Some 41 individuals have been arrested in connection with an investigation into alleged illegal horsemeat trading in the EU.

Around 80 horses were rescued last week as part of the operation undertaken jointly by Europol and the Spanish Civil Guard.

Half a tonne of horsemeat unfit for consumption was seized during raids carried out in Spain.

The horses were described by authorities as having been abused and to be suffering from “various untreated diseases” due to a lack of veterinary care.

'Dirt into diamonds'

Europol stated that the criminals selling horsemeat had converted “dirt into diamonds”, as horses bought for €100 or less generated combined profits of around €1.5m.

The horsemeat was sold in Spain, Belgium, Germany and Italy.

Footage released by Europol shows a slaughter facility in which carcasses are hanging, a butcher's counter with cuts of red meat and a box of offal with animal identification tags.


Those arrested carried out roles which allegedly included the slaughtering of animals without having necessary controls in place, arranging transport and falsifying documents at butcher facilities.

The investigation team has also accused some of those arrested of engaging in “food fraud”, money laundering and document fraud.

“The suspects acquired horses from across Spain for free or by paying up to €100 per animal,” Europol has said.

“Due to several factors, these animals were not destined for the food market and the potential illegal profit was substantial.

“Once the leader of the criminal network acquired enough livestock to activate the illegal scheme, they set up a complete cattle exploitation facility in 2019 and started exporting the meat to other European markets.”