They eat horses, don’t they?

Roger Helmer with Jo White of World Horse Welfare, and fellow MEP Liz Lynne (Lib-Dem, West Midlands) in Strasbourg on Nov 19th

Roger Helmer with Jo White of World Horse Welfare, and fellow MEP Liz Lynne (Lib-Dem, West Midlands) in Strasbourg on Nov 19th

We all know that those funny French and Belgians will eat horse meat, given the chance.  Many years ago I worked for a company headquartered in Lille, France, and I remember passing the horse meat shop every time I travelled between the Head Office and the Lille Eurostar station.  It made me a little queasy.
 
Of course we don’t eat horse meat in Britain, do we?  Well maybe we do.  Next time you’re down at the Deli, and looking to buy some nice Italian salami, pause and consider that it may well have a horse-meat — or donkey — component.  And of course the canned dog meat you buy for Fido could also have a horse component.
 
Now let’s be honest.  I can’t see a fundamental objection to eating horse meat in principle.  The question, as always, is whether the animal was treated humanely while it was alive, and tragically all too many of the horses that end up in the meat trade are treated with appalling callousness and cruelty.  There is a huge trade in live horses from Poland, and Romania, and points east, into Western Europe, much of it headed to the abattoirs of Southern Italy.  Horses are transported on packed trucks, often locked in for days on end, in appalling conditions, too hot in summer or cold in winter, inadequately fed and watered, terrified and miserable and striking out at each other in their distress.
 
Yes of course there are rules about animal transportation.  I am not known as an enthusiast for EU rules, but if there was ever a case for them, it is surely when transporting live animals on long cross-border trips.  But the rules could be better, and need to be enforced.  Leading the charge on this issue has been World Horse Welfare (formerly the International League for the Protection of Horses, ILPH), based in Snetterton, Norfolk.  Their objective is to stop the suffering of 100,000 horses every year, by ending the long distance transport of horses to slaughter, by introducing finite journey times and a carcase-only trade.  They have researched the issue, produced heart-breaking undercover videos of distressed animals moved in dreadful conditions, and lobbied the European Commission.  Now they have produced a major new report on the problem, and they have delivered it to the European Commission this month.  I have given them all the help and support I can.
 
They have also launched a web-based petition at www.makeanoise.co.uk.  If you share my concern about this cruel trade, and want to do something about it, please sign up.

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