Welfare charities have welcomed the Princess Royal’s suggestions that horse welfare could be improved if we changed our attitude towards eating horse meat.

Princess Anne sparked debate when she claimed owners might take better care of their horses if they had a value as meat at the annual the World Horse Welfare conference last week (14 November). The Princess is president of the charity.

“Should we be considering a real market for horse meat and would that reduce the number of welfare cases, if there was a real value in the horse meat sector?” she asked.

“I chuck that out for what it’s worth because I think it needs a debate.”

The point comes as charities warn that there are as many as 7,000 horses at risk of neglect this winter. To date in 2013, World Horse Welfare has taken in 31% more rescue cases.

Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, thanked Princess Anne for opening the debate.

“The sad fact is that, from a purely economic perspective, they [horses] can now be worth more as meat,” said Mr Owers. “Many in the horseworld have known this for a long time.

“Our president has been brave enough to say this openly in hopes of generating a thought-provoking debate.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (21 November 2013)