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Portugal involved in Europe-wide horse meat scandal

horsePortugal has been involved in a pan-Europe horse meat scandal which Europol has just smashed.

Spain’s Guardia Civil, working with Europol, has dismantled an organised crime ring that was trading horse meat across Europe - meat that was unfit for human consumption and contained drugs.

The operation involved police in Portugal, Belgium, France, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In Spain, gang members were arrested for animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, public health crimes and money laundering.

The alert was raised five years ago in Ireland where beef burgers containing horse meat and tainted with the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, were detected by the authorities.

Meat companies, frozen food companies and fast-food companies were caught up in the investigation which led to the identification of a Dutch citizen, whereabouts unknown.

In the summer of 2016, Guardia Civil’s Environmental Protection Service started 'Operation Gazel' after unusual behaviour was detected in horse meat markets. Officers spotted that the scam involved horses in bad shape and categorised as "not suitable for consumption" were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses.

The animals were acquired in Portugal and northern Spain. The meat was processed in a factory in Spain and then exported to Belgium - one of the biggest horse meat traders in the EU.

The gang forged the animals’ identification by modifying microchips and documents.

The Dutch businessman was found to be operating his network from Calpe, Alicante but investigators reckoned the Spanish office was but a small part of the overall structure he controlled.

Interpol, using local police forces, swooped and arrested the leader of the gang in Belgium with 65 further arrests made in Portugal and other European countries with bank accounts and properties blocked or seized, and five luxury cars impounded.

During searches at slaughterhouses and other animal handling facilities in Spain, several samples were analysed and the results concluded that the unfit, ‘not suitable for consumption,’ horsemeat that had been exported had originated from Spain.

The last horse meat scandal erupted in the UK and Ireland in January 2013 when horse DNA was identified in frozen burgers being sold by several supermarkets.

The subsequent recall of 50,000 tonnes of meat products across Europe was one of Europe’s largest food scandals.


+1 #4 dw 2017-07-18 12:56
Quoting Margaridaana:
Unfortunately, Southern Europeans have no respect for animals. I have seen it in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. More education needed in these matters for our EU associates.

Belgium, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are involved too, so it's hardly limited to southern Europe.
-1 #3 Margaridaana 2017-07-17 13:07
Unfortunately, Southern Europeans have no respect for animals. I have seen it in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. More education needed in these matters for our EU associates.
+2 #2 liveaboard 2017-07-17 07:40
We used to have some neglected horses being grazed in the neighborhood; apparently the "horse subsidy" was withdrawn and I haven't seen them since. I was wondering what was done with the poor beasts.

The mystery is now solved.
+2 #1 Elsa 2017-07-17 06:49
A desperately sad postscript to any horse caring and rehabilitation story in Portugal is that of well meaning North Europeans paying good money to take in abused horses. Rehabilitating them and then advertising them free or at little cost to 'good homes'. Ideal as companion horses - often back in Northern Europe.
In at least one case near Beja in southern Alentejo the Portuguese taking the horse away took it straight to the abattoir. Gaining a couple of hundred euros for his deception and unbothered - yet again lowering further the estimation.