Why is it all right to eat pigs or cows, but not horse meat?
I am sure many readers will have been understandably shocked by revelations about horse meat being found in beef burgers at several national supermarket chains.
However, it does throw up some other issues, including why the thought of eating horses repulses us but as a nation we think nothing of eating cows.
What really is the difference between a horse and a cow? Or a pig, sheep or chicken for that matter?
All are sentient animals that value their lives – lives that are routinely cut short after no more money can be made from them. Horses are often killed after their owners tire of them or they become too old to perform.
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With farmed animals, it is as soon as they have reached their slaughter weight at weeks or months old.
In the case of dairy cows, they are sent to the abattoir once their milk yield drops.
This is often at four or five years old, despite having a natural lifespan of 25 years.
Much of the meat in beef burgers for sale in British supermarkets will come from exhausted dairy cows.
This is not to say that horses do not suffer – they do.
Viva! has campaigned for years against the trade in live horses, forced to endure gruelling journeys from Poland to the slaughterhouses of Italy.
However, if the thought of eating horse troubles you, please spare a thought for the 958 million other animals killed for the British dinner table last year.
If you care about animals – all animals – then the best way to show that is to simply stop eating them.
For free help in saving the lives of animals by going veggie, contact Viva! on 0117 944 1000 or e-mail:
Justin Kerswell, Viva! campaigns manager, Bristol.
I fail to see what all the fuss is about concerning burgers which contained horse and/or pig meat, apart from misleading labelling.
If people knew the ingredients of many processed meat products they would be horrified.
The Food Standards Agency has said there is no safety risk to consumers.
Muslim and Jewish consumers may be upset if they inadvertently ate pork, but as far as I know the burgers were not kosher or halal and, therefore, were unlikely to have been eaten by strict Jews or Muslims.
An animal is an animal. A life is a life whether that life belongs to a pig, cow, chicken, turkey, lamb or horse – or a cat or dog for that matter. If people are distressed that they may have unknowingly eaten horse meat, they should question why they eat meat at all.
Elizabeth Allison, Aylestone.
Readers will have been sickened to learn some beef burgers sold by leading supermarkets contained almost 30 per cent horse meat.
They may be more shocked that in 2011, 8,118 horses were slaughtered in the UK.
The majority would have been ordinary riding ponies, while 1,127 were thoroughbreds, discarded by the racing industry.
If that is a sombre thought, then reflect for a moment on the animals which make up the remaining 70 per cent of that burger.
Each year in the UK alone, about one billion animals (not including fish) are farmed and killed for food – about three million of that number are cows.
Animal Aid's website has recent footage of cows, pigs, goats, sheep and horses, all taken inside UK slaughterhouses, and the grim truth is plain to see.
All animals feel fear and pain. If you care about those horses which were killed for their meat, then please spare a thought for all the other animals and make the compassionate decision – adopt an animal-free diet.
Free information and advice is available from Animal Aid:
Fiona Pereira, campaigner, Animal Aid, Tonbridge.