Foxy the horse with rider Jamie Buis at a competition in 2013.
Another case of contaminated animal food has struck, and this time with horses. In 2007, the world saw one of the largest pet food recalls in history. Thousands of cats and dogs died and many more were sickened from the melamine-contaminated food originating from China.
Manufacturers in China used melamine, an industrial chemical, in order to minimize their costs of producing pet food. By adding it to wheat flour, it creates a substance almost identical to wheat gluten and it is very difficult to detect in tests as it has a very similar protein profile to wheat. It was very difficult to trace the source of the outbreak because of the complexity of the supply chain. There were several suppliers involved and it was almost impossible to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.
Melamine is the same chemical found in Chinese infant formula in 2008 and almost 300,000 infants were sickened with kidney disease and several died. China went so far as to execute the head of their Food and Drug Administration to show that they were committed to cracking down on corruption.
Fast forward to 2014 and we have another case of tainted pet food, this time in our own backyard. I truly do not believe this case was intentional as it does not relate to minimizing costs. On the contrary, adding antibiotics would make the feed more expensive to produce. Nevertheless, the loss of lives and emotional damage to the horse owners is devastating and cannot be measured by economic means. However, many of these horses are show horses valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and this will certainly have a significant economic impact as well. The contaminated horse food came from Lakeland Animal Nutrition from Lakeland, FL. The food contained monensin, which is an antibiotic commonly added to cow and pig feed. It's toxic to horses, however.
Twenty-two of the horses were sickened and several have already died, with some of the horses being euthanized. There is no cure for monensin poisoning in horses. It affects their heart and skeletal muscles first and can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure, and a host of other problems.
Lakeland Animal Nutrition released the following statement on Monday:
We are very saddened by the sicknesses and deaths of the horses at Masterpiece Equestrian in Davie, Florida, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the owners and everyone involved.
There have been a number of inaccurate reports circulating. Please rest assured that Lakeland Animal Nutrition takes this situation very seriously. We have been cooperating with all of the authorities investigating the matter, and we have been in communication with representatives of Masterpiece Equestrian. An internal investigation is also underway.
Our thoughts are with the Masterpiece Equestrian family, and, although their horses could never be replaced, we are committed to doing all we can to bring comfort to them in their suffering.
The following horse feeds have been recalled:
- Signature Status Pellet (Lot Number 14-251) – Manufacture Date: September 8
- Signature Equilete Pellet (Lot Number 14-259) – Manufacture Date: September 16
- Signature Status Pellet (Lot Number 14-280) – Manufacture Date: October 7
- LAN 10 Pellet (Lot Number 14-281) – Manufacture Date: October 8
It is truly saddening to hear the lives of so many innocent animals are being ended due to the mistake of one company. It only takes one small mistake to cause such large-scale damage. Perhaps it was the carelessness of one person or many, we may never know. However, we can learn from this and extend the same compassion and sadness we feel for these horses to the thousands who are killed daily that end up on our tables. A little bit of compassion goes a long way.