France brings 18 people to justice for their alleged involvement in a massive horsemeat scandal | France

When Aline Oudin was forced to find a new home for her dear 28-year-old chestnut horse, Ténor du Pluvinage, she placed an advertisement asking if someone could offer her a new land to live out her last days.

A man in his 60s replied that he was looking for a quiet companion for the young mare he had bought for his daughter, so Oudin let him take the horse with the promise that she could visit him regularly.

” Everything happened so fast. I didn’t have time to think. The gentleman loved Tenor and I gave him my trust … I was in great distress to have to separate from my 23-year-old companion”, she confided later.

“Seeing me in tears, the man comforted me and assured me that my horse would be well cared for and that I could come and see him whenever I wanted. The same evening, the man telephoned me to tell me that the return trip had gone well. But when I called him back to ask for his name and address, his phone was on voicemail, then the line was disconnected.

Oudin made calls and announcements in an attempt to find out what had happened to his pet. Months later, she discovered that the horse had been sent to a slaughterhouse.

Nine years later, 18 people, including two veterinarians, appear in a Marseilles court on Monday accused of being involved in a vast illegal trafficking network across Europe that allegedly supplied horse meat unfit for human consumption to wholesalers and butchers.

The defendants, from France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, allegedly bought and sold thousands of retired draft and race horses, and even ponies, which were exported to Belgium where they would have received false identification and tracking documents before being sent back to slaughterhouses in the south of France.

They are charged with organized fraud or supplying false and deceptive goods that may pose a danger to human health and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Eight of the defendants have been in custody since 2015 after European police destroyed the continental network.

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Mathilde Bloch, the investigating judge, said the detectives had shown “negligence or affirmative action demonstrating the complicity of the two vets” accused of falsifying documents.

Oudin, from Meurthe-et-Moselle in eastern France, is one of more than 150 horse owners who reportedly handed over their old animals thinking they would be cared for in their final years.

“I learned after extensive research that my horse had been killed while he had been given insecticide, deworming and anti-inflammatory treatments which would have rendered him totally unfit for food,” she said. to French journalists. “I was deeply hurt. I had this horse for 20 years and he was part of the family.

Lionel Febbraro, a lawyer for one of the vets, blamed the confusion over the “incredibly complex” EU rules on his client’s involvement. “Even if I admit that it must not be pleasant to learn that your horse ended up in the slaughterhouse, a priori, no one died of poisoning,” he said.

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