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Jill Headford

Posted 15 February 2013
by Jill Headford

Horsemeat or bute burgers?!

Much of the outrage about horse meat in burgers and processed meals is based either on sentiment about eating horses or on indignation about being conned about what we are being sold. Most people don’t realise that there is a much more sinister aspect to it all.Since 2009 all horses have been required to have passports. There are 75 issuing agencies authorised by DEFRA (who hold a list) who issue passports of widely varying reliability. The reason for the passport system – which originates in EU legislation – is to prevent horses which have received medication and are therefore unfit for human consumption from entering the food chain. This is important in the EU where they tend to eat horsemeat, less so in the UK where we don’t (or thought we didn’t). But nevertheless we are subject to the law which says that either a horse must be signed out of the food chain on its passport or every designated medication it receives – including routine meds like Bute – must be recorded, in some cases on its passport. Any vet or owner who prescribes or administers Bute without recording it is therefore breaking the law unless the horse is already signed out of the food chain on the passport. Check that your horse’s passport is correctly marked up.

The big problem of course is that the passport system is hopelessly unreliable, many horses have several passports and many issuing agencies will issue duplicates on request. It is not hard for an unscrupulous owner or dealer to produce a “clean” passport when it comes to slaughter. When you bear in mind that one single dose of Bute makes a horse unfit for human consumption for the rest of its life – because Bute is dangerous to humans – it makes you worry a bit. Read the latest article on this in H&H and some forum comments at



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About the author

Jill Headford

Jill Headford

Partner and Solicitor

A partner in the firm since 1994 and an experienced Court and Tribunal advocate, Jill specialises in resolving disputes and is a member of the Property Litigation Association