Swiss veterinary authorities say they will take action to prevent the import of horsemeat produced under cruel conditions. The statement comes after the broadcasting of footage showing foreign horses being mistreated prior to their slaughter.
Earlier this week, a Swiss television programme showed how horses in Argentina, Mexico, Canada and the United States were being abused. Their meat eventually landed on Swiss dinner plates in the form of steak or perhaps in ready-made foods falsely labelled as “beef-flavoured”.
“The images show catastrophic conditions,” as Federal Veterinary Office director Hans Wyss told Der Sonntag, an Aarau-based Sunday newspaper. The horses, some ill or injured, were crammed into trucks and transported over long distances without being given food or water.
“Switzerland has a moral duty here,” Wyss said, noting that his office would not simply look on and do nothing.
Instead it will confront the veterinary departments of the countries in question with the video footage, which was gathered by the Zurich Animal Protection League. According to the group, horses are typically kept in unsupervised and unprotected feedlots for up to six months.
“We’ve asked importers for statements regarding their regulatory compliance with slaughterhouses,” Wyss said. All of the Swiss supermarkets are affected; most have since removed horsemeat from their shelves.
Wyss said he would also address the problem at the upcoming conference of the World Organisation for Animal Health, to be held in Paris in May.
Switzerland imports some 5,000 tons of horsemeat per year, half of it from Canada. Horsemeat has been in the news recently because of a Europe-wide scandal involving undeclared horsemeat found in frozen meals labelled as containing only beef.
swissinfo.ch and agencies