Romanian road rules may have triggered horsemeat crisis
New laws have seen 'hundreds of thousands' of horses killed for food at Romanian abattoirs
A BAN on horses on Romanian roads may have triggered the "surge in the fraudulent sale of horsemeat" in Europe and may even have led to the introduction of donkey meat into the supply chain, a French politician said.
As the horsemeat scandal widened over the weekend, with processed beef products sold in as many as 16 European countries now thought to be contaminated with horsemeat, it was revealed that Comigel – the company that supplied the meat used in products withdrawn from British supermarkets – got its meat from a Romanian abattoir that slaughters both horses and cattle.
Jose Bove, vice-president of the European Parliament agriculture committee, told The Independent that "hundreds of thousands" of horses have been sent to abattoirs in the country following changes to Romania's road rules. The ban on horse-drawn carts – a familiar sight on Romania's roads for centuries – was introduced six years ago, but has only recently been enforced.
Donkeys are also used to pull carts, leading Bove to speculate that some of the meat that has already turned up in products in the UK, France and Sweden, may be donkey.
Romania has begun urgent investigations to see if its abattoirs are the source of the horsemeat sold as beef. Its politicians are worried that if it is established that criminal elements deliberately mis-labelled meat to make money, the country's food producers would be discredited for years to come and Romania might face export restrictions.
The Daily Telegraph says as many as 760,000 horses are still used on farms in Romania, but has a different explanation for the recent surge in the supply of horsemeat. The paper says the EU banned the export of live horses from Romania two years ago, which prompted farmers to export horsemeat instead.
In 2011, thousands of tons of horsemeat were shipped either frozen or chilled to countries such as France, Belgium, Italy and Bulgaria for processing. More than 25 abattoirs in Romania are authorised not only to butcher horsemeat but also to export it within the EU. A horse can fetch as much as £100 in Romania when sold for meat, but often the sale price is much lower.
London mayor Boris Johnson weighed in to the debate today, asking why the British are so horrified by the idea of eating horsemeat when it is adored by the French.
"Amazing! Here are two nations, with roughly the same level of civilisation, with a densely interwoven history, a cognate language – but who have entered the internet age with radically different ideas about eating humanity's eternal helpmeet," he wrote in his column in the Daily Telegraph.