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Horse meat from Romania

With Romania's accession to the EU in 2007, the borders for meat exports also opened. Since then, hundreds of thousands of horses have disappeared from Romania - almost as many as in the 1950s, when the communists killed more than 500,000 horses as part of the mechanization of agriculture. Today Romania is one of the leading export countries of horse meat.

An interactive map in the British newspaper "The Guardian" shows that Romania was the third largest exporter of horse meat in 2012 after Belgium and Poland. However, according to various sources, there are no horse meat farms in the country. Where do all these horses come from that feed the European meat industry?

According to research by the broadcaster n-tv, the majority of the slaughtered animals come from the Carpathian region. Often it is disused, sick animals from agriculture, which are sold by the farmers for little money. Another part of the horses come straight from the mountains, where they live in the wild until they are caught by unscrupulous horse meat traders.

Just as questionable as the origin of the horses is their slaughter and the later declaration of the meat. The “organized” illegal slaughterings carried out by dubious middlemen and butchers are particularly cruel. These horses secretly slaughter horses in the fields and deliver directly to the meat suppliers. Occasionally, secret transports were uncovered in which up to 60 tons of horse meat were supposed to be resold as incorrectly declared "minced beef" - the number of unreported cases is probably many times greater.


Not only is this practice terrible for the horses, it also endangers the health of the people who eat the illegal horse meat. Unlike horses, which are officially intended for human consumption, illegally slaughtered animals are often treated with medication, especially antibiotics, until they die. "Most animals are ultimately eaten even though their meat is contaminated with toxic substances," says Dr. Bogdan Novenschi, President of the Patronage of Private Veterinarians in Romania. "If a horse is treated with antibiotics, this means that its meat is poisonous for at least six months."

This situation is unlikely to change either. The Office for the Improvement and Reproduction of Zootechnics (OARZ) passed a law in 2005 to prevent meat contaminated with drugs from coming onto the market. Among other things, this law provides that every animal is implanted with a microchip and that its state of health is documented through regular veterinary examinations. But many farmers cannot afford that.


If a horse is sick, the pharmacies supply the farmers with antibiotics, which they inject into the animals themselves. Normally you can only get such antibiotics with a doctor's prescription, but the reality is different: “The largest pharmacy chains in the country belong to the people who should control them. Without being monitored, they supply the farmers with powerful antibiotics. They don't ask for prescriptions from doctors, ”explains Dr. Novenschi.

Last but not least, the European Union is neglecting its responsibility. As long as it relies on Romania as one of the largest exporters of horse meat, not only will the number of Romanian horses steadily decrease, poisoned horse meat will continue to land on consumers' plates across the EU.

Sources and further links:
>> "The second horse massacre"
>> What role does Romania play? (n-tv)
>> Interactive map (The Guardian)
>> Illegal horse meat in the trade (

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Posted in Animal Welfare Blog