Horse meat debate continues and a new King’s Lynn cafe may offer it on the menu

Horses in a field
Horses in a field
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A Lynn businesswoman is considering offering horsemeat on her menu when she opens a new cafe in town this month.

Ann Fitzgerald said there is “nothing wrong” with the meat and hopes to sell it at her new venture, Cafe Moccha, if the idea is accepted by customers.

It comes as the controversial idea hit the headlines once again this week following claims that eating it could help reduce a crisis in abandoned horses.

Just 17 months after the horsemeat scandal that shamed Britain’s supermarkets, when processed beef products were found to contain the meat, it has been suggested that creating a thriving market for the product could save many horses from a life of neglect.

Horse-rider and farmer Princess Anne believes putting a value on unwanted horses could help solve the welfare problem, which saw around 8,000 horses abandoned in the UK last year.

And on the BBC’s Countyfile programme on Sunday, presenter Tom Heap investigated whether eating the meat – or exporting it abroad – would give the animals more value.

But while many people in West Norfolk believe the public would never accept horsemeat on their plates, Mrs Fitzgerald is hoping to prove them wrong.

She is set to open Cafe Moccha in New Conduit Street within the next two weeks, and things like horsemeat burgers may be available on the menu.

She told the Lynn News: “There’s nothing wrong with the meat. I have tried it before and it’s very nice. In places like Italy and France it’s a common thing and in Italy they even make salami sausages out of it.

“There was a big hoo-ha over horsemeat before but that was because the supermarkets didn’t label it properly. If they were clever and labelled it as horsemeat it would be more acceptable. I also think it would help stop so many horses being neglected.

“I certainly hope to offer horsemeat at the cafe if its accepted by customers.”

Butcher Clifford Prior, who owns EH Prior and Sons butcher shops at Knights Hill, South Wootton, and Dersingham, has never sold horsemeat and has no plans to in future.

He said: “If people had wanted to eat horsemeat it would have been available already.

“It’s on sale on the Continent but I’ve never seen it for sale over here. Personally, I don’t think the British public would want to eat it.

“They have too much of a relationship with a horse. Children ride ponies and horses and they’re kept as pets.

“I have never sold it and have absolutely no interest in selling it in future.”

Butcher to the royal family while they’re staying at Sandringham, Julian Howard, of JE Howard Butchers and Abattoir, West Newton, believes if horsemeat was labelled as such, it would be accepted.

He said: “I am not against the eating of horsemeat, even though I have never had it myself. I’m sure a lot of people would enjoy it.

“There was a big upset when it was found in supermarket products so it would need to be done properly and advertised as horsemeat.

“The supermarkets messed up before and pulled the wool over people’s eyes, which was completely out of order.”

Mr Howard said he has never been asked to kill a horse in his abattoir, and it is not something he would want to get into.

“Cattle are big and dangerous enough, let alone a horse,” he said.

“I was also told once that the only animal intelligent enough to know something is imminent is a horse.

“When cattle and sheep are in the pen waiting to be slaughtered they have no idea it’s about to happen.”

The same point has also been raised by the Humane Society, which says horses cannot be humanely slaughtered because of their “sensitive nature and flight response”.

Hilgay butcher Ali Dent said customers had asked for “exotic meats” such as crocodile before, but never for horsemeat.

He said: “In this country we see horses more as pets. We’re not used to eating them as they do in places like France.

“The problem with abandoned horses is that they will often be old nags, and nobody is going to want to buy an old bit of horse. The meat will probably be a lot tougher than if it was a young horse.”

1 What do members of the public think? See Page 16 for The Word on the Street.