As horse-lovers following the recent ‘horsemeat scandal’; no doubt your initial reaction will likely be one of anger and dismay at the thought of eating horsemeat. However it also serves as a reminder that in response to an EU directive aimed at ensuring animals destined for the food chain were drug-free, all horses are required to have a valid (and legitimate) Horse Passport.
Under the regulations for Horse Passports, any horse that receives Phenylbutazone MUST be excluded from the human food chain. Any horse which is not excluded may not be given the medication by a veterinary surgeon, i.e. No exclusion, No ‘bute’.
Lifelong exclusion is achieved by the horse owner signing Section IX or the Medicine page in the horse’s passport which states that the horse may not be slaughtered for use in the human food chain. A representative such as a veterinary surgeon may also sign this page. Whilst we make no charge for this service, once this is section is signed it can never be changed. As vets, we are then free to administer Phenylbutazone as required.
It was thought that the combination of Horse Passports + the now-abandoned National Horse Database, would help to ensure full traceability of all equines in the UK and the easier identification of those horses NOT permitted to enter the food-chain by reason of having received veterinary medications such as Phenylbutazone or ‘bute’.
If you have not already done so, we would advise that you get your horse passport signed the next time you have reason to call out your vet. The passport status can then be updated on your horse’s veterinary computer records.
Whilst the Government has stated that there are no distinct health risks associated with eating horse meat, there are concerns that Phenylbutazone ‘bute’ may be present in meat derived from horses treated with that particular medication.
Here’s what the official website at https://www.gov.uk/horse-passport/overview says about horse passports:
“All horses, ponies and donkeys must have a horse passport. The passport helps:
The animal’s rider or keeper must have the passport with them at all times when they’re with the animal, unless it’s in a stable, grazing in a field, or being moved by foot. Owners can take their animals for short rides without one.
You (or the animal’s main keeper) may have to show the passport to a Trading Standards inspector or an animal health officer.
You can be fined up to £5,000 if you don’t have a valid horse passport.’
However confusion reigns (pardon the pun) as earlier today the BBC published the following article on its website science news section: “The BBC has learned that up to 7,000 unauthorised horse passports have been in circulation in the UK since 2008.” Read more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21430330
More on this to come…