Princess Anne horsemeat comments spark debate


Princess Anne was speaking to the annual conference of the charity, World Horse Welfare, of which she is the president

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Animal welfare charities have welcomed Princess Anne's suggestion that horse welfare could be improved by putting horsemeat on sale in UK supermarkets.

She claimed owners might take better care of their horses if they believed they could sell them for meat.

The Princess Royal made her remarks in a speech to the charity World Horse Welfare, of which she is president.

It comes as charities warn of a horse welfare "crisis", with 7,000 at risk of abandonment and neglect this winter.

They said a fuller debate was needed.

'Real market'

Earlier this year the discovery of horse DNA in processed food products on sale at UK and Irish Republic supermarkets sparked a major scandal.

Horsemeat consumption in EU

It resulted in a series of product recalls and threw the spotlight on the food industry's supply chain, testing procedures and food labelling.

In the speech, on Thursday, Princess Anne suggested British attitudes towards eating horsemeat may have to change.

"Should we be considering a real market for horsemeat and would that reduce the number of welfare cases, if there was a real value in the horsemeat sector?" said the former eventing champion.

"I chuck that out for what it's worth because I think it needs a debate."

Jeanette Allen, head of the Horse Trust, who attended the speech, said the princess raised an interesting point.

"Farming is something we find culturally acceptable in this country but it just so happens that as a culture we haven't embraced horses being part of that livestock - but other cultures have," she said.

Horse cuts Butchers in France offer cuts of horsemeat similar to those offered in the UK for beef

"It's an interesting question and once we've had the debate we may well decide as a culture that we're still not interested in doing that but that doesn't mean the question isn't interesting to ask."

She said there were about 7,000 horses in the UK "at risk of suffering some serious neglect over this coming winter".

The value of those animals commercially was as little as £5-£10, she said.

When asked if she would eat horsemeat, Ms Allen said she was "personally squeamish about it, although I am a meat-eater".

"I have no rationality for that at all... What I care about in the meat I choose to eat is the welfare standard of the farming process and the abattoir process before it reaches my table," she added.

'Neglected and abused'

Jenny MacGregor, chairwoman of the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies, said the princess was "brave" for starting the debate because it was likely to prove controversial.

She said she believed the prospect of horsemeat becoming a staple in Britain was "realistic" - and even essential given the number of cases of neglect and abuse UK charities were seeing each day.

Nutritional facts

A butcher preparing meat

Horsemeat contains essential amino acids and polyunsaturated fats that help to reduce cholesterol.

Compared with other types of meat, it contains greater quantities of trace elements: calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, copper, magnesium, silicon, zinc and nickel.

It is rich in group B, A, PP and E vitamins.

Source: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

If the value of horses was raised, with the meat market in mind, owners would take better care of their animals, she said.

"Princess Anne has come up with something practical which, in the long run, will be of great value," she said.

Roly Owers, of World Horse Welfare, said the charity's view was that while a horse or pony was alive, it should be treated with care and compassion.

"That is the core issue... We are in the grip of a UK equine crisis and we need to look at all options of solving that," he said.

He warned that owners who chose to put their animal into the human food chain should "not be castigated for it". About 10,000 horses from the UK went into the human food chain last year, he said.

The RSPCA said it welcomed any debate into the "growing problems" surrounding horse welfare which it had "very grave concerns" about.

"Our centres, and those of other charities, are overflowing with horses which have been abandoned, neglected and abused and we are struggling to keep up with the demands for our help," a spokeswoman said.

The charity said the killing of horses for meat was "an emotive subject", a sentiment the RSPCA had sympathy with.

But it said its primary concern was that they were cared for and that they were slaughtered in a humane way.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    I await our less squeamish, Euro based supermarkets to take the lead - a nice piece of Aldi-niti - perfect to whip up in a stir fry. Or if you're toying with the idea of some tender cutlets, then a pack of 'My Lidl Pony' would be top of my shopping list.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    @24 John Bailey
    "How out of touch is it possible to be?"

    It would appear you're in prime position to tell us.

    It's meat, pure and simple.
    If it means better care for horses during their lifetime then all the better.

    I love horses and probably wouldn't eat horse meat but that's my own sensitivities coming into play and I certainly wouldn't expect others to avoid it because of my view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    During the "horse meat scandal" the impression I got was that people weren't really concerned that they might have been eating horse meat. The concern was rightly that they didn't know and the wider issue of any form of contamination in the food chain. People seem happy to eat anything from lamb to kangaroo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Why not...

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    maybe the extension to her name should be reinstated to
    'anne-toinette '-let them eat horse.'

    if she wants to prevent cruelty she should set up a network of agents to document it and then hand the evidence to the police. which might include what happens to birds of prey on royal estates that apparently just fall out the sky for no reason or dogs that are poisoned walking in royal woods....

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Appropriate and accurate comment. I doubt it will come to anything, as health inspection on food animals is very tight, but it was an idea..

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I have no issue with eating horse burgers, I just want it labelled as such. It's them vegetarian-types that I have issue with, very peculiar, not to be trusted, shifty-eyed, slightly lean, avoid!

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Just now
    @ 32. giovanna "if it moves, kill it and eat it, if it doesn't, it's a vegetable so eat it anyway"

    Are you suggesting we eat TV celebrities?

    Tv celebities are just a breed/species of mammals, we eat mammals

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Horse meat is excellent! I regularly buy it in France and Belgium, and always have some in the freezer.

    There is also a company based in Derbyshire that sell it (at a markup though!).

    Try it! It is fantastic in taste, texture and it is also low in fat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    It was a very brave statement in the present climate where we are overwhelmed by sentiment and the fear of upsetting someone.

    I ate the meat in France as it was cheap - it was adequate, not brilliant, not awful.

    The problem is that horses are injected with all sorts of chemicals as they are not intended for human consumption.

    Starving is cruelty and should be prosecuted. RSPCA to note.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    If we already eat food like Ostrich or Kangaroo burgers then surely horsemeat is no different from our traditional tastes of lamb, chicken, beef, pork etc. As long as like other meat it's regulated properly without disease, the animal is bred well and humanely killed then it's a persons choice whether they eat it or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    88. Tetrix
    You shouldn't if you EAT horse. The immune system is set up not to make immune responses to foreign antigens consumed. Flu vaccine is made in eggs so by the same logic you'd get a nasty reaction to that if you'd ever had an omelette.

    Anti-toxins aren't specifically raised in horse. Horses are good though because they're big. Goat or Sheep anti-toxins exist too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Well done to the Princess, I think this is a really good debate to start. Personally I would have no problem with eating horse meat and I think she is completely right that giving horses greater value than just their ability to run and jump would encourage a greater sense of care and duty. Even if the UK continued to shun horse meat, could we not be exporting it to nations which do eat it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Do her words spark new debate? Do they? No. Nobody cares.

    Dear BBC... get with the times:

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    They sell horse meat in France, its very nice too. Princess Anne is right as we eat pigs, sheep, beef, rabbit etc. I see no problem, there would be no reason to claim it was beef. Its a stronger flavour than beef.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    The meat industry, from husbandry, slaughtering and processing is very highly regulated. As with ANY other industry , there will always be those that are unscrupulous. Those that have been implicated in horsegate have had no or little controls on traceability. Regulating the horse meat industry can only benefit consumer confidence.

    And no, I don't work in the meat industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    I recently won a leg of Lamb in a meat raffle and was able to get it home by carrying it under my arm, no problem. Imagine winning a leg of horse...........Lol!

  • Comment number 112.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I have neigh problem with eating horse meat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    I think the Princess is being a tad naive in supposing that farming horses would lead to an improvement in welfare standards. Livestock animals have unenviable lives at best, and European use of horses for meat leads to some shocking treatment.


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