The discovery of horsemeat labelled as beef in burgers and ready-made meals in the UK and parts of Europe is the scandal that keeps on giving with major supermarkets and fast food joints like Burger King now involved.
The story has also hit headlines in New Zealand with media pondering whether the same thing could happen here. The Herald reports, “It isn’t illegal to hide horsemeat in food in New Zealand, under the generic label ‘meat’. This is a significant loophole, and means that consumers who eat pies or sausages, for example, could unknowingly be consuming horsemeat.”
It seems some of us share the same dietary taboos as the Brits and would be horrified at being duped into eating something considered unsavoury. But why the double standards ? Why is horsemeat so unpalatable compared to that from other equally hooved and intelligent animals like cows and pigs (who are, incidentally, cleverer than your dog or three-year-old child). And aren’t we missing another important point in all this? – That of the welfare of the horses? Why are so many ending up at the slaughterhouse – even in New Zealand?
Whether horsemeat is being mislabelled here or not, there’s a bigger scandal already happening – one with links to the racing industry and shrouded in secrecy.
Down in the depths of the South Island lies the little known ‘Clover Exports Limited’ (surely a cruel pun on ‘putting a horse out to clover’), the only horse slaughterhouse in New Zealand licensed to export horsemeat “for human consumption”. Horses, mainly rejects from the racing industry, are being killed at Clover Exports and eaten in Europe – and New Zealand. Last year The Herald told how Gore is often the destination for New Zealand racing industry thoroughbreds who don’t perform. In an industry driven by profit, when animals can no longer make money their days are numbered. They’re cruelly discarded and stacked into cattle trucks for the arduous journey to slaughter – which can often take many days. In 2011, 1962 horses were slaughtered at Clover Exports.
If we love horses so much that we find it unpalatable to eat them, what do we think about exploiting them for the racing industry and then discarding them when they’re no use anymore?
It shows again our strange relationship with animals: once they’ve served ‘their purpose’ as prized racehorses, they’re relegated to being just food. But the industry knows the truth is unpalatable to most of the public so they’ll do anything to hide the fact that racing horses will share the same sad end designed for all animals to be consumed. Pigs, chickens and cows, like horses, are all sensitive animals with their own personalities, able to experience fear, stress, pain and suffering. Yet millions of them are killed for the meat industry every year, and millions more are suffering in factory farms right now. Why is that ok and eating horsemeat is not?
If the horsemeat scandal has made us feel queasy, it might be time to challenge the old-fashioned view that animals exist solely for human use. Maybe we need to think again – to see all animals’ inherent worth, a value completely separate from their usefulness to humans. Then all we need to do is to stop eating them!
Mandy Carter, Campaign Manager