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Sweden's 9,000 missing horses baffle experts

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Sweden's 9,000 missing horses baffle experts
12:18 CET+01:00
Officials plan to investigate why and how 9,000 horses disappear from Sweden each year, with experts suspecting they may be illegally sold to continental food factories.

Research carried out by county officials in the south of Sweden and the Hästnäringens nationella stiftelse, HNS ("The Equine Industry Association") showed an inexplicable gap in the number of horse deaths reported in Sweden.

With a total population of 360,000 horses in Sweden, and a horse living on average 15 years, statistics indicate that around 20,000 horses should die each year, wrote the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper (SvD).

Yet the numbers simply do not add up.

"We can only find 14,000 in the statistics and we've left no stone unturned in our search. There's a gap of between 4,000 and 9,000 horses each year," Karolina Thorell at the HNS told the paper.

The missing-horses statistic turned out to be the same each year, with the researchers believing that as many as 100,000 horses have vanished since the year 2000.

Thorell offered several explanations. She claimed that the horses may simply be living longer than statistics suggest; that their owners were burying them without official permits; or that the animals were ending up in slaughterhouses outside Sweden.

Mattias Gårdlund of the animal inspection authority in Skåne explained that there was hardly any oversigt of animals being shifted out of Sweden.

He claimed the value of a horse at a Swedish slaughterhouse to be about 2,000 kronor ($315), a price that could be twice as high in Denmark, three times as high in Belgium, and four times as high in Italy.

"There is no financial incentive to do this legally," he told the paper.

This week, Swedish food company Findus came under fire when their ready-made lasagne meals were found to contain traces of horsemeat - in some instances as much as 90 percent per meal, even though the meat was labelled as beef.

Findus blamed their supplier, Belgium-based Comigel. Since the findings, 20,000 packages of the food have been destroyed.

"As the product was not in line with the information on the package, we can't do anything else besides throw them away. You can't give them away," Henrik Nyberg, Nordic Production Director at Findus, told SvD.

TT/The Local/og

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