Why are some of the big supermarkets selling horse meat burgers? Even more difficult to understand is why people buy food that has been made in a factory, has often come from different countries and has mostly unknown ingredients and lots of additives. It’s quick and easy to feed yourself but the country is addicted, because of all the high powered hype, to meals that have been made in a factory. We don’t know what goes into our food and this is why horse meat is just one of the many unsavoury things we eat. The thought of eating a horse makes me feel ill.
How does it happen though? In the past horses were mainly kept on farms or in working stables. Horses used to work for us and this was a hard life for them, now people work to keep their horses. So the pattern of keeping them has changed. Since the majority of horse owners don’t have the facilities to keep their horse till it dies, this is a big expense. The majority of horses are kept at livery, which is rented horsey accommodation. Riding and competing in shows is very popular and if the poor horse can no longer be ridden or does not win the required rosettes, his owner will want to get rid of him and get a replacement. If a horse goes lame he can’t be ridden. The livery yard fees still have to be paid. Sometimes it’s because ponies are bought for children who then lose interest. Who can go on paying out £30 per week plus to keep a pony or horse who isn’t wanted.
Selling a fit, sound horse with a good temperament is usually possible. Finding someone for a ‘difficult’ horse or an old one or a pony who is lame, is nearly impossible. The weekly livery bill goes on though. That’s where unscrupulous dealers come in. They offer a very low price for the horse and often give a glowing account of the lovely home that it will be going to. You meet the worst as well as the best of people in the horse trade.
The ‘lovely home’ will most likely be on a lorry to a meat market. Did you know that there are horse markets every week in the U.K? There are few members of the general public at these sales, the buyers are mostly knackermen and horse dealers. It’s a terrible fate for a horse or pony who has used to being petted and cossetted. Horses are sensitive creatures whose prime motivation is flight. No chance for that. They go from the lorry, where they might have sweated up and been crammed in with other horses, to iron barred cattle market pens. They have a number stuck on their back, this is their lot number. That’s what it’s come down to now – not a name, it’s only going to be a number from now on.
When it’s their turn they are taken into the ‘ring’ where the auctioneer sits in a raised box and generates the bidding – the customers are seated in raised seats all around. The horse, who is usually terrified and likely to be exhausted, hungry and thirsty is led around while the bids are made. When the hammer goes down, the horse has been sold to the highest bidder.
At the end of the sale the horse will be loaded on to the buyer’s lorry. If it’s the horse meat dealer who has bought him it will be a ghastly end for him. There are abattoirs that kill horses in this country. They are regulated and the horse’s passport will have to go with him. It’s a bad end for a good horse though. They wait until it’s their turn, all the time hearing the screams of horses being killed before them. They can smell the fear. At abattoirs I have visited there has been skins and blood of just slaughtered animals in full view. Sometimes animals are not killed till the next day but hopefully it will be over quickly for them.
Horses can no longer be shipped abroad for slaughter, the law was changed after lengthy campaigns by various organisations, we had a petition running for several years. They can be transported to Ireland though and this is where some of the people involved in the meat trade, have farms. The horses are then shipped in lorries, it’s a very long journey and then they eventually they reach their destination, the really unlucky ones can still be shipped to europe as the ban doesn’t apply to S.Ireland. The rest are slaughtered in Irish horse abattoirs. Burgers anyone?