6 December 2021
Attn: Stella Kyriakides
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
By email: [email protected]
A request for the immediate suspension of horsemeat products from Australia
Dear Stella Kyriakides
We last wrote to you on August 6 this year regarding toxic Australian horsemeat. This letter is to bring to your attention further damning evidence of the Australian horse meat trade and again request the immediate suspension of the import of Australian horsemeat into the EU and Switzerland.
In October 2019 the documentary “The Final Race” aired on Australian television. It contained footage taken over a two-year period that showed the appalling conditions and cruelty that Australian horses are subjected to at the assembly centres of horse traders, during long haul transport and finally at the EU approved abattoir, Meramist.
In late February/early March 2020 the European animal welfare groups Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Tierschutzbund Zürich (TSB) travelled to Australia to complete their own investigation and, in conjunction with The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, subsequently released a second documentary film, “Victims of the Betting Industry” which was made public in July 2020. The footage in both documentaries proves a complete disregard for the welfare of slaughter bound horses in Australia.
Soon after “The Final Race” aired, an independent panel – The Thoroughbred Aftercare Welfare Working Group (TAWWG) – was formed and they have since conducted an inquiry on behalf of the racing industry. They have now released their report and we believe that it is important that you are made aware of the findings that relate to both the slaughter of horses at the Meramist abattoir as well as the lack of traceability of Australian horses. The main members of the panel include an equine veterinarian, a former Racing Minister and government veterinarian, an Honorary Associate with the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and a former senior advisor on agricultural policy. They are backed up by a steering committee of seven, all of whom have a vested interest in the racing industry.
The findings of the TAWWG that we believe are relevant for the EU (market) include the following –
On page 14 of the report –
“The TAWWG found the use of the Meramist abattoir in Queensland (the only abattoir licensed to process horses in Australia) problematic. Many horses are transported long distances to the site in conditions unsuitable for thoroughbreds and the facility is not designed for horses. The TAWWG recommends that while there is a lack of species-specific standards enforced for horses, principal racing authorities should institute rules to prevent participants sending horses to Meramist.”
On page 108 of the report –
“Much of the recent debate about horse welfare was triggered by images of the animals being treated cruelly at Meramist abattoir in Queensland. The images sickened most of the industry and public alike, and highlighted that in extreme cases, horses were treated cruelly, and considered an expendable commercial commodity. The welfare issues related not only to what happened at the abattoir but also to transporting the thoroughbreds to the facility.”
On page 109 of the report:
“Most thoroughbreds live in the southern states of Australia, meaning that transportation to Meramist often involves a journey of several hundred and, in some cases, more than a thousand kilometres. At stops along the way, they may be penned with unfamiliar horses and managed by unfamiliar handlers. This is inevitably stressful for horses.”
On page 111 of the report:
“In summary, the TAWWG considers that there are very real issues with current arrangements for the slaughter of thoroughbred horses at Meramist abattoir. Firstly, the transport requirements for them to travel to Caboolture are inappropriate and dangerous for thoroughbreds. Secondly, there are no specific Australian standards for the slaughter of horses and, finally, the current standards are not adequate to ensure the welfare of thoroughbred horses processed at that facility. It is TAWWG’s view that unless governments prioritise this matter and the above approach is adopted, it is unlikely that the transport and processing of thoroughbreds will meet acceptable welfare standards or community expectations in the foreseeable future.”
On page 112 of the report:
“In Australia there are no consistent animal welfare laws, no national animal welfare standards for horses, no national industry welfare standards for thoroughbreds, no horse-specific welfare standards for abattoirs or knackeries, and no effective welfare standards for transporting horses.”
On page 115 – recommendation 40:
“40. Racing Australia should implement national rules to prevent thoroughbred horses being sold or transported for the purpose of slaughter at an abattoir. These should remain in place unless and until mandatory national species-specific standards are developed and implemented that guarantee thoroughbred welfare during transport to and at abattoirs.”
While this report is specifically about thoroughbreds (which we believe to be at least 50% of the horses slaughtered at Meramist), it is a fact that the lack of transport and slaughter standards in Australia is relevant to all horses and the findings are just as relevant to all horses.
Other sections of the report that are relevant for the export of horsemeat to the EU relate to the lack of traceability of Australian horses.
On page 51 of the report:
“At present there is no national traceability register for horses in Australia. This means there is no way to quickly, accurately and efficiently individually identify horses, their location and current owner.” And – “Without a database collecting information on who is responsible for every horse – no matter what its breed or for what purpose it is kept – it is difficult for enforcement agencies to hold people to account”.
On page 52 of the report:
“The committee identified significant gaps in the understanding and management of Australia’s horse population. Its report noted traceability systems existed for other livestock, but not for horses because they were not used for human food in Australia.”
This unbiased and independent report confirms that welfare standards and the traceability of horses in Australia do not meet the EU expectations. As such the only course of action is to suspend the importation of Australian horsemeat.
To read the full report please use this link The Report — Thoroughbred Welfare Initiative
We are looking forward to your reply.
Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses