British supermarket chain Tesco reveals that DNA testing has shown that its "Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese contains 60% horsemeat". It's been withdrawn from sale:
BBC News - Horsemeat scandal: Tesco reveals 60% content in dish
Cue Bolg-neigh-eigh-eighs jokes.
This is the latest in a scandal that has involved Tesco, Swedish frozen food giant Findus, and various other companies including Burger King, and German supermarket chain LIDL (plenty of My LIDL pony jokes).
My favourite joke so far has been: "When I bought the award winning burgers from Tesco, I didn't know they meant they'd won the Cheltenham Gold Cup".
Horse in and of itself is edible, of course. But that's hardly the end of the matter. This question remains: If the labelling is not accurate and truthful, how can you trust the product at all? Was the horsemeat fit for human consumption? Was the slaughtering humane? Were the packing conditions hygienic? Had the animals -- the meat from which seems to have been bought from Company A in County B off Company C in Country D and so on, right back to worrying places of origin such as Roumania -- been fed any illegal drugs?
Once lies have entered the picture who knows anything?
On the History and Prehistory
Those here who have read a little archaeology will know that wild horses were hunted for meat. This was true of the Americas, where they were hunted to extinction, as well as of the Old World:
Remains Show Ancient Horses Were Hunted for Their Meat
Horses only became a means of transport relatively late in time when an apparent mutation resulted in much larger specimens. Before this their only use to humans was as a food source.
The reason that they're not eaten in Britain, but are on the European Continent, has some interesting historical roots.
It seems likely that there are religious reasons for this.
There are no food taboos in Christianity, of course. Early on, Jewish dietary law was rejected -- c.f. Acts:
ACTS CHAPTER 10On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
However, the Primitive Church felt that there were issues around eating meat from animals that had been sacrificed to idols:
1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 8
Now I have somewhere a big book on food in Anglo-Saxon England -- don't know where I've put it -- and, as I recall, it seems that there is some evidence of one of the Popes writing to the English Church (at that time under the authority of Rome, of course) discouraging the eating of horse meat.
Anglo-saxon Food & Drink: Ann Hagen: 9781898281412: Amazon.com: Books
This would most probably have been because horses were sacred to Woden, so that horsemeat might well have come from animals that had been sacrificed to him. The same situation would not, of course, have obtained in Gaul; hence the French Church would not have been written to.
Current custom in England thus likely has deep and long-forgotten roots.