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Eating Horse Meat May Help Preserve Breeds
 By Winniefield Park   •   2nd Jul 2017   •   1,191 views   •   0 comments
Eating horsemeat is a controversial subject that many people find offensive. But, there is a small indication that the stigma is slowly lessening. In part, itís a recognition that we need to be conscious of how we use our resources. And, some feel that raising horses for meat may preserve breeds that would otherwise disappear.



In Iceland, only 1% of the total landmass can be used for agriculture of any kind. This means that grazing land is precious. As a result, the population of horses in terms of quantity and quality is strictly controlled. Part of the control method is to keep some of the animals for meat. Those used for work and pleasure are kept separate, while those destined for meat are left to live an almost wild existence in deserted and remote areas.

Itís estimated that about 10,000 horses a year of Icelandís horse population of 40,000 are processed for meat. While there are those that find eating horse meat objectionable, itís not an unusual sight to see it offered on restaurant menus with cuts from foal meat being a specialty. A portion of the meat is also exported to other European countries. It seems to have been an effective strategy, along with banning other horses from coming to the country, to prevent overgrazing and keeping the overall population healthy.

In France, native draft horse breeds like Breton, Ardennais and Boulonnais are some that are bred specifically to raise animals for meat. According to the French Trait website, over 85% of the draft horses bred in that country are bred for meat production. The meat from these particular breeds is not necessarily eaten within France however. The meat from young horses is exported to Italy, where it is popular. The horse meat eaten in France is said to be from older horses, processed from North American sources. This is a matter of taste, rather than necessity. But, itís believed that without the horsemeat trade, these national draft horse breeds would become extinct. Some believe that farmland too, is preserved by the pasturing of these animals, that would otherwise return to unproductive forests.

The trend of eating horsemeat in France has been in a steady decline since World War I, but recently there has been a slight increase in the number of people who eat horsemeat. The reasons for this might be that horsemeat is a leaner, cleaner alternative to pork, beef, and chicken and more people are coming to see the rationale for consuming it - that itís no different to eat a horse than it is to eat any other animal. Itís more easily found on restaurant menus, although it isnít as trendy for home cooks yet.

The horse-loving Brits are not coming to the idea of eating horse meat as easily. Back in 2014, I wrote about the proposal by the The Dartmoor Hill Pony Association to encourage the use of this rare breed for meat. Dartmoor Hill Ponies and registered Dartmoor Ponies are endangered breeds. The proposal would only affect the semi-feral ponies that are raised on common pastures. Ideally, allowing some ponies to be processed for meat would raise the value and therefore the quality of care these ponies are getting while preventing their extinction. The maintenance of the herds would also preserve the lands they live on.

The Dartmoor Hill Pony Association has announced its intentions to start selling the ponies for meat. But, there are many arguments against the move. The hill ponies arenít rare, say some. Horses raised for meat will not ensure they are of increased quality. Others have long held beliefs against eating horse meat. Still, others say itís only responsible to maintain healthy herds and that a healthy short life is better than a long one of suffering.

So is this a viable way of preserving at-risk breeds? Could other breeds such as the Canadian, the foundation type Morgans, and other Ďdraft-typeí horse and pony breeds be saved this way?

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ref 1: Charity to save Dartmoor ponies by eating them
ref 2: Is it right to eat horse meat
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