The horse meat scandal burst into the public consciousness in January of this year when food inspectors discovered the meat in a selection of burgers. An investigation was launched and several ranges of meat products were found to be 100% horse. This was most prevalent in Britain, France and Sweden. Since the revelation was made public knowledge there has been three main points of contention from consumers. Firstly, they have been misled; when you buy a product labelled as beef, you expect it to be beef. Secondly, it was thought that a drug that is frequently used to treat horses, which is harmful to humans, could have entered the food chain. Thirdly, and possibly the most prominent issue on the minds of the public, is that horse isn’t an animal they would choose to eat for both cultural and moral reasons.
As the investigation continued, the meat was traced back through suppliers in many countries to Romanian abattoirs. It has also been strongly suggested that the incidence of horse in other meat products was the working of a huge criminal conspiracy, and not an accident as many initially thought. Some supermarkets and food suppliers have been accused of knowingly selling the contaminated horse meat products; all have vehemently denied these claims.
The reactions to the horse meat scandal have been quite varied depending on personal opinion. For those who are upset at having been lied to about the content of their meal, there seems to be no solution. By giving their unquestioning trust to the supermarkets who tell them what is in their food, they have found themselves eating horse against their knowledge. That’s a problem with a simple resolve – stop trusting the massive chains and put some more thought into what you put in your stomach. For those who are raising ethical questions over the use of horses as meat, it seems there is a much more complex moral struggle.
In other parts of the world, such as Central Asia and South America, horse meat is a standard part of the cuisine. Of the countries that eat horse as meat, the eight who do so most commonly, consume approximately 4.7 million horses each year collectively. Horse meat is considered to be a tasty meat and is high in protein whilst being low in fat.
The taboo that exists in the west in relation to eating horses stems from the historical view of them as companions and workers, placing them almost on a par with other domestic pets. In most English speaking countries it isn’t easy to procure horse meat for food and the majority would choose not to anyway for their own ethical reasons.
When you depend on a system of food that heavily relies on factory farming and questionable methods of raising livestock, it seems natural that you have already put your morals to one side. So, to those people who are apparently horrified at the thought of having eaten horse meat, I have to ask, do you think the cow suffered any less when it was slaughtered? Does a pig feel less pain as it’s was killed to go to your dinner plate? Why is the idea of murdering a horse to feed people more disturbing then it is to destroy any other animal that was bred to satisfy the human appetite?