Horse meat is frequently sold as a low-fat, healthy alternative to other meats. The evidence does not support this claim and horse meat can be a serious threat to human health. Many drugs commonly given to horses can be extremely dangerous to humans. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there are few, if any, controls governing most slaughter horses and little is known of their background and history.
More than 400 people in the Toulouse region of France were stricken with a potentially life-threatening intestinal parasite after eating imported horsemeat. It emerged that the victims had contracted trichinella threadworms, which are fatal in five out of 1,000 cases (7).
On January 31, 2000, the BBC reported on the growing controversy and concern over the use of growth promoting hormones and other drugs used in US meat production, including horsemeat. Currently, Polish horsemeat is considered safe despite the almost complete absence of veterinary control. However, there is ample evidence to show that poor control leads to gross abuse of drugs and animals. The resignation of the Bavarian agriculture minister in January 2001, following a scandal which involved a major trade in providing illegal drugs for use in farmed animals, reveals the potential scale of the problem. With numerous and increasing threats to human health from eating meat (BSE, E.coli, salmonella, antibiotic resistant
superbugs, etc.,) Viva! intends to highlight this absence of control and the threat it poses.
Drugs dangerous to human health are regularly administered to all horses, including race and show horses. It is clearly written on every worming medication label that it should not be administered to horses who are to be slaughtered for human consumption (4).
The lack of controls and unreliable certificates of origin ensure that all types of horses are used in the horse meat trade, regardless of their health status, medical background or recent exposure to highly-toxic medications.