24. February 2020

Australia | Victoria | Horsemeat imports: Interview with informant Kim

The label of phenylbutazone states: “Not to be used in horses intended for human consumption.”

We meet up with informant Kim. She wants to remain anonymous. Her name has been changed. Kim has been investigating the fate of retired racing horses for a long time.

We talk to Kim about traceability and food safety issues. She explains that the owner has to fill out a horse vendor declaration stating any medical treatments the horse has received. Kim believes that the vendor declarations are not reliable at all, because they rely on people’s honesty and there are no consequences for cheating. Furthermore, the declaration only covers the last six months. Even though, any horse that has ever been treated with ‘bute’ (phenylbutazone) should not ever be slaughtered for human consumption. A large percentage of horses that go for slaughter are former racehorses and most of them would have been given this anti-inflammatory pain killer at some point.

Most horses destined for slaughter are first sold to a kill buyer. According to Australian rules, the kill buyer must identify the horses with numbered collars at the time and place of purchase for slaughter. However, Kim never observed that the horses were tagged after they had been purchased at the auctions. This happens at the assembly centre of the kill buyers. Some horses look very similar and have no white markings. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the right tag and the right vendor declaration go with the right horse.