The growing concern about horse meat in processed foods in the UK has got me thinking about differing cultural attitudes to which animals we are prepared to eat. In France, supermarkets have a section in the meat department specifically for horse meat and one can order horse steak tartar in some restaurants. Yet on this side of the channel, lasagnas and burgers with traces of horse are being removed from supermarket shelves faster than a racehorse at Ascot. I assume that the French horses are bred for consumption rather their equine relatives that are finding their way into the food chain due to criminality and corruption amongst suppliers.
I have always adopted an unsentimental approach to meat eating. I introduced my children to rabbit in their early years. I did not associate the meal with Flopsy Bunny any more than I would have served up a roast pork and spoken of Peppa Pig. They took the lead from me and cleared their plates.
The one time they succumbed to sentimentality was on a trip to the Lake District during the lambing season. We watched a tiny lamb, just born, struggling to its feet, the afterbirth still stuck to its mother’s woolly rump.
We were spellbound as we watched a scene as old as the ancient stone wall on which we perched. That evening we ate in an olde worlde inn where lamb featured heavily on the menus. The boys refused to eat any and I knew better than to suggest otherwise.
A few days later we found ourselves in the garden of a tea room that overlooked vast fields of pregnant sheep and lambs. The sun shone, the surrounding mountains glistened and the sheep bleated. It was one of those idyllic holiday moments one stumbles upon.
On visiting the onsite farm shop I found a fridge filled with every imaginable cut of lamb alongside golden crusted lamb and vegetable pies. Being a self-catering family we stocked up and a few hours later sat down to a lamb steak dinner. Air miles = 0.
But even my guilt-free attitude to eating the entertainment has its limits. On a trip to an ostrich farm outside Cape Town, we were introduced to adorable ostrich chicks and later to their parents. We had turns standing on their unbreakable eggs, sat on the adult birds for a photo shoot and marvelled at these pre-historic looking birds than can outrun a horse.
Then we sat down to lunch in the restaurant. Ostrich steak, ostrich casserole, ostrich egg omelettes – the list was long and meaty. We ate meltingly tender fillet with a sauce so heavenly I gave my compliments to the chef in the vain hope he might share his secret with me.
I couldn’t help noticing that the terrace on which we sat faced away from the ostrich paddocks. I appreciated this discretion as I am not sure I could have enjoyed my meal while eyeballing tomorrow’s lunch running about. As for the ostriches – did they know we were eating their mates? I like to think not.