UK
16/11/2013 04:45 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

David Cameron Rejects Princess Anne's 'Eat Horse' Dietary Suggestions

ASSOCIATED PRESS
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a retreat at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, in Colombo, Sri Lanka , Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Sri Lanka remained defiant against calls for an independent inquiry into alleged atrocities committed during its 27-year civil war - setting the stage for an international showdown as Cameron pledged Saturday to press the issue with the United Nations if no progress is made in three months. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

It's a debate that tends to really stirrup the emotions, but David Cameron has risked being branded a neigh-sayer by Princess Anne after admitting he would rather not tuck into horse meat.

Britain should not become a horse-eating country, the prime minister argued - after the Princess Royal suggested that dropping our aversion to the meat could improve equine care.

Cameron - who is an enthusiastic rider of horses - said he was not a fan of eating them but did not say whether he may have done so in the past.

"I'm not keen on eating horse," he told reporters in Sri Lanka, where he is attending a Commonwealth summit.

"I know it's something that happens in other countries but I think we should stick to our non-horse eating habits."

Horse meat hit the headlines earlier this year when it emerged that frozen burgers supplied to several supermarkets including Tesco contained horse DNA.

Investigations found that other beef products sold by retailers, including lasagne and spaghetti bolognese, were contaminated, while meals in schools and hospitals had to be withdrawn after it was found they contained horse meat.

Anne, a former British eventing champion, claimed that horse owners might take better care of their animals when they are alive if they believed they could later sell them for meat.

Her comments follow warnings by charities of a horse welfare crisis, with 7,000 horses currently at risk of abandonment and neglect.

Speaking at the annual conference of the World Horse Welfare charity in central London, the Princess, who is president of the organisation, said: "Our attitudes to the horse meat trade and the value of horse meat may have to change.

"If that's true then, that they value their horses, they look after them well, because they're in the horse meat trade... 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?

"I chuck that out for what it's worth because I think it needs a debate."

Anne said the focus of the horse meat scandal was that food was improperly labelled rather than the use of the animal in products.

But animals welfare groups reacted furiously to the suggestions.

"What should we expect next from the Royals? The Queen suggesting that we eat corgis?" People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked the Huffington Post UK.

"If Princess Anne truly cares about the welfare of horses, we would like to suggest that she should campaign for an end to the cruel horse-racing industry, which forces horses to run at breakneck speed on hard tracks and, after they can no longer compete, often transports them to slaughterhouses in hideous conditions, where they are turned into cheap dog food.

"She does have a point about all animals being made of the same flesh, blood and bone. When it comes to suffering, there is no difference between a horse, a cow, a corgi or any other animal - we all have the same capacity to feel fear and pain and also share the same desire to live, have families and do what is natural for us."