Saturday, July 31, 2010

Your Questions Answered #3

This post is in response to a twitter exchange with someone asking for question suggestions for an interview with butcher Vince Garreffa.

My answers unfortunately don't fit into 140 characters or less, but I shall endeavour to keep them brief!

The Twitter exchange so far:

Them - Interviewing Vince from Mondo Butchers to clarify why he sells horse meat. What are some things you want me to ask?
Me @them - would love to know his thoughts on the rational argument against consuming Oz horse meat: :)

Me @them - Oh, and I'm very interested in what screening/food safety procedures the govt made him follow, re: drugs in horses :)

Them - Interview with Vince from Mondo butchers will be posted on Youtube tonight. Was a real eye opener! some of the facts...

Them - Horse meat he sells has been approved by the RSPCA, yet Vince is banned from sellling horse burgers at the Truffle Fest on Saturday

Them - @DontEatAusHorse He has an extensive list of screening procedures at the same abattoir he gets his lamb, beef. Screened for steroids

Them - @DontEatAusHorse 60-70,000 horses are being shipped out of Oz to JAP, HOLL, GER, FRA, BEL for why can't a butcher sell?

Firstly, I'm looking forward to the Youtube video. Hopefully you've been able to go into greater depth than the mainstream media has so far.

Regarding the RSPCA approval, has the RSPCA specifically looked into the slaughter of the horses at the abattoir he is using? I'm very interested to learn more about this, as there are no abattoirs in Western Australia specifically set up for horses. The only two horse abattoirs in Australia are the two Belgian owned export facilities in South Australia and Queensland. (To clarify - horse abattoirs are different to knackeries that slaughter horses for pet food, fertiliser, etc.)

The Truffle Festival decided to ask Vince not to sell horse meat at the festival because they were concerned about people protesting there. An understandable decision by the organisers, as they wish to hold a successful event, not one disrupted by protesters.

I would love to see the list of screening procedures. Glad to hear they were screened for steroids. I'm hoping they were screened for other things also, particularly Phenylbutazone. I understand that the limited scope of Twitter may have prevented you from listing further substances, so I look forward to seeing more in the Youtube video.

The well worn argument of "it's good enough for people overseas, so it's good enough for Aussies" would no doubt be quite valid if it were true. New food safety measures being brought in for the European Union on July 31st 2010 will exclude Australian horse meat from their dinner tables, because in the EU they have stringent health standards for tracing prohibited substances in the meat, something which Australia does not do.

You listed France, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium among the countries importing Australian horse meat. They will all be affected by the new health standards for horse meat in the EU.

I will post more from this document later, but here are some of the key requirements of third countries exporting horse meat to the EU that definitely impact on Australian exports:
"Equine animals intended for food production should be identified and a system of identity verification should be established.
Treatment records. The purpose of recording treatments of animals with veterinary medicinal products is to ensure that animals are not slaughtered within the withdrawal period of the medicine in question, thus providing guarantees that the EU Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for the particular pharmacologically active substance is respected. In the EU stock farmers are required to keep medicines records. On that basis it is expected that treatments with veterinary medicinal products should be recorded on a document linked to and accompanying the identified animal when moving from one premise to another or to the slaughterhouse (food chain information)."
Currently in the EU:
"Any horse in the EU treated with phenylbutazone must be excluded from the food chain and be signed out of the food chain in the equine passport."

Australia has no system for registering horses, definitely no system for tracking medications given to horses, and Phenylbutazone is one of the most common drugs that is used here.

Australian horse meat is NOT "good enough" for people in Europe, who have been consuming horse meat for a very long time, and therefore know a bit more about the health risks. From this it is fairly easy to conclude that it is also NOT "good enough" for Australians.

The figure of 60-70,000 horses being exported is disturbingly large, and I'd be very interested to know the source of that figure. A study published in 2008 has the following to say about the number of horses slaughtered in Australia for export markets:

"The number of horses slaughtered has been estimated from data collected from Ramsay (1994) and has dropped from over 30,000 in the late 1990’s to the current levels of approximately 11,000 – 13,000 horses per annum."
Source - RSPCA knowledgebase report, Amanda Doughty 2008, from the School of Animal Studies and The Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics The University of Queensland, Gatton. The full report (thesis) is available in PDF format here (file size 1.26mb.)

Another figure that I've seen quoted is 40,000 horses per year. It is very difficult to accurate information on this. The government collects the figures, how about they start making them publicly available?

I hope that has covered everything. Sorry if it's a bit on the long side, but I believe it is important to be thorough!

Once again, I am happy to answer all questions, so keep them coming. Comment on the blog, or send me a tweet @donteataushorse

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