The current food scandal is shocking, if nothing else, for revealing the extent to which horse meat has fraudulently made its way into processed meat products labelled “beef”. It turns out that horse meat is so ubiquitous that UK government ministers now talk about an international criminal conspiracy.
The scandal has been met by popular outrage. The serious debate has focused on how a profusion of horsemeat got into the food chain and who’s to blame. But in all of the debate, it seems we’ve forgotten the welfare of horses themselves.
I fear for them. How were they treated? How did they die?
These horses are often not bred for food. They are mostly surplus animals who end up as meat. Their lives often start out as pets, or as working animals on a farm, or as race horses. When they become unwanted and unloved, their financial value drops and their meagre worth is determined by how much profit can be extracted from their carcasses.
We know that even in the best regulated slaughterhouses, cows, pigs, sheep and chickens are likely to suffer fear and anxiety. Horses too can suffer terribly during the slaughter process. Their future is now as cheap meat. Let’s look at what we know.