For the last few weeks, horse meat has been in the international news. I will go on record saying that I find the idea of eating horse meat pretty disgusting. But the bigger issue is not to eat or not to eat horses, it is how the meat has landed on people’s plates. The issue is honesty in advertising and packaging. If you are going to have horse meat or any other animal in a product then it needs to be clearly labeled. I guess there is nothing illegal about eating horse meat, but people must be informed about what they are putting into their mouths.
A steakhouse in Amsterdam has been open for 63 years and they have been serving horse steaks for years. The steaks are very popular and the restaurant has been quite successful. The only problem is that the customers never knew that they were eating horse meat. Supposedly, staff had to sign a contract promising not to tell. It wasn’t until this controversy that the owner finally admitted that he used horse meat. His defense was “ people enjoyed the food, business was good, why should I?”
My personal reaction to the idea of eating horses is based on the culture I grew up in and live in. I think of the horses in literature that I read as a child, like BLACK BEAUTY, THE BLACK STALLION and MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE. These were either race horses, pets or just running free. These were horses that were ridden, they had names, they got an apple and they nuzzled their feeder.
There are so many movies that have starred horses and here are just three that stand out to me: NATIONAL VELVET, SEABISCUIT and WAR HORSE. None of these horses were on anyone’s menu.
When you look at the history of television, there were horses everywhere. Naturally, horses were in all the cowboy shows. I remember the Palomino that Little Joe rode in BONANZA and The Lone Ranger’s Silver. And how can we forget the famous talking horse, MR. ED? It was a bad show, but it wasn’t the horse’s fault.
Horses are majestic. They carry soldiers and Queens. Horses perform in parades and in rodeos. Horses are even in the Olympics. You cannot possibly watch the riding competition and think “I cannot wait to have a steak tonight.”
I think that is why so many people are shocked by this news story…horses are not made to be eaten. But here in Europe, eating horse is not that unusual. But I will say it again, just be honest about what you are serving and selling. The best frozen meatballs in the world may also have horse meat in them…is nothing sacred anymore?! Let the consumers know what they are ordering or buying. I do not want Trigger on my plate, thank you very much.
Recommended reading: THE CHAPERONE by Laura Moriarty. I absolutely love this writer and was so pleased to read her latest book. A really great read. It has been optioned for film and will star Elizabeth McGovern, of Downton Abbey fame.