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Suggestions that horses doped with painkillers were killed at a Cheshire abattoir under false passports have been rejected by the company that runs it, High Peak Meat Exports (HPME).

In a piece broadcast by BBC Northern Ireland on 5 March, a man claiming to be an Irish horse transporter said he and others gave unsound horses cortisone injections and bute.

They then inserted false microchips before transporting them to Red Lion Abattoir in Nantwich.

The report did not say the horses were accepted for slaughter at Red Lion, but it implied that unsuitable equines are being slaughtered for human consumption in the UK.

“If a horse had a heartbeat and could walk it would go on that lorry,” said the man, who was not named.

A spokesman for HPME said the company is considering legal action.

“No horses are slaughtered [at Red Lion] without full Food Standard Agency [FSA] veterinary supervision and without ante-mortem health checks and post-mortem checks being applied,” John Young told H&H.

Barrister Stephen Lomax, also speaking for HPME, said every horse killed at Red Lion is checked against its passport by the company and by a representative of the FSA.

If a passport is found to be invalid while the horse is still alive, the animal is returned to its owner.

If a horse passport is subsequently found to be invalid, the meat is destroyed.
Hundreds of horses are turned away from Red Lion each year, he added.

The FSA is investigating a number of alleged passport irregularities involving horses slaughtered at Red Lion.

Mr Lomax said: “All the passports were believed genuine by the FSA at the time of slaughter.”

A BBC Northern Ireland spokesman told H&H: “The BBC stands by its journalism.”

Red Lion was at the centre of controversy earlier this year when footage allegedly showing cruelty to horses at the plant was broadcast on Sky News.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (14 March 2013)