The trouble with horse meat
A Meat and Dairy Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM The Fund for Horses
October 2021

A vast majority of horses destined for slaughter will have been treated to some degree with multiple chemical substances that are known to be dangerous to humans, untested on humans, or specifically prohibited for use in animals raised for human consumption.

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Horse meat... viande de cheval

How toxic is horse meat? The answer is — very.

There are approximately one hundred and ten (110!) drugs administered to horses over their lifetimes that are illegal to administer to animals raised for human consumption. Equines are medicated with wormers, antibiotics, fly sprays, diuretics and Phenylbutazone (a pain killer once administered to people and now banned as a known human carcinogen by the USDA and FDA).

Therefore, a vast majority of horses destined for slaughter will have been treated to some degree with multiple chemical substances that are known to be dangerous to humans, untested on humans, or specifically prohibited for use in animals raised for human consumption.

Nicholas Dodman, Program Director and Professor of Animal Behavior at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, as well as co-founder of Veterinarians for Equine Welfare, describes horses as “walking pharmacies.” Eating them is about as healthful as eating food contaminated with DDT”.

The number one offending drug? Bute. Bute is used for horses like aspirin is used for humans.

Forbes tell us:

“Phenylbutazone (or “bute”), is a painkiller used legally by more than 85% of U.S. horse owners to treat everyday soreness and inflammation, but banned completely in food-producing animals, including horses, by the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies in Canada, the UK, and the EU. Interestingly, in 1949 it was used to treat gout and rheumatoid arthritis in humans, but was later banned when its carcinogenic effects were discovered.

In their report, Association of phenylbutazone usage with horses bought for slaughter: A public health risk, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Dr. Nicolas Blondeau and Dr. Ann Marini describe Phenylbutazone’s adverse effects on humans such as aplastic anemia and leukemia.

Their lengthy 2010 study, which appeared in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, analyzes the presence of bute in slaughter horses; the government’s inadequate drug testing methodology; and the USDA’s failure to ensure the removal of the vast majority of horses treated with banned substances from the food chain, among other topics.”

Racehorses have the highest exposure to “bute” due to training. However, according to numerous horse owners — pleasure, sport and working horses are also regularly administered the drug.

Of course bute is just the tip of the iceberg. Horses are given a laundry list of drugs that bars their meat from entering the human food chain. Occasionally alarms are sounded regarding this. It will hit the headlines for awhile, groups and experts will put in their two cents’ worth, then it is back to business as usual.

Look at this from a 2012 New York Times article entitled “Drugs injected at the racetrack put Europe off U.S. horse meat.”

“European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.”

“Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.”

Require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered? Require lifetime medication records? Like that is ever going to happen. What a load of rubbish.

The New York Times article from above focuses on racehorses. We repeat. All types and breeds of horses are slaughtered and end up on a dinner plates who were given multitudinous drugs throughout their lifetimes. We even went so far as to wonder if horses outgunned factory farmed animals in the number and type of drugs given them, making their meat more dangerous for human consumption.

No, is the short answer. Mercy for Animals reports that “over 450 drugs are administered to farm animals.” The group’s source, Center for Food Safety, add that —

“To make matters worse, the Center for Food Safety found that drugs posing “significant threats to humans, animals, and the environment are administered to animals. Shockingly, these have been approved by the FDA and are on the market. Of the drugs studied, 12 are banned for use as animal drugs in other countries, but not in the United States.”

In actuality, it would not surprise us at all if racing gave horses “over 450 drugs.” Would it surprise you?


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