I’ll have the Black Beauty please – with extra cheese and onion rings on the side.
Jokes aside (and there are many) as the nation reels at the recent discovery that horse meat DNA has been found to be contained in some ‘beef’ burgers sold in supermarkets in the UK, it got me thinking…So how this happened has certainly raised issues, but for me, I find it most interestingly it highlights the cultural differences of what we as consumers deem to be appropriate meats for consumption based upon our society and upbringing.
In the UK, a towering stallion is given respect and authority within our community. We are proud of our equine partners and treat them as loving companions. We dress them, we teach them and we integrate them into our society.
Many are famous in their own right and national treasures– it would be ludicrous to consider devouring the likes of Red Rum in a sandwich and could perhaps be likened to the disgust of Hannibal Lecter feasting on one of our nearest and dearest.
However, the same cannot be said for many countries across the world. In France, Horse meat is considered a delicacy, alongside Grenouille (frog’s legs) and the beloved bunny rabbit. Yet, they are in fact a contemporary western culture (extremely similar to our own), renowned for exquisite taste and fashionable finesse – but what is it that makes our carnivorous craving so different?
Looking further across the globe to Eastern cultures and the 900 million followers of Hinduism, who through religion and belief have taken the tasty, morsel that is the cow and placed it on a pedestal. In this culture the cow is doted upon, likened to a god – a sacred being, to be worshiped not harmed.
Yet, today more often than not, exotic meats are slowly moving their way onto the menus of many fine British restaurants – and Ostrich, Kangaroo, Snake and Alligator meat (somewhat disassociated animals from our everyday lives) are becoming an established part of our multifaceted, street food culture.
In essence, it appears that our socially embedded morality and the humanisation we place upon animals through stories, film and television determines the emotion we feel towards our food. It’s hard to feel empathetic towards an angry alligator – but touch our Lassie and there will be trouble!