Bill Darling, of Cromwell, asks :-

Why dont we eat horsemeat like the French do?

Kirsten Webster, a human nutritionist at Otago University, responded.

Food preferences are complex. Culturally driven food preferences change over time with various internal and external forces. Geography, the food supply and religious practices all influence our food preferences.

The French didn?t always consume horsemeat. Horsemeat became popular in France as a result of a shift in attitudes, because of food shortages in 1870 and doctors promoting horse as a healthy meat. Whereas in parts of Asia, horses were favoured by nomads because they served two purposes, transportation and food. These nomads commonly consumed both horse milk and horsemeat.

New Zealand did not have any of these pressures to cause a shift towards horsemeat consumption. New Zealand factories that process horsemeat suitable for human consumption export most of their product to Russia and Belgium. Meat from older or injured horses is also an ingredient in some New Zealand pet food.

In 1911 Robert Falcon Scott took horses in his last attempt to reach the South Pole, these were killed and eaten along the way. The meat provided an important source of vitamin C to ward off scurvy.

Early Maori consumed Kuri a breed of dog. Kuri were companions for Maori and used for hunting, however they were also eaten on special occasions or when there were food shortages. Kuri fur was also used in cloaks and the hair used in weapons. Kuri became extinct in 19th Century

In New Zealand and many other countries, horses and dogs are now considered inedible, in part because they participate in society. We give them names and form strong bonds with them, and therefore culturally it is taboo to eat them.