1 Nov 2010

Who Eats Horse Meat?

                         Who Eats Horse Meat?

Because horses have played a big part in the history of civilized society as both work animals and pets, many cultures consider it taboo to even consider eating them. Americans, for example, will not entertain the idea of eating horsemeat. But in South America, ChinaJapan, and many European countries including FranceItaly, and Switzerland, horsemeat is just as common on the dinner table as other meats. The eight most populous countries in the world consume almost 5 million horses each year.

In France, the appetite for eating horse meat has existed for a couple of centuries. Baron Dominique-Jean Larry, Napolean’s surgeon-in-chief, suggested that because the troops were starving, they should cook and eat the meat from horses that had died on the battlefields. So the cavalry took off their breastplates, heated them over a fire, threw in a few spices, and roast loin of Trigger was the result.

Horsemeat is actually pretty healthy to eat, if you can get past the image of a filly’s kind, soulful eyes looking at you. The meat is lean, finely textured, slightly sweet, rich in protein, and tender. Even better, horses are immune to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). A large majority of the 65,000 horses that are slaughtered each year in the United States are shipped to Japan, Europe, and Quebec for consumption by consumers. Montreal is particularly fond of horsemeat, and butchers that specialize in it have become increasingly busy in recent years because of the spread of mad cow disease. In Quebec and European countries, only horse butchers can sell horsemeat, and it is sold in the form of minced meat, sausages, steaks, and brochettes.

An individual’s decision about the consumption of horsemeat is often based on religious reasons. Many Muslim cultures do not strictly forbid the consumption of horsemeat, but it is strongly advised against. One explanation for discouraging eating horsemeat is that horses are used regularly in the military in Muslim countries, but because such use is declining in modern society, many feel that eating horsemeat should not be forbidden. Jewish laws in regard to diet forbid the consumption of horsemeat because of the fact that horses are not ruminants and they do not have cloven hooves. The Roman Catholic Church prohibited eating horsemeat in the 8th century, and the taboo still remains.

Probably the most prevalent reason that many people abhor the idea of eating horsemeat is that for centuries horses have shared a close relationship, similar to domestic pets, with human owners and breeders. This closeness is regularly demonstrated in movies such as Black Beauty, and in books such as My Friend Flicka and Misty of Chincoteague. Most people in the United States consider horses to be companions, not dinner. Yet in many other countries around the world, it is considered a delicacy. Proof that one person’s pet could be someone else’s protein!

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