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The International animal welfare organization, FOUR PAWS, is outraged at the lack of law enforcement enabling cheap horse meat to be put on European shelves as fake beef lasagna. Most consumers in Europe do not wish to eat horse meat for ethical reasons, and prefer to keep horses as companion animals.

“This horse meat scandal is a backward step for consumers’ choice, animal welfare and law enforcement. Systematic lack of transparency allows illegal practices to be hidden”, said Gabriel Paun, director of campaigns at FOUR PAWS International.

The label of the beef meat products must inform EU-consumers about location of birth, fattening and slaughter. Together with a good inspection system the recording of goods should be accurate. “In this case not only traceability has been lost but also different species have been mixed. Labeling needs to include more information and be properly enforced by the law. FOUR PAWS is calling for labeling to include location of birth, farming and slaughter information for all species. Inspections must be systematic and transparent”, added Paun.

Governments and companies are now researching the food supply chain. Gabi Paun: “Primarily official inquiries are only looking at slaughter houses involved in this case but nobody currently knows where the horse meat is coming from or if animal welfare conditions have been considered during transport and slaughter. Were the horses from farms, from the wilderness of the Danube Delta or from the streets? FOUR PAWS has started an investigation  because it is important to have an independent perspective on this case. Only in this way can we find the weak points of the system and strengthen it for better animal welfare and consumer’ rights. We  are currently following and monitoring the situation of the horses in the Letea forest reserve, Danube delta, Romania”, says Paun.

In the Danube Delta In May 2011, FOUR PAWS stopped a transport with 54 wild horses on their way to a slaughterhouse. The animals were treated by FOUR PAWS veterinarians and brought back to the reserve. A regulation that bans the transport of any wild horses from that area to slaughterhouses was issued. The regulation made by the veterinary and sanitary authority of Romania has been in place ever since. “Our investigation will show whether the horse lasagna came from the Danube Delta or not. However this case is a loud wake up call for the relevant authorities responsible for law enforcement”, concluded Paun.

FOUR PAWS international is calling on the European commission to strengthen inspections of meat products in general and to establish  mandatory meat labeling for all species, indicating the places of birth, fattening and slaughter.