HRH The Princess Royal sparked controversy and debate across the equestrian community this week when she addressed the World Horse Welfare Annual Conference and raised the thorny issue of horse meat for human consumption. The Princess Royal, who is also President of WHW, encouraged debate on the matter saying that if owners knew their animals had a meat value they might look after them better.
Horses and ponies currently face a crisis in the UK as a result of the ongoing economic downturn. Prices are at rock bottom and it’s a sad fact that they are worth more as meat. Re-Homing centers and charities are full to bursting point and there are still horses out there that desperately need help as winter approaches and their owners can’t afford to feed them. It is estimated that there are approximately 7,000 horses at risk of abandonment, according to figures quoted by Roly Owers, WHW Chief Executive.
HRH The Princess Royal made two further points:
· In the UK, horses are viewed as pets or leisure animals and not as a source of food. In other countries they are viewed as livestock and are ‘farmed’ as such. WHW says that eating horse meat is purely personal choice and that decision is influenced by an individual’s cultural background and beliefs. The organisation is primarily concerned with the horse’s welfare during its life; what happens after death is no longer a welfare issue.
· World Horse Welfare does not oppose the humane slaughter of horses and understand that because of the high costs of veterinary euthanasia and carcass disposal leave some owners with no choice but to have their horses slaughtered. If this service was not an option, horses could be abandoned or left to suffer needlessly. Provided they are operated under with humane guidelines and animals do not suffer, abattoirs offer an important service and owners who decide to use them should not be castigated for their decision. Roly Owers stressed the importance of horse owners taking responsibility for the end of their horse’s life and drew attention to the WHW Just In Case pack which helps guide owners through the options available.
So, if UK supermarkets began to stock horse meat for sale on their meat counters or you could buy a nice, lean joint of horse for Sunday lunch at your local butcher’s shop would you be tempted? If horses were to be farmed as a crop in the UK, how would you feel when driving through the countryside and seeing large herds being fattened alongside traditional beef cattle and sheep?
Of course, home-produced horse meat would not require animals to travel hundreds of miles to slaughter which in itself causes massive suffering and is something WHW campaign vociferously against.
It’s something I personally find very difficult to consider. Horses to me are companions, friends each with their own personalities and I could no more entertain eating one than eating my own arm!
What do you think?
You can check out the WHW conference here and read about other issues on their http:/www.worldhorsewelfare.org/Home">website.