© Field Fayre - The Organic Store 2013
In Ireland an undercover surveillance operation lasting two years has exposed a passport fraud industry that may well have allowed infected or drug induced horse meat to enter the food chain. The investigation was carried out by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They found that animal passports were forged thus allowing animals unfit for slaughter to enter the system.
This evolved when the Irish Government imposed austerity measures following the Irish debt scandal. The country had a glut of horses that people couldn’t afford to keep. These were quickly bought up for as little as ten or twenty pounds then corralled and hidden away. These were later sold on as meat fetching hundreds of Euro’s each, according to their weight and size.
When a horse is injected with the commonly prescribed Phenylbutazone anti-inflammatory drug, the horse should no longer be presented for slaughter in order to enter the food chain. Bute, as it is known, has been linked to Aplastic Anaemia in humans. All this information is held on the passport which is presented in order to obtain a slaughter certificate. This safeguard has been sidestepped by the criminal fraternity. A photocopier a chip costing 12 pence and a forged veterinary signature meant that these passports were easily and cheaply produced, thus enabling treated and unfit horses to enter the food chain.
Many abuses were uncovered, with iron bars being used for loading and horses that were lame or had wounds having to go through the process of being forced to their death because they could hardly walk. It’s estimated that some 70,000 horses were abused in this way in order to fuel an insatiable industry that was worth £64,000 in 1995 and £6.6 million today.
Some animals were of such poor quality that they were massacred before transport and buried in mass graves. It is a condemnation toward a structure that allows unfortunate, innocent creatures to become a commodity for the criminal element to exploit; paying the price for a countries debt with their screams, their fear and their lives.
It is virtually impossible to change such a deep-rooted and corrupt system overnight; it is also implausible to put the full onus of traceability onto the retailer, which is what Owen Paterson has suggested. It is high time; in the light of what has already been exposed and what is yet to be uncovered; to ban the importation of cheap protein from beyond our shores thus enabling our own farmers to fill the gap with a quality product.
In the meantime – certified organic meat and chicken is the only way the go.
Written by: Steve Jones, Consultant to the Cattle & Dairy Industry, Forest of Dean