Cool retailer response to Princess Anne’s horsemeat comments

Princess Anne’s recent call for a debate on the value of horsemeat has been met with virtual silence from the majority of UK supermarkets.

Speaking at the World Horse Welfare Conference last week (14 November), of which she is the president, HRH The Princess Royal said a debate surrounding horsemeat value might encourage people to look after them better “at a time when ponies can be bought for Ł5” and when the UK is facing a horse crisis.

MeatInfo.co.uk asked the UK’s five largest supermarket chains if they would sell horsemeat, but no comment was received from Morrisons, Tesco, The Co-operative or Asda. But, a Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We have no plans to start selling horsemeat.”

Horsemeat eaten elsewhere

However, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) director of policy Martin Haworth told MeatInfo.co.uk: “Horsemeat is eaten by people widely in Europe and other parts of the world, and there is no reason why it could not be sold here, provided it was labelled as such.”

Haworth’s comment was backed by Paul Webb of ExoticMeats.co.uk, an online retailer that sells horsemeat, who said: “I think they [the retailers] are concerned for their own image – they wouldn’t like to upset anyone. But if more people are aware of it, then more people are going to be strict with welfare standards.”

In response to Princess Anne’s call for a debate on the current horse crisis, World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers explained that the economic downturn had driven the prices of horses and ponies down, “and the sad fact is that from a purely economic perspective, they can now be worth more as meat”.

Taboo

Owers added that there was a taboo around eating horsemeat in the UK, since they were seen more as companions or pets, “while elsewhere they can be seen as livestock or a food source”. Yet he added that the charity was only concerned with welfare whilst the horse was alive, and what happened after death – i.e. the consumption of horsemeat – was a personal choice and not a welfare issue.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said it would welcome a debate into the growing problems surrounding horse welfare in this country. “The killing of horses for meat is an emotive subject, as many see them as companion animals rather than a food source – a sentiment the RSPCA has great sympathy with,” it said.

However, Red Tractor chief executive David Clarke told MeatInfo.co.uk that his organisation did not think Princess Anne was seriously suggesting the British public should add horsemeat to their diet. “Her point was that livestock farmed for meat is usually valued and well-treated and we can confirm that when the farm is assured, our inspections will validate that.

“The Princess contrasted this with the poor treatment of many horses, but as our scheme does not extend to equines, we are in no position to comment on that part of her analogy.”

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