The horsemeat scandal in Europe gets more and more complicated. BUT, the main point is that the horse slaughter business is corrupt in more ways than one. Now 70,000 horses from Northern Ireland are unaccounted for and "unwanted horses" have been being given false paperwork and then sold to meat dealers. I'm sure there is much more to the whole story. ~Declan
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70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland
There are an estimated 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland, the British Labour Party has claimed as the Government there sought to allay fears that contaminated meat was being sold in supermarkets.
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said unwanted horses were given false paperwork in Northern Ireland before being sold for €10 and then resold to dealers for meat for as much as €500.
She said there was currently a "lucrative" trade in horses, claiming that while the Polish and Romanians were being "conveniently" blamed for the scandal, the contamination problem had started across the Irish Sea.
Speaking in the Commons, Ms Creagh said: "The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have clear evidence of an illegal trade of unfit horses from Ireland to the UK for meat, with horses being re-passported to meet demands for horse meat in mainland Europe.
"It says that there are currently 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland. Unwanted horses are being sold for €10 and being sold on for meat for €500 - a lucrative trade.
"It is very convenient to blame the Poles and the Romanians but so far neither country have found any problems with their beef abattoirs."
Many horses are also believed to be contaminated with the carcinogen phenylbutazone, often referred to as bute, she said, claiming that the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had been "incompetent".
The lack of information from the Government had been a "disgrace", Ms Creagh added, telling MPs the British public's confidence in the food chain was "sinking like a stone".
Mr Paterson said that unless products had been designated as unsafe by the Food Standards Agency, consumers should not worry.
Turning to Ms Creagh, he said: "The advice on food is very, very simple. I have been completely consistent on this. I have been absolutely clear, the independent agency which gives professional advice is the Food Standards Agency.
"I, you, MPs, and the public should follow their advice - so as long as products are free for sale and they have not been recommended for withdrawal by the Food Standards Agency, they are safe for human consumption."