Today, Eyes on Animals met with Albert Heijn (AH), the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, to talk about our horse meat investigation. We talked to three managers, who share the responsibility for AH’s horsemeat retail and CSR policy. Since Eyes on Animals, TSB Zurich, AA USA and 3 other partner organizations have revealed the serious abuses which horses in Latin and North America routinely suffer on their way to and in slaughterhouses, AH still buys its smoked horse meat and horse sausage from Argentina and Uruguay. AH said it could not name their supplying slaughterhouses.
Following the publicity about our investigation, AH told us they have studied the horse meat industry in recent months, and are reflecting on their choices. They want fewer intermediaries in their horse-meat product chain, so they will gain a better view on what is actually happening and can exert more influence. This seems positive. Furthermore, AH said they find it important to offer their clients ‘quality’ horse meat, whilst unfortunately they could not (yet) name any welfare criteria AH finds necessary to maintain for the sake of the horses which are slaughtered for their products.
Eyes on Animals emphasized that we would like AH to stop buying horse meat from these countries until the animal welfare during transport and in slaughterhouses have substantially improved. That would send a serious signal that the current situation is unacceptable. AH could switch to West European suppliers, who are at least bound by EU legislation. In the countries where AH currently purchases its meat, horses are routinely abused, sick and injured horses do not get medical treatment, violence and even aggressive dogs are used to load them onto trucks, and they are often transported for days without food and water even in extremely hot weather conditions. Moreover, the veterinary inspection services are corrupt and there is a lot of fraud with health certificates for horses, while drugs are freely available for horse owners. This poses risks for consumers.
AH said they believe they can pressure certain horse meat producers to not only deliver the ‘quality product’ they seek for their customers, but also, in future, take animal welfare into account. To do so, they want to travel to Argentina this fall. AH says they will also consider supporting the development of welfare criteria for horses by Global GAP, a worldwide certification system. Eyes on Animals is pleased that AH was willing to talk with us about horse welfare. However, we are disappointed that they could not show us concrete, positive actions yet – in contrast to supermarkets Deen, Coop, Jumbo and snack producer Ad van Geloven. We look forward to tangible steps from AH, from which horses will benefit.