A butcher cuts a piece of horse meat in Marseille on February 21, 2013 (AFP/Archives/GERARD JULIEN)
The French are eating less and less horse meat and the number of horses killed in slaughterhouses has fallen sharply with only 5,252 animals in 2021 compared to more than 20,000 in 2013, reveal the players in the meat sector, Interbev and the IFCE.
Each year, the fall in horsemeat consumption is accentuated. Nearly 10% of French people ate a horse steak in 2021, Guy Arestier, president of the equine section of Interbev, which breeds Breton draft horses in the Lot, told AFP.
“Historically, this meat was sold on the markets. It is one of the rare sectors where consumption passes through the craft industry. The evolution of consumption is due to the lack of horses, both draft and cull, and to the closure of many horse-eater butchers”, estimates Mr. Arestier.
“We slaughter 5,252 horses and 40,000 leave for rendering each year”.
In 2005, France had 1,035 horse butchers, there were only 307 left in 2018, according to the Fédération de la Boucherie Hippophagique de France.
According to the Horse and Riding Institute (IFCE), the sharp drop in consumption is also due to its high price.
“Horse meat in 2021 was sold for 18.50 euros per kilo on average, beef 15.30 euros per kilo and poultry at 8.50 euros”, detailed Mathilde Dhollande spokesperson for the IFCE.
According to the Horse and Riding Institute (IFCE), the sharp drop in consumption is also due to its high price (AFP/Archives/GUILLAUME SOUVANT)
In 2021, France exported 5,207 live horses for slaughter, the majority of which were draft foals, mainly to Italy and Spain.
“The little that is consumed in France comes from the whole of the European Union and South America, Argentina and Uruguay”, adds Ms. Dhollande.
– “Genetic patrimony” –
“All equines at birth are considered slaughterable and intended for human consumption. They can be excluded but for medicinal reasons: administration of substances which will make them unfit for consumption”, recalls Ms. Dhollande.
According to her, the rejection of horse meat is also due to food scandals, such as Spanghero and animal associations that defend the horse as a pet.
In February 2013, the French subcontractor Comigel, specializing in the preparation of frozen meals distributed in 16 European countries, withdrew all its products after the discovery in Great Britain of horse meat in lasagna supposed to contain beef.
“I am scandalized that France is one of the last countries to eat horses,” said Brigitte Bardot in an interview with AFP. “Not only do we continue to slaughter horses to eat them, but we also make them suffer frightful suffering by shipping them to countries where we still eat horses,” she says indignantly.
The Brigitte Bardot Foundation published a video of the October horse fair in Maurs (Cantal) on Thursday, denouncing “serious abuse” inflicted on animals. Following this broadcast, the Aurillac prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation into this Cantal fair.
Percherons, one of the nine breeds of draft horses bred in France, in a breeding farm in Menetreol-sur-Sauldre in the Cher department, on February 16, 2010 (AFP/Archives/ALAIN JOCARD)
France is the only country to have nine breeds of draft horses: Ardennais, Auxois, Boulogne, Breton, Cob Norman, Franches Montagnes, Percheron, Poitevin Mulassier and Trait du Nord. The end of hippophagy, the fight of former actress Brigitte Bardot and other animal advocates, could mark the end of the breeding of these varieties of heavy horse breeds.
“The horse industry saves our nine breeds of heavy horses, to preserve this genetic heritage”, says Mr. Arestier. “Slaughter is a normal end of life for horses”.
© 2022 AFP
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