Written by Staff Writer
Brazilian authorities have arrested a group suspected of buying and selling horse meat in illegal markets, disguised as beef.
Investigators say they uncovered thousands of horse carcasses transported across the country from slaughterhouses in eastern Bahia state to Sao Paulo. In some cases, a rancher and truck driver bought horses directly from feedlots in Bahia, and then traded them with the leaders of the network, who then slaughtered them.
According to Brazilian news site G1, police found hundreds of horse carcasses stored in pens. Officials found used tires and other parts of animal transportation vehicles at several slaughterhouses they visited.
In an initial operation two weeks ago, Brazilian officials seized hundreds of kilos of horse meat from slaughterhouses in Bahia’s João Pedro II state that was disguised as beef, Brazilian Animal Liberation Society Director Shelly Pereira told CNN Monday.
Pereira says horse meat has become an increasingly popular ingredient in illegal economies in the country, in which profit-hungry criminal groups have become increasingly influential.
The sale of horse meat is illegal in Brazil. Horses are not allowed to be exported to other countries, so illegal horse meat can only be sold domestically.
Last year, Brazil became the first country in the Western Hemisphere to ban horse meat exports to banned markets like Europe and China, with President Jair Bolsonaro’s government saying they no longer want to become “chef-poor.”
“We are thinking about that now. We are thinking about banning international trade of horse meat, because so far, we have closed it to the European Union and we are considering closing it to China as well,” Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi told reporters in January.
“We are doing this to try to protect the horses that are already in Brazil and those that are in the process of being processed to make horse meat,” Maggi said.