Stolen horses, malnourished horses, abused horses. Do they all land in illegal slaughterhouses and get exported to Europe in form of steaks and minced meat? A prosecutor investigates claims and complaints that Greece might be a centre for the export of horse meat. Just weeks after the horsemeat scandal in allegedly beef products shook Europe. Reason for prosecutors’ intervention is apparently the illegal horses and horsemeat export to Italy.
According to Sunday newspaper Real News, Greek police is on the traces of gangs that either steal wild horses, or buy old, malnourished and abused horses and sell them to local slaughterhouses that promote the meat to the market. And not only horses. Apparently also donkeys find their way too the people’s table.
“There are no legal slaughterhouses for horses. As the horses lack ownership documents, hardly someone can control whether they have undergone treatment with drugs dangerous for the human body,” Athina Trachili, president of Greek Veterinarians Association.
Authorities investigation concentrate in the prefectures of Attica, Boeotia and Eubea. Key destination of the illegal horse export is Italy.
Citing animal welfare organisations, Real News, reports that horses are bought 300-1,000 euro per piece depending on their weight. Many of them are transported to Italy in a half-legal procedures.
While Greece has severe laws for the transport of horses, it is hard to control them.
Aspropyrgos, 30 km east of Athens is allegedly the centre of illegal horse trade.
Animal welfare associations denounce the increase stealing of wild horses in areas like Lakka in Souli, Lepenos in Aitoloakarnania, in Axios river area and Fthiotida, in western and central Greece.
Crete: End of February 18 horses abandoned by their owner disappeared in one night. The horses suffering from malnutrition were taken care of Cretan Animal welfare Action (Ζωόφιλη Δράση Κρήτης). The horses were being fed and taken care of by the animal welfare and thus for two years. “However, last December we notified the owner that we cannot longer take care of the horses economically. Two weeks ago [end of February] the horses were removed for unknown direction,” Georgia Stefanaki from the association told Real News.
Coastal guards told the newspaper that it is difficult to have a vet at the port every time somebody transports 20 horses out of the country.
First time Real News reported on horses smuggling was in 2011. “The report on Sunday triggered the prosecutors’ intervention,” wrote Proto Thema on Monday.
Last week, Greek Food Control Authorities (EFET) found horse DNA in seven products (burgers, kebab, etc) that were sold as ‘beef’. Since the beginning of the horsemeat scandal, EFET has found horse DNA in nine products in total - locally produced or imported.