The dark underbelly of Argentina's horse meat trade

Argentina is a country famed for its horses.

From being ridden by gauchos across the Pampas to its world renowned polo players.

That's what makes the claims in a new investigative documentary, called ''5 Corazones," all the more shocking.

It's about what happens to horses after they retire: a look into the horse meat trade between Argentina and Europe.

Director Martín Parlato says a lucrative business covers up mistreatment and fraud in the industry.

"The harshness of the images shows things happening that European consumers would not love to see, and even less so to have it brought to them as a delicacy or a gourmet meal."

Argentina does not allow horses to be consumed domestically, but is the largest global exporter of horse meat, the country's trade data shows.

Government data shows that last year, more than 100,000 horses were slaughtered in Argentina, representing about 24,000 tons of meat destined mainly for France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Holland, Russia and Japan.

When asked about the documentary, an official at Argentina's national food safety and quality body Senasa told Reuters that the agency is committed to animal welfare, and that it is aware of certain irregularities by producers and has initiated criminal cases.

Parlato says he's working with EU lawmakers on actions to curb the import of equine meat.

''What we want as a final aim is the prohibition of the importation of (horse) meat by Europe. Hopefully equine slaughter and this mistreatment of horses that is evidenced in so many visible and concrete ways can be banned."

Video Transcript

- Argentina is a country famed for its horses. From being ridden by guachos across the Pampas to its world renowned polo players. That's what makes the claims in a new investigative documentary called "5 Corazones" all the more shocking. It's about what happens to horses after they retire, a look into the horse meat trade between Argentina and Europe. Director Martin Parlato says a lucrative business covers up mistreatment and fraud in the industry.

MARTIN PARLATO: [SPEAKING SPANISH]

INTERPRETER: The harshness of the images shows things happening that European consumers would not love to see. And even less so to have it brought to them as a delicacy or a gourmet meal.

- Argentina does not allow horses to be consumed domestically, but it's the largest global exporter of horse meat, the country's trade data shows. Government data shows that last year, more than 100,000 horses were slaughtered in Argentina, representing about 24,000 tons of meat destined mainly for France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Holland, Russia, and Japan.

When asked about the documentary, an official at Argentina's national food safety and quality body Senasa told Reuters that the agency is committed to animal welfare and that it is aware of certain irregularities by producers and has initiated criminal cases. Parlato says he's working with EU lawmakers on actions to curb the import of equine meat.

MARTIN PARLATO: [SPEAKING SPANISH]

INTERPRETER: What we want as a final aim is the prohibition of the import of horse meat by Europe. Hopefully equine slaughter and this mistreatment of horses that is evidenced in so many visible and concrete ways can be banned.