Horsemeat and Drugs – What they DON’T want you to know…
by Jerry Finch, Habitat for Horses
This article has been a major collaborative effort. Within these pages you will find absolute, scientific proof that horse meat from the US is deadly. To dispute these facts is to deny any role that science plays in research of the effects of chemicals on the human body. For those in the US, this tells of why a Federal system once concerned about food safety decided to bend the rules to benefit a few foreign companies. For those in the horse meat eating countries, read closely, for this will tell you why you are not feeling well at all. While long and detailed, this knowledge is vital to those wanting to know the truth about horsemeat and drugs.
It is not a secret that horses in America are not considered food animals but are rather regarded as large companions or athletes, bred to trust their human masters, provide them leisure and to perform at the track like professional sportsmen, and as such, horses are raised, fed and medicated in a totally different fashion than real food animals like beef cattle, sheep or pigs. Never considered part of the food chain in this country (not even in the hardest times, where it was sold primarily to poor European immigrants as a cheap ersatz of beef), horses are routinely administered all kinds of drugs, food supplements and miscellaneous substances that, under current American and European laws, theoretically prohibits them from being used as human food yet, last year alone, more than seventy million pounds of tainted horsemeat from America’s pet horses were sent abroad for human consumption.
Box of a preparation of phenylbutazone commonly sold throughout the United States. Note the warning on the right “Not for use in horses intended for food”. Still, everyday hundreds of US horses treated with this drug are slaughtered for gourmet meals in continental Europe.

There is not virtually any barn in the United States where we can’t find in the medicine cabinet a number of different drugs used in common horse husbandry that are clearly labeled “Not for use in Horses intended for food”. Still, the meat of these animals is being sold top-dollar overseas as nothing sort of a “therapeutic meat”, to quote Swiss horsemeat butcher and known peddler of Dallas Crown’s wares Max Marki, proprietor of a boucherie chevaline at the Boulevard du Pont d’Arve, Geneva.
While agribusiness has always disregarded and even derided food safety regulations –claiming they know better- in an effort to gain a competitive edge either by reducing production costs or by increasing raw material yield, the truth is that those regulations are there for a good reason. It wasn’t all that long ago when it was common for people to die intoxicated after eating contaminated food, forcing governments to create agencies to oversee the food chain, slaughtering and handling practices in order to prevent sharp practice. Advancements in chemistry further complicated the picture by placing on the market a number of substances used to treat a variety of medical conditions in animals which, when misused or used with fraudulent purposes in food-producing animals, may irreparably harm the health of those eating such contaminated meat.
The horsemeat industry settled in America and keeps supplying itself from US horses because fully grown animals of optimal slaughter age –between 10 and 15 years old- are very expensive to raise for slaughter somewhere else, remarkably in Europe, which lacks vast grasslands and where farmers find highly uneconomical to raise and feed horses for longer than two years. According to Jean-Claude Terraillon, another Geneva horsemeat wholesaler and retailer, “the older the horse, the more tender it is; it’s the opposite of other meats”, hence putting a prize on animals in the apogee of their lives.
Unlike the United States, European countries where horse meat is most popular are rather small and highly urbanized. Save for preppies and upper classes, most people live concentrated in urban areas, dwelling in vast blocks of staggering condos while rural areas are reduced and highly industrialized, making unfeasible the establishment of meat horse farms, less the development of a live horse industry large enough to keep supplying the horsemeat industry with animals of the desired age, American style. In Europe riding and sport horses are for the most part regarded as true luxury “items”, icons of monetary prowess and social status of their owners, as only the wealthiest can provide for their expensive upkeep. They are too few and too expensive to be turned into fillets. On the contrary, the United States has an abundance of horses of optimal slaughter age due to systematic overbreeding and, in addition, is a very large country with big rural areas, hay is relatively cheap and a lot of people own horses for a variety of reasons, not just the wealthiest elites. The Belgian horsemeat cartel found in AQHA’s overbreeding throwaway policies a match made in heaven.
However, Americans do not regard their horses as food sources, in fact most horse owners are not aware (nor expect) their animals could end up in someone’s plate (and those who do expect don’t give a damn), and thus they don’t consider the potential danger for those to those consuming American horsemeat when medicating their animals. Nonetheless, the profits obtained by the Belgian-owned horsemeat corporations by purchasing American horses at a way lower price of what a similar animal would cost in Europe are just too high, too juicy to let them go… so the horsemeat cartel preferred to look the other way and play its cards with local and European food safety authorities to make sure the import window is kept well open, all while playing roulette with the health of unsuspecting consumers lured into purchasing “therapeutic meat” (never better said, as it is full of chemicals to treat equine diseases), in a reckless attitude similar to that leading to the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow disease”) European crisis during the early 90’s.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, antibiotics, anti-parasitic and other biocides, hormones and even some food supplements and pesticides given or applied to American horses all end up in the plates of European bourgeoisies and discerning “food connoisseurs”. The problem is that these substances are known to be unsafe on humans and to cause dangerous kidney, liver and blood pathologies plus, irremediably, cancer. Others are known to be teratogenic, that is, causing genetic damage resulting in developmental malformations. In fact, some of these drugs were used long ago on humans but were quickly removed from the market and relegated to other uses in which their toxicity is not an issue (like horse veterinary medicine) when it was proved they were linked to several deaths and cancer cases after their administration. On some other cases (remarkably some kind of antibiotics) their use in humans is relegated to emergencies in which the benefits of the treatment outweigh its inherent toxicity and its side effects, including the much dreaded resistance of bacteria to current antibiotic formulations.
“They eat nothing but grass”
Bearing in mind such negative effects on human health it is understandable why authorities both in the US and abroad prohibit animals treated with such drugs from entering the human food chain. And therefore, pursuant to Section 530.41 of Title 21 of US Code of Federal Regulations, several provisions of the Federal Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act (21 U.S.C. §301 et seq.), provisions of European Commission (EU) Regulation No. 37/2010 and European Council Directive 96/22/EC several medicines commonly used in horse husbandry in the US have been totally banned from use in animals (regardless of species) intended to be slaughtered for human food, notably:
  • Phenylbutazone: Banned for use in all food animals (the label directly indicates it is only for horses not intended for slaughter). In Europe, while phenylbutazone is not included in Table 2 (banned substances) of Commission Regulation No. 37/2010, it is not listed either in Commission (EC) Regulation No. 1950/2006 establishing a list of allowed substances if a six-month withdrawal period is observed, so any animal treated with this drug is categorically excluded from the food chain, particularly horses, whose treatment with this drug must be stated in the European Equine Identification Document (Equine Passport) and subsequently signed out of the food chain in the aforesaid document
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Clenbuterol (Ventipulmin)
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
  • Dimetridazole
  • Ipronidazole and other nitroimidazoles (including metronidazole)
  • Furazolidone, Nitrofurazone, other nitrofurans
  • Sulfonamides
  • Dipyrone
  • Dapsone (4-[(4-aminobenzene)sulfonyl]aniline)
  • Glycopeptides (antibiotics such as vancomycin)
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Gentian violet (Tris(4-(dimethylamino)phenyl)methylium chloride)
  • Aristolochic acid (8-methoxy-6-nitrophenanthro[3,4-d][1,3]dioxole-5-carboxylic acid) and preparations thereof
  • Chloroform
  • Chlorpromazine
  • Colchicine
  • Hormonal steroids for growth promotion purposes (testosterone, progesterone, trenbolone and derivatives)
  • Anabolic or gestagenic steroids for therapeutic and/or zootechnical purposes (boldenone and estrogens such as 17ßestradiol, estriol, and other sex hormones).
  • All ß-agonists (e.g. compounds belonging to the Clenbuterol family)
  • Stilbenes ((E)-1,2-Diphenylethene and isomers), salts and esters.
  • Thyrostats (Thyroid hormones, derivatives like Levothyroxine and their agonist such as thiouracils and sulfur-containing imidazoles)
In addition, pursuant to European Commission (EC) Regulation No. 1950/2006, some substances deemed to be essential for the treatment of horses are allowed to be used in animals intended for slaughter, provided a minimum withdrawal period of six months is observed in order for such compounds to reach Commission established Maximum Residue Limit (MRLs), for example:
  • Altrenogest (gestagenic agent, MRLs set to 1 μg/kg in fat and 0.9 μg/kg in liver)
  • Carprofen (NSAID with uses similar to phenylbutazone but less potent; MRLs set to 500 μg/kg in muscle, 1,000 μg/kg in fat, liver and kidney)
  • Cefquinome (antibiotic; MRLs set to 100 μg/kg in liver and 200 μg/kg in kidney)
  • Ceftiofur (antibiotic; MRLs set to 1,000 μg/kg in muscle, 2,000 μg/kg in fat and liver and 6,000 μg/kg in kidney)
  • Dexamethasone (corticosteroid; MRLs set to 0,75 μg/kg in muscle, 2 μg/kg in liver and 0.75 μg/kg in kidney)
  • Febantel, Fenbendazole and oxfendazole sulphone (antiparasitic agent; MRLs set to 50 μg/kg in muscle, fat and kidney and 500 μg/kg in liver)
  • Firocoxib (NSAID; MRLs set to 10 μg/kg in muscle and kidney, 15 μg/kg in fat and 60 μg/kg in liver).
  • Flunixin (NSAID; MRLs set to 10 μg/kg in muscle, 20 μg/kg in fat, 100 μg/kg in liver and 200 μg/kg in kidney)
  • Isoxsuprine
  • Ivermectin (antiparasitic agent; MRLs set to 100 μg/kg in fat and liver and 30 μg/kg in kidney)
  • Kanamycin (antibiotic; MRLs set to 100 μg/kg in muscle and fat, 600 μg/kg in liver and 2,500 μg/kg in kidney)
  • Mebendazole (antiparasitic agent; MRLs set to 60 μg/kg in muscle, fat and kidney and 400 μg/kg in liver)
  • Meloxicam (NSAID; MRLs set to 20 μg/kg in muscle and 65 μg/kg in liver and kidney)
  • Metamizole (NSAID; MRLs set to 100 μg/kg in all relevant tissues)
  • Moxidectin (antiparasitic agent; MRLs set to 50 μg/kg in muscle, and kidney , 500 μg/kg in fat and 100 μg/kg in liver)
  • Neomycin (antibiotic; MRLs set to 500 μg/kg in muscle, fat and liver and 5,000 μg/kg in kidney)
  • Trimethoprim (anti-infectious and chemotherapy agent; MRLs set to 100 μg/kg in all relevant tissues)
  • Vedaprofen (NSAID; MRLs set to 50 μg/kg in muscle, 20 μg/kg in fat, 100 μg/kg in liver and 1,000 μg/kg in kidney)
Moreover, all substances for which MRLs could not be set according to pertinent EU regulations should never be administered to animals intended for slaughter, an example is, once more time, phenylbutazone.
All the drugs listed above are routinely given to horses in a daily basis throughout the United States, especially those involved in racing. But not only medicines are administered to American equines, other compounds not catalogued per se as “medicines” are also frequently given to US horses, such as dimethyl sulfoxide (an lab grade polar aprotic solvent used as a liniment on horses to treat sore legs), protein supplements and, much like beef cattle, bone meal, which is a known vector for BSE or “mad cow” disease.
Nevertheless, although the European-owned horse slaughter corporations are perfectly aware of this fact, they continue sourcing their stock from American horses on a cost basis, to the detriment of unsuspecting, gullible consumers duped into purchasing toxic meat passed off as a “safe”, drug-free sliming wonder coming from wild horses that never receive the noxious substances and industrial fodder given to food-producing cattle in factory farms. “The Americans pretty much let them roam free. They eat nothing but grass — not the kind of (expletive) you feed to pigs,” said Marki on a 2005 article published in the Contra Costa Times. Next to a sign in Mr. Marki’s shop reading “horse meat origin USA”, appears a logo of a prancing steed with the unmistakable brand “Dallas Crown, Inc. Texas, USA”.
Horsemeat fans could claim that for many of these medicines there are established withdrawal periods and that the Canadian and Mexican drug residue control programs make sure both such withdrawal periods are observed and that established MRLs are never exceeded but evidence, official and independent alike, show otherwise.....

For the full article by Jerry Finch, click here.