Horsemeat has already been figuring in the French news this year, with opinions divided about production and consumerism between the separate sections of the food chain. There are some real concerns about the market changes affecting the numbers of the indigenous, local French breeds whose continued survival has latterly depended upon their value as a meat animal. Once prized for their meat as much for their hard work, the French horses are endangered by the collapse of the market for horsemeat and massive imports from Eastern Europe. Sophie Bougel of the Fédération France Trait, a group whose function is to promote this unique heritage, says the future of these horses will be critical over the next ten years. She believes that France could support it’s own horsmeat consumers, and that would allow the rarer breeds a chance of survival. You can read the article HERE.
Her viewpoint is not shared by Huchin-Prince à Coulogne, a horsemeat butcher in the Pas-de-Calais. He imports horsemeat from the UK abattoirs, insisting that his customers prefer the meat of older or worked horses to the young flesh of the heavy French breeds. The firm employs over 120 people, 60 of them butchers, suggesting he has a valid argument in the current climate.
You can see the video HERE.
Whether or not eating horsemeat is acceptable to the individual consumer, from the welfare perspective for the equines, being slaughtered in their country of origin has to be the only way forward for the industry. France is at least publicly addressing the problems and discussing them. In the UK so many people refuse to accept that abattoirs are an essential part of the horse world with only 2 publicised as licensed for horses. This is despite an equivalent size of horse population to France, where there are well over 150 abattoirs. There will be similar numbers of unwanted or redundant animals in both countries so perhaps that’s why there are currently so many problems of neglected, dumped and abandoned equines in Ireland and the UK.
In a perfect world, there would be great homes for all the horses bred, but until the worsening situation is addressed, there has to be a way to humanely dispatch horses which are no longer wanted to prevent even more welfare cases. If not, then there will continue to be a bleed of animals from the UK across the continent and down to Italy, where, like France, they prefer the taste of horses that have been ridden.
We will continue to fight for these horses who suffer under the current lax transport regulations. Many of them would not be facing these journeys if attitudes towards abattoirs changed.