Horse Welfare saw many botched stuns in the footage. It appears that three different types of equipment were being used to stun or shoot the animals and in a number of cases the stun was not effective and had to be repeated. In addition the slaughter men had difficulty in raising the head of the animals in order to apply the guns.
  • Animals were not moved with care; blows were inflicted on some animals with staves or ropes - this abuse of horses is clearly not allowed under law. Nor is it necessary.
As an exception to this catalogue of breaches, World Horse Welfare did witness at least one slaughter man who demonstrated competence in both handling and killing.

World Horse Welfare believes that the footage showed evidence of catastrophic breaches of the law and that a full investigation is required. The charity strongly believes that operations at the plant should be immediately suspended until new procedures are put in place and the FSA guarantees the plant will comply with the law. The charity is calling for the introduction and monitoring of CCTV at all slaughterhouses licensed to take horses in order to assist the FSA in their duty of enforcement.

"I cannot see the public trusting this establishment again until we have CCTV monitoring in place. The FSA has staff on the premises who should have been enforcing the laws that protect these horses, but their efforts have been found seriously wanting," said Owers.

However, World Horse Welfare urges the public and horse owners not to panic. "There is no evidence to suggest that other slaughterhouses in the UK are abusing the law in this way. We believe there is a role for humane slaughter. We have identified 6,000 horses at risk in the country and humane slaughter may eventually be the kindest option for them to save them from a lifetime of neglect and suffering. Homes for horses are in short supply," said Owers.

"We do not want to see horses exported overseas to slaughter where welfare standards may be even lower - that would be an even worse tragedy." The charity has significant evidence of the suffering experienced by horses transported long distances across Europe to slaughter and is campaigning for a short, maximum journey limit in line with scientific evidence that shows that horses suffer on longer journeys.

Defra had indicated in its recent consultation on the slaughter regulations that they were not minded to require compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses at this time but the issue would be kept under review.

"We said in our response to the Defra consultation that we are not convinced that the case against compulsory CCTV has been made and it should be revisited as soon as more evidence on the value of CCTV became available. We now have that evidence," said Owers. "If the FSA cannot fulfil its duty to enforce the law solely through its staff on the ground, CCTV would not only support them to fulfil their duties but would also provide vital reassurance to the public that horses are being handled and slaughtered humanely."

World Horse Welfare is putting forward the following arguments in favour of CCTV in a formal response to Defra, and has prepared a petition that concerned members of the public can sign:

Sign here: http://www.worldhors...content_id=5403


CCTV cameras:
  • Can be installed into spaces where an inspector cannot safely be present - such as in the ‘stun box'
  • Will always be present, unlike inspectors
  • Cannot be intimidated, unlike an inspector
  • Produce a permanent record, allowing both good and bad practice to be identified and used in training for slaughterhouse employees.
  • Will help counter any malicious accusations against the proprietors or employees of licenced premises and permit proprietors to demonstrate that they treat horses humanely
  • Can be viewed securely from any location, offering more flexibility for the FSA and could even save money if they replace some on-site monitors
  • Will help improve public confidence that animals will be slaughtered humanely
  • Will allow the British public to feel confident that British meat, which has a reputation as a high welfare product, is the result of humane slaughter procedures
  • Suitable CCTV systems can be purchased for less than £500, so the costs to business are not unreasonable

SIGN World Horse Welfare PETITION HERE
  • Call for operations to cease at plant until new procedures put in place with FSA guarantee of compliance with law
  • Call for CCTV in all slaughterhouses that take horses to help FSA enforce law
  • Inhumane slaughter ‘has no place in Britain'
Please sign the World Horse Welare petition here.

http://www.worldhors...content_id=5403

SIGN World Horse Welfare PETITION HERE
  • Call for operations to cease at plant until new procedures put in place with FSA guarantee of compliance with law
  • Call for CCTV in all slaughterhouses that take horses to help FSA enforce law
  • Inhumane slaughter ‘has no place in Britain'
Sky News horse abuse video in Cheshire Abbattoir: http://news.sky.com/story/1040057/horse-abattoir-film-reveals-welfare-breaches

#2 Exmoor Pony Club

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:16 PM

Sky News article and pictures here: http://news.sky.com/...elfare-breaches

Sky News horse abuse video in Cheshire Abattoir: http://news.sky.com/story/1040057/horse-abattoir-film-reveals-welfare-breaches

This horse came around from the stun gun and regained consciousness - horrifying the vet watching the video footage
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Ponies were crammed into the shute and climbing on top of each other, and beaten with metal rods
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#3 Exmoor Pony Club

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:17 PM

The British Horse Society responds to Red Lion Abattoir situation:

The British Horse Society (BHS) has expressed its shock and revulsion at the sickening footage which shows the appalling mistreatment of horses being slaughtered at the Red Lion Abattoir in Cheshire.


The covert video released by Sky News includes scenes of a grey horse being beaten and groups of animals being stunned simultaneously, something that is completely illegal in Britain. Even more distressingly the film shows a horse apparently returning to consciousness (following stunning) whilst hanging upside down prior to be being bled out.

BHS Chief Executive Lynn Peterson said: "There are absolutely no excuses for what we have seen in this film. The treatment of these horses was barbaric, inhumane and frankly a downright disgrace in 21st Century Britain. I know that every member of The British Horse Society will be as upset by this as I am and we must do everything we can to ensure this never happens again."

Mrs Peterson added: "We must praise the swift action of the Food Standards Agency in revoking the licenses of the slaughtermen involved but this cannot be the end of the matter. It is clear tighter regulation of abattoirs is required and we would support the compulsory installation of CCTV in all such premises."

The BHS has previously made clear that it believes the consumption of horse meat is a moral choice for the individual. However, the Society has for a number of years been campaigning to halt the indiscriminate breeding and overproduction of horses that is endemic in Britain. A huge proportion of the horses that end up in abattoirs are there because there are no other options for them, not because they have been ethically bred and raised specifically for the purpose of meat production.
This is a sad indictment on a nation of animal lovers and the BHS is calling for everybody involved with horses to adopt the mantra "Think Before You Breed". In combination with tighter regulation of abattoirs perhaps this is the way to ensure there is never a repeat of this week's shameful footage.

www.bhs.org.uk

#4 Exmoor Pony Club

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 03:18 PM

Horse Meat and Horse Slaughter in the UK
Equine Tourism Comment

The media has been full of equine issues this week, with reports of horse meat being found in our supermarket food chain. Tescos bore the brunt of the attention, as tests showed up to 29% horse meat in their economy burgers. However, it was reported that other supermarkets buy meat from the same sources in Ireland, so the problem may have wider implications.

What is of grave concern is not just the fact that it was 'horse meat' which is an emotive issue - for example, the question could be asked that if you eat lamb, beef and pork, then why not horse? However strongly you feel about eating horse meat - or not - that is a question of personal choice. Or it should be.

The main issue here is how horse meat found its way into the food chain, unannounced and undeclared on the products concerned. There are therefore worries about the quality and history of the horse meat, and whether the meat used was fit for human consumption and had passed the various stringent standards for use of meat in the human food chain.Importantly, had withdrawal dates been adhered to (medicines, antibiotics, wormers, etc). Where did this horse meat come from and why was it 'sneaked' into the food chain? And what other types of animals are we eating that we don't know about?

The supermarket food sources are only one area of concern. There are many other food producers, restaurants and food outlets purchasing meat for their products who also need to be embraced in this investigation. It's not about vilifying one particular supermarket company. In fact, we should be thanking Tesco for having food tests in place that can identify anomolies like this, from where the entire meat trade can be examined and necessary changes made to ensure that standards are met on food that enters the chain. This is an opportunity to address any bad practice in meat inspections and correct the system. The many careful and honourable practitioners in our meat industry deserve this, as we're sure they are as horrified as the rest of us.

The other matter that has attracted media interest is the appalling and disgusting abuse of the horses and ponies who find themselves facing slaughter at the abattoir - who were filmed by SkyNews at the Red Lion Abattoir, Nantwich, Cheshire. The sustained brutality and lack of respect and care - and even torture - of these wretched animals was hard to watch. But watch we must, because if we don't understand what is going on - how can we change it to make things better for horses and ponies in the slaughter chain. These are not just animals at the end of long and happy lives, they can be unwanted foals facing death when they're full of hope, vitality and life-force energy. So Equine Tourism will promote awareness of these issues, alongside all of the joyful coverage of the wonderful world of horses - because each and every one of us needs to take responsibility for how we treat our horses, and that includes how we put them to sleep. By turning away from these issues, it will perpetuate horrific mistreatment of horses, and that's as bad as condoning it.

These two issues are interlinked - horse meat and horse slaughter systems. And we need to look at the root causes of why there is such a vast increase in the number of UK horses being slaughtered - estimated now to be around 8,500 a year. Over breeding and lack of market demand is one huge problem. The British Horse Society summed it up very well in their press release last night:

"The BHS has previously made clear that it believes the consumption of horse meat is a moral choice for the individual. However, the Society has for a number of years been campaigning to halt the indiscriminate breeding and overproduction of horses that is endemic in Britain. A huge proportion of the horses that end up in abattoirs are there because there are no other options for them, not because they have been ethically bred and raised specifically for the purpose of meat production. This is a sad indictment on a nation of animal lovers and the BHS is calling for everybody involved with horses to adopt the mantra "Think Before You Breed". In combination with tighter regulation of abattoirs perhaps this is the way to ensure there is never a repeat of this week's shameful footage."

Full report, response from World Horse Welfare, the Sky News report and video link and pictures here:
http://www.equinetou...3978#entry43978

Equine Tourism

Sign the World Horse Welfare Petition to STOP this kind of abuse of horses in the slaughter chain here: http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1749&ea.campaign.id=18423

EquineTourism's Blog

#5 Exmoor Pony Club

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 09:42 PM

Irish meat plant closes after 'beef' is found to contain 75% horsemeat
By Rosa Silverman and Steven Swinford - from The Telegraph

Production has been suspended at another Irish meat processing plant after imported Polish off-cuts labelled as beef were found to contain up to 75 per cent horsemeat.

Rangeland Foods, which supplied McDonald’s Ireland until 2007, was discovered to be using the suspect Polish product in making beef burgers.
None of the contaminated meat has entered the food chain, the company said. Police have now joined the three-week-old Irish investigation, which found last month that Tesco was selling beefburgers that contained up to 29 per cent horsemeat. Rangeland, based in Co Monaghan, bills itself as Ireland's number one producer of beefburgers to the food service industry and says its products are manufactured using only top quality Irish beef with full traceability from farm to plate.
It supplies pubs and restaurants, fast food outlets, event catering and industrial catering.


This report is by The Telegraph
http://www.telegraph...-horsemeat.html

BBC Horse meat in food report: http://www.bbc.co.uk...reland-21334722

#6 Exmoor Pony Club

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 02:05 AM

Many Exmoor Ponies end up in Food Chain, says MP as he calls for an end to Hot Branding

MP Neil Parish today speaks out strongly against hot branding in England & Wales, after presenting to the All Party Parliamentary Committee for the Horse. Environment Minister, Lord de Mauley, said he found the MP's arguments persuasive.

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The article:

Hot branding ponies 'indefensible' and must end, says MP

By Gavin Stamp Political reporter, BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk...litics-21320115

The practice of hot branding wild ponies is no longer defensible in the 21st Century and should be ended, an MP has urged the government. Neil Parish said the method of identification was cruel and unreliable and posed wider risks as "many ponies" might end up in the food chain.

Campaigners have long criticised the use of hot irons to mark wild ponies. Hot branding was prohibited in Scotland on welfare grounds in 2010 and the UK government is looking into the issue. The practice - which remains legal in England and Wales - has traditionally been justified on the basis that it can help to identify an animal in distress, ascertain an animal's owner from a distance and reduce the probability of animals being stolen.

'Serious'

But Mr Parish, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, told a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group for the horse - which considers equine welfare issues - that hot branding was cruel and "did not work" because marks deteriorated over time and could not be read in certain conditions or when animals had been neglected.

The MP, who has a family farm in Somerset, said the recent scare over traces of horse meat found in beef burgers on sale in UK supermarkets only highlighted the importance of effective identification of animals. "Many of these ponies will end up in the food chain," he said. "Maybe they will not end up being eaten at home but they will end up being eaten somewhere across Europe. They should be identified." Some of the animals, he added, would have been treated with antibiotics and other medicines and this made traceability even more important. "This is becoming a serious issue," he said. "In the 21st Century, I don't think we need to be hot branding ponies."

The government's chief veterinary officer is currently looking into the issue and Mr Parish said he was "optimistic" that now was the right time to make the case to ban the practice.Environment Minister Lord De Mauley told the meeting that he found the MP's arguments persuasive and he believed the government should hold relevant bodies' "feet to the fire" to pursue possible alternatives.

Since 2009, all new foals have to be fitted with a microchip, although some wild ponies are exempt from this until sold or sent for slaughter. While most ponies - including some domesticated ones - are branded once, some wild ponies on Exmoor in Devon are branded three times - with an individual number, a herd number, and the Exmoor star.

Micro-chipping
Peers have said current rules exempting "a very small number" of wild ponies from having microchips was justified but the exemptions were being used "much too widely" and some domestic ponies were continuing to be branded instead. Research commissioned by the RSPCA in 2010 concluded that hot branding - largely carried out without analgesics - was unnecessary and caused significant pain and suffering although it did not investigate the question of longer-term psychological effects.

Critics also point out that marks are ineffective as they are hidden in winter when ponies grow their hair or when they are covered in mud. While lobbying for a total ban, welfare groups initially want multiple branding to end to make it easier to tell animals involved in accidents. The majority of people carrying out branding are considered highly experienced and welfare groups have called for constructive dialogue with groups such as the Exmoor Pony Society - which is dedicated to safeguarding the historic breed. The Society said that since 2003, all breeders and owners of Exmoor ponies have had the option to microchip their ponies only.

"The Society holds a DNA sample for every registered foal born since that date should it be required to identify a pony if for any reason the microchip becomes unreadable," said its secretary Susan McGeever. "Since mandatory micro-chipping in 2009, the vast majority of in-ground breeders take this option as the ponies are handled and thus the microchip can be read with ease when standing next to the pony."


Source: BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk...litics-21320115


Our commment:

On the whole, this is good but also indicates that, if the organisations currently insisting on allowing any hot branding of domestic ponies, and multiple hot branding of semi-feral ones, continue with the practice, we could face an all out ban. Until a suitable alternative is found, this would not be helpful to the moorland farmers running semi-feral herds in difficult terrain. Come on Exmoor Pony Society, please sort this out and reduce the brand to one single herd/pony ID, with an end to all hot branding of domestic ponies - or this is going to affect all hot branding in England and Wales. With no suitable alternative yet in place, this is seriously short-sighted. Further rule changes are needed fast.

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