My Experiences with Horse Meat…

Since Princess Anne spoke at the annual conference of the charity World Horse Welfare suggesting changes to how Britain thinks about horse meat, the equestrian world has seen some ongoing debate on the subject.

To watch the speech, go to:


Horsemeat shop in Italy

In my childhood and early teens I spent many months in Italy and that’s when I first encountered shops entirely dedicated to horse meat. In fact, I still remember the very first time I got enlightened one actually eats horses on a shop-able scale because I cheerfully and obliviously entered one thinking it was a tack shop

The front window had horses painted on it in a way you could not see inside and a life size horse statue stood proudly at the door. I was beside myself with excitement (as you are when your great pleasure in life focuses on spending few hours in the morning browsing equestrian magazines and all things horsey) and was somewhat shocked when instead of shelves full of books, tack, grooming equipment, lotion, potions and air full of thick, eye watering scent of leather I was looking at red and pink, bloody and raw smelling room.

It was an odd experience of a kind when you look at something that appears incredibly heavy yet is amusingly light to lift. Visually, it was just in a reverse…

Many years later in Poland I bought a horse from a dealer who aside of dealing in show-jumping horses also bought and prepared horses for meat. All of them were sold to Italy. It was 1995 and to my knowledge it was a very profitable business. The horses were all cold bloods of different breeds, all huge and fat and shiny with long curly manes and big gentle eyes.

Before I bought my horse from that yard I had him on trial for a couple of months. This meant I had to ride him each time from dealer’s stables to the training centre where my trainer was and so I spent thirty or so minutes at the yard a day for those couple of months. One meat horse I remember to this day came down the ramp onto the yard with a bicycle chain for headcollar with few men holding onto him and not being able to control him. It was a sad picture and one that comes to my mind every time I read or hear how opening up for market of horse meat is going to improve equine welfare…

Having said that, all horses meant for meat were kept in exactly the same way as all other horses for sale. It’s not to say that was any particularly excellent way. They each had a separate stable and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of forage and feeds. They were being fattened up I suppose to weigh as much as possible since the price was dependent on weight.

It was a huge relief when we finally bought the horse and I didn’t have to go and watch those heavy eyes and huge soft muzzles behind their bars. Having had these experiences makes me very reluctant to be pro horse meat consumption.

Horse meat holidays: 8 places to eat horse

You might say that the times have changed, there are many farms where livestock is responsibly reared in very good conditions. Maybe. That the UK is a different country better financially prepared to support organic farming and fair treatment of animals bred or destined solely for human consumption. Maybe.

If a drama of atrocious transport conditions, ways of keeping horses as livestock and humane (is there one?) killing methods were in place I can see this potentially working among people either indifferent to equines as pets and whole emotional attachment that comes with it or those with specific affinity for meats of all sorts.

As to me personally, I can’t quite digest the idea. Pun intended.

What about you? Fancy a Braciola alla Barese (oh, sorry, I mean horse chops)?


7 thoughts on “My Experiences with Horse Meat…”

  1. I can’t speak for Europe, but here in the USA it is the willful cruelty and purposeful deception of the current pro-slaughter agri-business advocates that has to be addressed.
    The horse slaughter scene here in the USA is despicable, and the press coverage even worse.
    It is all the more shocking to me as the Roswell horse slaughter house and the abandoned slaughter house rejects are just a few hours down the road here in my home state of New Mexico, but I had to find out about it from a New Zealand news report!
    I realize that people have eaten horse meat for thousands of years and that probably isn’t going to change, but PLEASE at least insist that American horse meat can’t be imported into the EU!

    1. :-/
      This, and what I have seen myself, is why I can’t really understand the reasons behind thinking changing the industry this way is a chance for bettering welfare.

      Good point regarding importation…

  2. From a farming aspect horses don’t make good meat animals they are selective feeders who quite frankly make a real mess of pasture unless very carefully managed, they are expensive to feed. Cattle are easier. It doesn’t make economic sense to choose to raise horses for meat.
    From an eating point of view, apart from the fact that I personally would never knowingly eat horse, I’ve never understood why people who care about the meat they eat are prepared to eat something so very full of stress hormones.

    1. Hi Carol,
      That’s a valid note regarding feeding expense of horses. As to meat content, from what I read horse meat is marketed as a premium food that is supposed to be “good for us” as far as its nutritional value goes. It’s interesting about stress hormones.

      There are apparently estimated 111,986 stray or abandoned dogs in the UK, hope Princess Anne won’t want to “improve” their welfare too in a similar manner…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s