Why Is There Horsemeat in Burgers From Ireland and the UK?

The news that horse meat has been found in beef burgers sold in the UK and Ireland is hitting the headlines – more so, even, than the fact that some of these burgers contained pork. There’s reams to be written on the reasons for the taboo on horse meat (and I think most of that material is in my filing cabinets), but let’s chuck in some numbers about the impact of the recession.

  • In 2006 Ireland slaughtered 822 horses for meat. In 2010-2011, over 7,000 died.
  • In 2008 there was one Irish abattoir that dealt with horses. In 2011 that number had increased to five.
  • According to the Irish Independent, in late 2011 some farming groups were lobbying for a lifting of EU restrictions on horse slaughter. This article implied that this would specifically relate to the rules concerning horses that have been treated with drugs that make them unsuitable for human consumption.

The vast majority of this meat is exported from Ireland where there’s little stomach for it. The supermarkets involved in the current scandal say that the rogue batch of meat arrived at the rogue processor in an imported additive from Continental Europe. Given the bizarre nature of the modern industrial food chain, could it be that this is a case of Irish horses “coming home”, or is it a case of taking coals to Newcastle, while Newcastle is busy exporting all its coal…

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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  1. Say what? What is this? I was just going to go to bed, Susanna! Horsemeatgate!

  2. I’m trying to figure it out…I’m glad I read your story first. Not sure I understand the coals to Newcastle analogy. Sounds like something Maggie Smith would say on Downton Abbey?

  3. Meat is just a waste of energy. I’m a long time omnivore who is turning vegetarian because I woke up. How can we on one hand cry about running out of oil and money, and on the other hand, practice barbarism and energy waste just for that burnt protein and sweat flavor?

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