TheBritish Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has warned horse owners that horses treated with the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, commonly known as bute, must not be slaughtered for human consumption.

DEFRA now tests UK-produced horsemeat for bute residues as part of a policy which enables Britain to continue to use the drug, despite an EU ruling in 1999 which prevents the use of bute, along with a number of antibiotics and corticosteroids, within the Union.

In July 2002, the European Commission asked all member states to withdraw all equine medicines based on the banned substances, including phenylbutazone. BEVA has strongly lobbied against this decision, because a ban on bute would have massive welfare implications and, in any case, not all horses are intended for human consumption.

The organisation has recommended that these products continue to be used in Britain, as long as horses are identified by passports. A six-month withdrawal period prior to slaughter for human consumption has also been proposed.

These suggestions have been endorsed by the European Parliament, but it may be several years before they become law.

In the meantime, the pharmaceutical and veterinary professions will continue to press for the status quo to be maintained.

BEVA president-elect Alistair Barr commented: “This threat to the availability of phenylbutazone is obviously a great cause for concern – it is a medicine that is used extensively post-surgery in veterinary hospitals as well as for less severe cases.

“Horse owners need to take veterinary advice if they are considering having a horse put down at an abattoir where the carcasses go for human consumption.”

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (1 May), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.