Horse Slaughter Horsemeat Consumption
Horse slaughter for human consumption is also a bad idea because meat from equines is not healthy for humans to eat. Horse has no dietary advantages over any other meat product. In fact meat from equines can cause serious problems. Horse meat has the potential to spread a serious infectious, parasitic disease called trichinella. The first outbreak of trichinella, associated with the consumption of horsemeat occurred in 1975 (Boireau 2000). In the following twenty-five years the trichinella disease ripped its way through France and Italy. During its' destructive raid the disease was to blame for thirteen outbreaks and 3200 diagnosed victims (Boireau 2000). Biopsies were taken from victims as well as samples from horsemeat to indentify the infection. Doctor's, at the time of the epidemic, were able to diagnose patients by identifying four major symptoms. The clinical signs included fever, diffuse muscular pain, facial swelling, and eosinophilia, or an increase in the number of eosinophils in the blood. The outbreaks lasted three to seven weeks and occurred where horsemeat is available as a food item (Boireau, 2000). In order to determine where the infected meat was coming from, food and health officials were required to sift through local commercial records. The countries importing the infected meat were located in Eastern Europe, Central America, and North America (Boireau, 2000). As a result of a world-wide distribution range it has been discovered that the disease is able to develop anywhere and can occur naturally in horses whether they are raised and/or slaughtered in Italy, France, Mexico, or the United States (Boireau, 2000).
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The two most recent infectious outbreaks in France provided solid information that the ingestion of infected horsemeat caused the human trichinellosis infection (Boireau, 2000). The only way to prevent the spread of trichinella through horsemeat is to stop the slaughter and shipment of horses intended for consumption.
The claim that horsemeat has no dietary advantages is a fallacy. Meat from equines contains less fat then beef making it a leaner healthier choice (Koch, 2006). In addition, although the danger of becoming infected by the trichinella parasite by means of consuming horsemeat is a threat, it is not as serious as some would like to portray. Recent tests have proven that only one in every fifteen thousand horses slaughtered may contain the trichinella parasite (Boireau, 2000). It is highly unlikely that a human being will consume meat from a horse infected by the parasite. It is more likely, that a person will be infected due to ingesting undercooked or poorly prepared meat. France and Italy are both known for eating meat that is aged and severely underprepared. Belgium, Spain, Germany, Greece and China, on the other hand have a higher rate of consumption per capita of horseflesh and has not been struck as hard by the trichinella parasite (Boireau, 2000). The main reason for Belgium, Spain, Germany, Greece and China's success is because their people do not ingest poorly prepared horsemeat. This fact is accurately reflected on page___ in Table 2.
Horsemeat is not the only way a person can contract the trichinella parasite. Humans can also be infected through the consumption of pork and wild boar meat (Boireau, 2000). Since 1993 trichinella has spread across Eastern Europe by means of infected domestic swine (Pozio, 2003). Countries such as Bulgaria, Byelorussia, Croatia, Georgia, and Latavia, countries that consume more pork products then France and Italy, have been struck the hardest by the parasitic disease. Between 1993 to 2003 .16 percent of Eastern Europes' population has been infected by trichinella and some villages have suffered infection rates of up to fifty percent of their populations as a result of consuming contaminated swine products (Pozio, 2003). One such swine product is sausage which contains twenty-one larvae per square gram (Pozio, 2003). Because pork contains more larvae per square gram it is more likely for a person to become infected by products from swine rather then products from horses. The only reason a person is in danger of infection is because he or she has ingested undercooked meat or meat that is not fresh. In addition horse meat is not the sole source of the trichinella parasite, swine products can become infected as well. Horse slaughter for human consumption therefore should not be banned because of the risk of contracting the trichinella parasite.
Horse slaughter for human consumption causes abuse of equines. One form of abuse is the manner in which the horses are transported. Since the 1980's animal protection agencies have focused their energy on the poor transportation methods. Before 1980 horses were shipped alive on ocean barges to be killed in Europe. Because of unsuitable transport condition and high mortality rates, federal laws were put into place that would prohibit transporting of live horses from the United States for the purpose of consumption (Stull, 2001). Years later in the 1990's organizations began to demand that transport by truck to USDA-approved slaughter houses be regulated. The outcry gained the attention of news broadcastings on television, on the radio, and in the newspaper. They reported that horses were being transported in terrible conditions using pot belly semi trailers that were overcrowded that allowed for little or no head room. In addition horses were being transported over twenty-four hours without water causing dehydration (Stull, 2001). Some people who are in favor of slaughter argue that horses do not drink water while in transport (Gibbs, 2006). That fact is false. A series of experiments were conducted to discover whether or not horses drink while in transport and if the number of horses in the semi-trailer had an effect on whether or not the horses drank. The horses were split into groups of nineteen, twenty, and twenty-four. The animals were not allowed water for four hours before transport and for eight hours after transport. The horses were shipped in a single-deck, open topped, sixteen meter long trailer for eight hundred hours (Gibbs, 2006). The horses in each experiment were divided into separate groups in separate compartments in the trailer. Each compartment had two water troughs. In experiments one and two, horses had limited maneuverability, and had difficulty reaching the water trough. In experiment number three, all horses in the compartment were able to gain access to the water. All horses that had access to water initiated the first drink fifteen minutes after being loaded onto the trailer. In experiments one and two not all animals had access to water and suffered severe dehydration. In experiment three all horses had access to water and did not suffer dehydration. The series of experiments have effectively proven that horses do drink during transport (Gibbs, 2006) . Not allowing access to water under the pretense that the animals do not drink is false and can be interpreted as a form of abuse and neglect.
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Although transportation issues have arisen there is no reason to shut down the whole process of horse slaughter. Careful considerate regulation is necessary. In 1998 various people involved in the equine industry met to discuss possible solutions to the problem of transporting horses meant for slaughter. These people included representatives from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, scientists who conducted research on the conditions of horses being transported, representatives for animal protection organizations, representatives from animal protection organizations, representatives from the veterinary community, and slaughter facility managers. Some of the questions addressed at the meeting included how long should horses be allowed to travel, what is the acceptable amount of time a horse should go without food or water, when is a horse unfit to travel, and what is the appropriate number of horses allowed to be transported at one time? Some of the ideas presented at the meeting were originally regulations adopted by other countries. Canada recently applied a voluntary regulative code that states a double deck, pot-belly trailer, is a suitable form of transportation as long as there is head clearance of 2.5 centimeter's for every 10.16 centimeter's height at the withers (Whiting, 1999). In the European Union, the European Commission Directive of 1995 was put in action in 1998 to protect horses during transport. The directive stated that the maximum journey a horse could undergo is eight hours, after which the horses must be unloaded, fed and watered for twenty-four hours before continuing the trip. A series of rest stops is in the process of being developed in the European Union for horses being transported to slaughter facilities (Stull, 2001). Slaughter house managers will be willing to adhere to the new laws because the regulations will allow facilities to reach their goal of providing quality meat by receiving healthy horses which are not dehydrated or malnourished.
What is being done to stop equine slaughter for human consumption? A number of laws have been passed to regulate the slaughter of horses in the United States. Federal laws are currently in place to set standards of care for equines such as anti-cruelty measures. Slaughter plants, in addition, are subject to Federal Meat Inspection Act which requires all swine, horses, sheep, goats, and cattle meant for human food to be inspected Federal laws do not ban the use of horses as food. It is solely up to the state governments to decide whether or not, slaughter horses for consumption, is a lawful act. Many states have begun to develop laws that will ban equine slaughter for human consumption (Becker, 2007). In 2004, Illinois State Representative Robert Molaro introduced a new law that would ban slaughtering horses for human food. The legislation passed soon after a slaughter plant in Dekalb County called Cavel International announced plans to reopen. Cavel International was one of three plants still able to operate legally in the United States (Rourke, 2005). In May 2007, Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois, signed a legislation stating that the slaughter of equines for human consumption is illegal. In doing so Blagojevich effectively shut down Cavel International slaughter facility. Violators of the new law can be punished with up to thirty days in jail and a fine of $1500.00. Blagojevich announced in that, “It's past time to stop slaughtering horses in Illinois and sending their meat overseas. I'm proud to sign this law, that finally puts an end to this practice” (p. 1787).
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