Horsemeat: The Insider Spotlight

Horsemeat: The Insider

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disturbing. Two weeks ago, Spotlight made


contact with a man who said he was part of a long-running criminal


conspiracy, a fraud which exploits weaknesses in the system for


exporting horsemeat into the human food chain. A fraud which has a


direct bearing on the European food crisis.


Why is it important that what you are involved with get out? Why?


Number one would be the health and safety of people, 4G would be day


cruelty that goes on behind closed doors. The man we interviewed said


he was at the heart of that criminal operation. By speaking to


us, he says he is putting himself in danger. Tonight on Spotlight,


his inside story of the criminal Over the past two months, the


scandal of untraceable horse meat in processed food has plunged the


European food industry into crisis. The Prime Minister has issued a


stern warning to any 100 and passing of horsemeat of -- passing


of horsemeat as beef. Thousands of samples are to be tested for


horsemeat. Three men were arrested earlier this evening on suspicion


of fraud as part of the investigation into horsemeat being


labelled as beef. Politicians in the UK and Republic


of Ireland attempted to contain the problem by pointing out meat


products are fundamentally safe and that the system for tracing horses


and horsemeat is working. This, for the moment, is a labelling problem,


an issue of fraud. There is a full investigation going on as to how


the imported additives got into the system and where they would come


from. But tonight, we can reveal that the system for slaughtering


horses and processing their meat has been corrupted and exploited by


a small group of individuals based in Northern Ireland and the


Republic. Several days ago, Spotlight made contact with a man


who claims to have been an insider in that conspiracy. We interviewed


him on two separate occasions. He cannot be identified, because he


fears for his safety, but during those interviews, he gave a


detailed account of how the fraud work. He started by telling us how,


over the last four years, large numbers of Irish horses were


purchased cheaply across the country by a small group of people.


Where did the horses come from? Anywhere, everywhere, moreover we


could get them. Good, bad, indifferent, it did not matter.


you buy them at markets? Some were born there, somewhat out and around


the country, a lot of them born -- bought a round the country.


Whereabouts? Around farms and places, people did not want them,


or could not afford them. After the economic crisis, there


was no shortage of people, north and south of the border, willing to


sell horses they could no longer afford to keep.


Did anyone ever ask you why you were so interested in buying up


their horse? People knew. They did not know they were going to a


factory, but thought they were going for dog food. They never


thought they were going into human food? No. Definitely not.


Most of the horses bought by the gang across Ireland were on the


face of it of little value. Horses which have proper documentation can


demand a higher price, often several hundred pounds, when sent


to slaughter, but need a document called a horse passport. It shows


the provenance of the horse and, crucially, its medication history.


And horses born since 2009 also need a microchip implanted under


their skin and the cheque number is recorded in the passport. This they


it says that, in theory, this system should allow any horse to be


properly identified. How the system works is that, since 2009, it is a


requirement when an owner applies for a passport that a horse has a


microchip present. That is always inserted in the left-hand side of


the neck, so it can be read in that position with a particular scanning


device. And so, since 2009, every horse that has a passport issued


for them would also have a matching microchip and microchip number that


can be read with this device and it is also to be found on the document


linked with that animal, so it should be a unique way of


identifying who this horse is and provide information about the


animal. That is the theory, but in practice,


the scam was simpler. They should always be a vet who inserts a


microchip in the horse and fills out the passport. The gang simply


did it themselves, inserting bogus microchips into the animal and


forging horse passports to match them. The end I eight -- the


insider says it happened on an industrial scale. In the trade,


horse passports are known as books. They had a bag full of new books.


But some horses needed to have a microchip? What happened in that


case? They were inserted. How could that happen? Like an injection.


you ever cook chips into horses? Yes. But that has a number, how


does that work? You get the scanner and read it. And write the new


number into the passport? Yes. This meant that horses bought at


markets, or from farmers, for less than �50 were now worth several


hundred pounds when sold to abattoirs licensed to slaughter for


export abroad for human consumption. It was a licence to print money.


All we needed was horses, lots of them.


If there were about horses, you would get 16 on it, big and small,


you could even put 25, 26 horses. pack in as much as you can? Yes.


How much would you have paid for a fool lorry in total? Not much more


than �1,000 for them. The scam was lucrative, a lorry-load of horses,


costing no more than once �1,000 to buy, but fetching far more when


sold to an abattoir to be slaughtered for human consumption.


How much money we are you taking home? The average cheque would run


into about �5,000, something like that. And how much would be given


to you? You get �1,000. That is great money. Yes.


The money may have been good, but as time went on, the insider began


to see the cost of the criminal operation. Cruelty on a massive


scale. The gang were gathering large groups of horses together


before taking into England. But there were so many are waiting


transport, for long periods, horses would get no food, shelter or water.


He told us about that in his first interview.


They would be starving for weeks on end and in the bad weather.


Eventually, we thought about going around then, gathering their mark,


but there would be none of them there. -- gathering them up, but


there would be none of them and we could not get to them. Tell me


about the horses that did not make it to the journey, what happened to


them? There were horses that did not make the journey, but others


did not make the journey... The insider pointed as to a


location where he said horses had died. These photographs taken


ashore horse bones have submerged in the ground. One of the most


disturbing revelations from the insider is that horses were


regularly administered them a beautiful, known as bute, and be


The drugs would either be given in a horse's food or sometimes by


injection. Tell me about the horses that were


being transported, because they were cheap horses, they must not


have been in the best of shape. Some were not, but to stimulate


them and get them up on your feet again, you would give them seven


cortisone and bute. Bute is banned for human consumption and an EU law.


However, the current scientific consensus is that, even if


horsemeat containing bute has passed into the food chain, the


risk to humans is low. Bute has been around for a long


time, widely roost, but some research showed a small number of


cases, people, humans, suffered from a particularly serious ailment


of the bone marrow. -- widely used. Act out of anaemia, average your


body switches off the production of red blood cells and it can be fatal


in some cases. But it was a very small number of cases that that


happened. Our insiders says that, in some


cases, horses were given bute just hours before being slaughtered.


a horse had a heart beat and could walk on its four Lex, you would


stand up on that Lawrie until he got to England. What would make


that horse stand better and manage that trip? Bute. It was 16-18 hours.


There is no direct evidence that even this could harm human health,


but it does raise other concerns. That would be extremely bad news,


because the drug administered to the animal, immediately before


slaughter, means there will be high concentrations of the drug present


in the horse and those residues will make their way into the food


supply chain. For this professor, one of the biggest issues is that


we simply do not know what we are eating. This probably, from an


international standing, is probably one of the biggest issues we have


seen in relation to the Trust of that the supply chain we have


witnessed since B S E. What the insider told Spotlight over the


last two weeks has cast serious doubt on the security of the horse


passport system, a system set up to protect consumers when it comes to


how horsemeat enters the human food chain. What he says would suggest


that horse passports are wide open Janice is chairperson of racehorse


sanctuary and she says her organisation has been concerned


about the disposal of low-value Irish horses for several years.


Most of them were being shipped across the Irish Sea to be


slaughtered and are then most of that meat was supposed to be going


to the Continent. However, we knew that the people we were working


with, the sheer numbers who were going through these yards, and the


numbers of export and import figures were not matching up. Where


were these horses going? believes the movement of so many


horses was only possible because the horse passport system has been


abused on a massive scale. A lot of the people who it is aimed at


policing, basically, are laughing up their sleeve at it because they


know nobody in authority is really bothering themselves to check


passports. When we ask people if we can see a passport if they will


rummage in their van and they will say, what colour is it? We will


tell them and they have every colour and type of bogus passports


which they will pull out and start to complete in front of you. It is


a total farce. And also at the ports, why our passports not being


checked? People will get a lorry which pulls up and they will handle


-- hand over a number of passports and the tailgate will be lowered so


that they can do a head count of how many horses in the lorry but no


passport is matched up to an individual horse on that lorry. You


could have any horses going through with any passport and the -- the


passports may look legitimate but the horses are not. Our insider


said checks at the ports never posed a problem for him.


Were you ever stopped? Never. anyone ever poor you win and say


why are you driving back big load of horses? Never. I wanted to ask


the minister at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development,


Michelle O'Neill, about how lax the system appeared to be. She was not


available but the department did put forward the chief veterinary


officer. The control at the port was a head count first as the horse


passport. Horses were not unloaded. There is no place to unload them.


And there is no -- it is not safe to unload them. We did the best we


could do. It just wasn't good enough. I'm sorry, you say it is


just not good enough. What I am saying is I am looking at all of


the ways that we might harden the system to the risk of abuse. It is


too late. It is never too late to harden the system. The horses are


gone, they may have entered the food chain. And we do not know


where they have gone because they it went to England. Others were


aware of the situation at the ports. We began to notice that there were


certain individuals using reports on a regular basis, sometimes three


or four times a week, taking horses out of this country and we could


not understand why. It did not make any sense. Why would people be


spending money moving animals which had no value? The US PCA decided to


mount a surveillance operation. It began with this man, Lawrence


McAllister, a horse trader from County Antrim who was making


repeated trips to the north of England with trailer loads of Irish


horses. When he was arrested after driving off the ferry in Scotland,


the team had their first major breakthrough. He decided to


transport animals which were unfit for Transport. The animals were


suffering. They were lame and could not stand on the lorry. Bay and


powder but Laurie. During that process they discovered 40 forged


Irish horse passports and a box of microchips -- they impounded for


the lorry. Our insider says McAllister was part of a wider


criminal enterprise. In fact, he was one of the ringleaders in began


our insider worked for, delivering horses to England which were not


fit for human consumption. He was one of the top men. What do you


mean? He would have been in the big gang, so he would. Was he taking


horses from Dublin or Belfast? far as I knew, he would be taking


them out through the north, through Belfast. Lawrence McAllister was


charged with animal cruelty and told not to work with horses. He


did not listen. He was later stopped as a passenger in this


lorry in Scotland carrying two horses. The vehicle was driven by


this man, Kieran Murphy from South Armagh. But Murphy and McAllister


were not just transporting horses. Hidden in the back of the lorry was


a large amount of cannabis. Murphy and McAllister are now in prison in


Scotland. McAllister was also convicted of animal cruelty rising


from the charges on his previous trip to Scotland. Lawrence


McAllister was caught in Scotland with drugs. Were you surprised?


He had to do something with all the money so I suppose that is one way.


The conviction of the two men in Scotland showed how the conspiracy


was now embracing other forms of criminality but it also helped


solve a riddle for the US PCA investigators. Why were so many


low-value horses being moved to England? The answer lay in the


answers in the lorry, fake passports and a bag of microchips.


Now the investigators were able to join the dots and workout that the


gang were passing and documented animals off as animals which were


fit for human consumption. The big concern was where those animals


were heading. This is the Red Lion abattoir in


Nantwich, Cheshire. The US PCA said it became a place of interest to


them and their investigation about where the Irish horses were being


taken to for slaughter. It would also appear to be well known to our


insider. I am going to show you a photograph.


Can you tell me what this photograph is? It is the factory.


We drove in. What factory? The Red Lion. We drove in around the back


and at the back there is another intake door. We went in through the


back in take tours. Is up a factory you delivered horses on forged


passports? Yes. That should never have been slaughtered for the human


food chain? Yes. Our insider says he delivered horses to Red Lion


abattoir on multiple occasions, horses which had forged


documentation and some of which had been recently administered


phenylbutazone or bute. Red Lion confirmed they purchased horses


from Ireland but insist this is done it legitimately and entirely


But when we asked the Food Standards Agency about who decides


if the passport is authentic, they told us it is the company's


responsibility to ensure they accept horses and passport which


have been identified correctly. The FSA has also confirmed to Spotlight


that there is an ongoing investigation into inconsistencies


around a number of horse passports which have been used for the


slaughter of horses at Red Lion. We asked how peak meat exports which


operates Red Lion abattoir about that investigation and there


representative told us -- High Peak Spotlight understand that they


passports under investigation are English horse passports. Red Lion


to say that as far back as two years ago they did become concerned


about the authenticity of horse passports coming from Ireland. So


much so that they said they wrote to the FSA and the Department for


the Environment, Food end rural affairs about the issue. DEFRA and


the FSA confirmed they received letters in May 2007. Much has been


made of these letters in the press. They have been reported as Red Lion


blowing the whistle on the Irish horse meat problem but while they


do refer to issues with the Irish horse passports, much of their


focus is on commercial disadvantages to Red Lion, as to


what they see as the over-zealous enforcement of regulations in the


UK, as opposed to the regulatory regime in the Republic of Ireland.


Red Lion also say they turned away hundreds of horses, many of them


from Ireland, in the cases where the paperwork was inadequate. They


gave us a specific example of when this happened, explaining on 21st


February 2011, they turned away 10 horses supplied by a horse dealer


in County Kildare called Mailey cash. We contacted him to ask about


his dealings with the Red Lion's owner, Derek Turner.


Mailey Cash has agreed to meet me. I am on my way to meet him at a


horse fair. There is a specific incident we


have been told about in February 2011 where there was a problem with


the horse's passports and they were horses from yourself. Have you


heard about that? What do you know about it? When was that? We were


told it was February 2011. Never. There was never a problem. It was


never a problem. And you have been doing business with him since 2011?


I have. When was the last time he was over to you? Cripes. It could


have been a month ago. I sold him 18 horses. So why did, yes, no


problem. As recently as that? To that is very strange. He was


singled out as a horse dealer whose horses were turned away from Red


Lion abattoir but clearly he has given a different account and what


is more, he says Red Lion are among his best customers and he has been


sending them horses up until a few weeks ago. His account of his


business dealings with Derek Turner, the end of Red Lion abattoir seemed


to be backed up by independent evidence. Last year, Hillside


animal-welfare charity mounted an investigation into Red Lion,


installing secret cameras inside the abattoir. In November 2012 they


filmed this footage which appears to show cruelty to horses before


The management of Red Lion say that, whilst they do not defend any


breaches, these examples were the only problems identified during


filming, which recorded the slaughter of hundreds of horses.


But the animal welfare charity also wanted to know where bosses were


coming from, so be tracked a lorry leaving Red Lion. We filmed lorries


unloading courses at the abattoir, then use a clone intelligence-


gathering to see where those lorries were going and we found


they were going to a horse dealer in Ireland then coming back. They


were going to one South West of Dublin. The company -- the charity


should us the tracking data they collected, showing the horses came


here to County Kildare, this was a November 2012, almost a year and a


half after Red Lion said they had turned away horses because of


passport issues. We went back to Red Lion to clarify whether they


still have concerns about passports supplied by Mr Cash and whether


they still used him as a supplier. But they refused to answer any more


questions. The export of live horses to


England seems to have occurred under a passport system wide open


to abuse. But tonight, we can reveal that the story does not end


in equine abattoirs and the UK, in fact, there may have been problems


closer to home. To understand why, you just have to look at the


numbers. In the UK last year, nearly 9,500


horses and officially recorded as having been slaughtered. Just under


4,500 of them in Red Lion abattoirs. But last year, in the Republic of


Ireland, almost 25,000 horses were slaughtered. When it came to


slaughtering courses for export into the human food chain in Europe,


Ireland eclipsed England by far. And every horse lot of should have


had a passport. -- every horse slaughtered. Meet Charlie, by now,


maybe the most famous horse in Ireland. Journalists from all over


the world have wanted to meet him, because his story gets to the heart


of the apparent inadequacies in the Irish passport system. Because


Charlie, according to his microchip and passport, is officially dead.


After Charlie was found wandering the streets of Longford Town,


Hilary Robinson from a horse sanctuary was called out to rescue


him. She scanned his microchip, checked official records and


discovered that Charlie was recorded as having been slaughtered


for human consumption on the 24th March 1920 12. -- 2012.


Are you surprised this happened? Knowing what I know now, no. At the


time, I was surprised. We had horses that were supposed to be


dead that were still alive. We told the department on numerous


occasions about the whole passport issue problem, but it is only now


people are starting to take notice. Hilary believes that Charlie


survive for a reason. He was not large enough to be slaughtered, so


his passport was used for another horse. Charlie is small in stature,


so I am sure a heavier, worth more money, horse went down the chute to


be slaughtered. What do you think of the Irish horse passport system


caused Mark -- passport system? we say it is very loose and easy to


be misused. It needs to be tighter and more affordable. Would you put


an estimate on the number of Charlies out there, horses that


have been slaughtered using someone else's identity? I am sure there


are hundreds. We are only a small place and have found three. How


many more are there across the country and across Europe?


Hillary was told by the passport issuing authority that a horse


holding Charlie's passport had been recorded as having been slaughtered


at an abattoir. Independently, the USPCA were also concerned about


this company. Acting on a tip-off, they sent a surveillance team there


from the 28 until the 30th March last year, just a few days after


the horse bearing Charlie's passport has been recorded as


slaughtered. This video is from that surveillance operation,


showing a man repeatedly beating a horse to go inside the abattoir. He


does it again a few minutes later. When the horse resists, another man


appears to reverse a machine towards it. The other man then


ushers it inside the abattoir. We informed the company of this


footage and asked them to comment. The denied that any of horses had


been treated cruelly prior to slaughter. The County Council also


confirmed that a vet was pleasant - - was present at the plant on that


day. We told the county council about


this footage and asked for a comment, but it is not -- but they


did not respond. The council said it was not aware of any breach of


legislation that would give any cause of concern to the public or


the council. There is no evidence that of horses


in this footage did not have proper documentation, but there is


evidence that concerns had been raised last year in an e-mail to


the authorities in the UK about alleged issues with horse passports


in this company. This is the e-mail sent to DEFRA in


the UK last March. It was written by a whistleblower in Ireland,


passed it to someone associated with Red Lion abattoir. That person


for readied be e-mailed to DEFRA. We cannot substantiate the serious


allegations in his e-mail, which were passed on to the authorities


by someone working for a competitor, but a detailed, naming individuals


associated, and alleging illegal practices which the whistleblower


says should be investigated. We know DEFRA has received this e-mail,


because they have confirmed it. We asked DEFRA if they acted on this


e-mail. They said it would be normal practice when receiving


allegations of this kind for them to alert the Irish Department of


Agriculture. So we asked the Department of Agriculture here in


Dublin if they had received those allegations. They said they were


not aware of them, but the department told us it has


possession of a number of horse passports removed from the premises


of the alleged company and that those are being examined as part of


a wider examination -- investigation. The company said


their blood is operated in accordance with all legislation.


They also serve the plant is not the subject of any complaint from


any of the relevant authorities and denied the allegations in the e-


mail sent to DEFRA. Spotlight has also discovered that


solicitors for the company have threatened to underrate Robinson


with libel proceedings, because they say she has been suggesting


another horse was deliberately passed off as Charlie. -- Fred and


Hilary Robinson. They denied the company had never had any record of


all horse with Charlie's passport. But there was confirmation that the


passport was returned and there is no awareness of any circumstances


that would happen for any other purpose than to report -- and to


record the War Horse as having been slaughtered.


The big question, of course, is who knew about the trade of Irish or


Cezanne false passports and when? As we have discovered, several


Government agencies have been aware for longer than you might find.


Spotlight understands that, in November 2011, a multi-agency


meeting was held at Aintree Racecourse. One of the subjects


discussed was the problem of horse passports and the transport of low


Matt Duke Irish horses to English abattoirs. The meeting was attended


by representatives from DEFRA, the SS PCA, officials from trading


standards, the World Horse Welfare Trust and officials from the


Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland.


The fact that horse passports more discussed would this -- were


discussed would suggest that as far back as two years ago all these


agencies knew there was a problem. To actually get all those agencies


into one room and talking was a major achievement by someone.


Secondly, it would need to be a really important issue to get of


those agencies together and talking at the same time. And the third


thing is that when that meeting was over the people leaving that


meeting, within their own departments, had a responsibility


to tidy up and check out anything alleged which fell under their


responsibility. We do not believe that happened and I would go so far


as to say nothing happened. In 2011, in Aintree, there was a


meeting where there were many representatives and two agencies


President told us the movement of low horses was discussed. --


agencies present. It may have been mentioned about abattoirs, but it


was largely about welfare during the transfer of horses. In any


event, in Northern Ireland, my staff examine consignments of


horses leaving Northern Ireland for England and check their passport


and welfare. This woman says they have been aware of this issue for


some time, that she alerted authorities to a number of holding


yards where low far your horses were corralled together before


being moved away in lorries, she suspected, to be slaughtered for


human consumption. She said she alerted about the issue time and


time again. We contacted the Animal Health and Welfare team at the


Department of Agriculture. When would that have been? Around 2005-


2006, explaining we felt that these holding yards really did need to be


policed. Your first contact them at eight years ago about this problem?


Yes. How many times have you been on to them since? Countless times,


and continually told it was not there remade, -- We met, nothing to


do with them, they did not want to know. Why were the holding of these


horses? I do not know why. As I say, if I had been aware of them, or


made aware of them, we would have investigated this did the with


respect, I have a letter here written telling you about these.


was told in 2009 and the concern was these low value horses were


being moved from those holding yards to abattoirs in England or to


markets in England. If I had the information, and the information on


a letter, I would be happy if you could give that to me, and I could


investigate that aspect. But if I had information which would have


allowed me to investigate, a move would have done so.


So how much did the authorities in the South know? The Department of


Agriculture in the Republic were not part of the Aintree meeting two


years ago. But we understand they were made aware of the problem.


The Department of her culture certainly knew there was a problem


with Irish horses. -- Department of Agriculture. A problem with


movement and with the paperwork. There is no room for manoeuvre on


that. That was known. In the Republic, we also know of one


approach to the Department of Agriculture which have hard


evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, that approach was made by her mac


insider. -- our insider. So you went to a department


official in the Republic? You told them what you were working at? Yes.


What did he say? To let them is clean itself up. And you went back


to work? I showed him, even two books with me that day. What books?


Dodgy horse books and he had them in his own hand. Did he keep them?


No, he handed them back to me. did not want to know? He did not.


Did you ever go back? No, why would you go back?


We asked the Department of Agriculture if they had any record


of what the insider had told them. The department has said it does not


comment on individual cases. We also asked on a number of occasions


for an interview with the Minister. The Department declined and said


the Minister was too busy. The horsemeat crisis began when


Irish officials at tested supermarket products for equine DNA.


It seems that some parts of that story are now coming full circle


back to Ireland. Checks on horse slaughtering and the export of live


horses are now being intensified, both north and south of the border,


but according to our insider, that is simply a case of shutting the


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