Draft bill seeks to stop the sale and eating of horse meat in France

If passed the legislation would give horses the same rights as other pets such as dogs and cats

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A bid to ban the sale and consumption of horse meat in France has gained support from more than a dozen celebrities.

Right-wing MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has introduced a draft bill in parliament to “put an end, finally, to hippophagie [the consumption of horse meat],” in France.

Although Mr Dupont-Aignan has put forward the legislative proposal, he is unable to officially propose it to France’s National Assembly for a vote. Campaigners are therefore asking for a cross-parliamentary group to back the motion.

The politician wants to enshrine the horse as a pet in French cultural life and give the animal the same rights as animals such as dogs and cats.

“No one would think of eating a cat or a dog and therefore I find that in our country we would be honoured to change the status of the horse,” he said.

Eating horse meat is a divisive topic in France. Despite the overall consumption of meat increasing in recent years, the number of people eating horse meat has continued to fall.

Only 7% of households eat horse meat, according to FranceAgriMer.

Campaigners call for cross-party support

Despite Mr Dupont-Aignan writing a draft of the bill – and proposing the motion in the National Assembly – he cannot start a debate or a vote on it.

He is the only member of his party (Debout La France) currently in the National Assembly, and because of its small size, it does not have an upcoming parliamentary niche – the day of the month in which a minority party sets the agenda for the political chamber.

Despite this, the draft law is available on the National Assembly website (in French), after it was filed last month.

Because of Mr Dupont-Aignang’s inability to officially start a debate on the law, however, a number of French public figures are campaigning for a cross-party group of politicians to bring the bill forward instead.

The figures include comedians Jean-Marie Bigard and Vincent Lagaf and singers Chantal Goya and Fabienne Thibeault, alongside around 15 others.

“I am very attached to French farming, including the production of chicken, pork or beef, and I defend it,” said Ms Thibeault.

“But the horse has accompanied us since the dawn of time and we have other meats available,” she added

The idea the horse is more than a mere animal for consumption is the cornerstone of the campaigners’ claim.

“The horse is a faithful companion of humans in work, leisure, health, has the right to grow old and end his life in dignity,” said the document signed by the public figures supporting the bill.

Read also: Hunt federation boss ‘regrets’ people are afraid of hunting in France

Horse meat consumption down in recent years

While horse meat has never been a staple of French diets such as other meats like beef or pork, it was never a taboo meat in the same way as in many other countries such as the UK.

In recent years, however, horse meat consumption has dropped significantly, as French attitudes towards the food have changed.

In 2005, there were just over 1,000 boucheries chevalines (butchers that sell horsemeat) in France, but by 2018 this had dropped to only 307, according to the Fédération de la Boucherie Hippophagique.

In 2013, 20,000 horses were slaughtered in France primarily for their meat, but by 2022 only around 5,088 were sent to the abattoir.

Although horse meat production has dropped by 26% in the last two years according to FranceAgriMer, the number of people eating the meat has stabilised, with only 5% fewer people eating horse meat in 2022 than in 2021.

Only 7% of households purchased horse meat, but overall purchases were down 15% over the last year, showing another reason why the meat is less commonly purchased – its price.

On average, a kilogram of horse meat is more expensive than its beef or pork counterpart, meaning economic concerns may be putting off those who are not already done so by ethical factors.

If the law is debated and subsequently passed, it will have a minimal economic impact, but it could likely face backlash from farmers, who would see the banning of horse meat consumption as an attack on French cultural traditions.

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