After a life of hard labour, the butcher's knife awaits: The thousands of horses being slaughtered for their meat in Romania for a 100 a time
Horses too old to work are sold to abattoirs, ending up on British supermarket shelvesCicalex abattoir is one of 25 in Romania to slaughter horses commerciallyRomania produces 14,000 tons of horsemeat each year, mainly for export
00:51 GMT, 11 February 2013
09:47 GMT, 11 February 2013
Caked in mud and tethered by rope in the tiny yard of a rundown farm, this is one of tens of thousands of horses that face slaughter in Romania every year for their meat.
Once seven-year-old mare Sabarel can no longer carry out the demanding work of a draught horse she will be sold to the abattoir down the road.
On the days when she is not pulling a wooden cart laden with heavy farm equipment or produce, she is tied up inside a dark, mud-walled stable, chewing hay from the manger that hangs on the wall.
Work horse: Farmer Ion with Sabarel, the seven-year-old mare that will be slaughtered for meat when she can no longer do the demanding work of a draught horse
Next door, a sow nurses her litter of six piglets, while chickens, ducks and turkeys roam around the muddy yard.
Dogs, tied to their ramshackle kennels, bark constantly.
Like the pigs and poultry around her, Sabarel will end up facing the butcher’s knife.
Her mother was taken away and slaughtered when she grew too old to be of use two years ago.
And it is horses just like these which have ended up on the shelves of British supermarkets in a food scandal that seems to deepen by the day.
Romanian president Traian Basescu said Romania would suffer economically if it was found to have some responsibility for the growing scandal
Yesterday Sabarel’s owner told how
the harsh reality of rural life in Romania left no room for
sentimentality. Standing in the farmyard as the temperature sank to
freezing point, Ion, a 45-year-old farmer from the village of Teiser,
told the Daily Mail: ‘I used to have two horses – a mother and her foal.
‘But when the mother got too old I sold it to some gipsies who were passing by.
‘There is an abattoir down the road. This is where old horses end up.’
He added: ‘This horse is called Sabarel. She is seven years old and a mare. She has quite a bad temper. She is used to pull the cart – carrying produce and equipment around the farm.’
A horse fetches around 100 when sold for meat in Romania – often much less.
Some 30 miles from Ion’s farm is the huge Cicalex abattoir. A banner brandishing an image of two red meat steaks is stretched across the main road leading to the plant in the outskirts of Alexandria, 50 miles from Bucharest.
The sprawling industrial site is one of Romania’s biggest abattoirs, exporting thousands of tons of meat – including horsemeat – to countries across Europe, including France.
Founded in 1976, Cicalex is one of only 25 abattoirs in Romania to slaughter horses commercially.
The firm supplies catering firms with
fresh horsemeat, salamis and sausages made from horse meat and frozen
horse meat. While Romanians are increasingly reluctant to eat horsemeat
themselves, the country still produces huge quantities – some 14,000
tons each year – mainly for export.
Nearby: Some 30 miles from Ion's farm is the huge Cicalex abattoir, one of Romania's biggest abattoirs, exporting thousands of tons of meat, including horsemeat, to countries across Europe
The recent banning of horse and traps from main roads has seen a massive increase in the number sent for slaughter.
night Romanian president Traian Basescu said the nation would suffer
economically if it was found to have some responsibility for the
growing horsemeat scandal.
He said: ‘If it is established that there was wrong-doing in Romania our country will lose credibility for many years to come.’
Mainly for export: While Romanians are increasingly reluctant to eat horsemeat themselves, the country still produces some 14,000 tons each year