Horsemeat beef burgers investigated in UK and Ireland

16/01/2013

A story has been published about the presence of horse meat in beef products on sale in supermarkets in the UK and Ireland.

World Horse Welfare

A story was published on several news platforms last night (Tuesday 15th January) about the presence of horse meat in beef products on sale in supermarkets in the UK and Ireland.

We can understand people’s concern, as consumers should be able to make informed choices about the type of meat they are eating. According to some reports, the meat was sourced from Europe, and while the decision to eat horse meat is a cultural one, consumers should be aware that around 65,000 horses suffer on long-distance journeys across Europe to slaughter each year. These unnecessary journeys can last for days, covering thousands of kilometres, and cause terrible suffering to the horses involved including exhaustion, dehydration, injury, disease and stress.



Using evidence gathered through extensive desk, field and scientific research we are campaigning for a short, maximum journey limit of 9-12 hours for these horses.

This 9-12 hour limit is based on scientific evidence that shows that horse welfare and health deteriorate on longer journeys. The European Commission’s scientific advisors at the Europe Food Safety Authority have recommended a journey limit of 12 hours, however despite calls for change from the public and the European Parliament, the Commission has chosen not to update the Transport Regulation.

Some facts about long-distance transport of horses across Europe to slaughter:

Fatigue and exhaustion: A horse undergoing 24 hours of transport uses roughly the same amount of energy as 24 hours of walking, something few slaughter horses are fit to do due to injuries, disease, obesity and lack of physical fitness.

Disease: Since we began recording data, we have never seen a lorry load of these horses that is disease-free. 93% of horses observed on recent field investigations showed signs of disease. A lack of biosecurity means that this puts the health of all of Europe’s horses, and an industry worth billions of Euros, at risk.

Stress: The horses are exposed to many physical and psychological stressors at all stages of the transportation process – including new environments and experiences, unsympathetic driving, and having to mix with unfamiliar horses.

Dehydration: Our field work has shown that these horses currently have limited, if any, access to water prior to, during or after their journeys, and often display signs of extreme thirst when water is made available.

Injury: Our scientific research found that almost three times as many horses were lame after long-distance transportation for slaughter than were lame before transportation. In a 2010 field investigation,95% of the horses observed had some form of acute injury.

Download our full Dossier of Evidence about the suffering caused on these journeys here.

Find out more about how the horsemeat scandal has unfolded here.