The hippophagie in France

Sylvain Leteux, ” The hippophagie in France. The difficult acceptance of a meat shameful (archive) “, Land and work, n°9, 2005/2

In contemporary France, it is necessary to wait until 1866 for the hippophagie to be legalized. Despite this legalization, the consumption of horse remains a practice which is not developed, mainly to the working class, or linked to the medical requirements of hygienists. Why the taboo hippophagique has there been so powerful and persistent ?

The religious reasons are most often cited to justify the prohibition of the consumption of horse meat in Europe until the Nineteenth century. The anathema pronounced against this meat was ” an instrument of combat against the practices and pagan superstitions that the Church wanted to reverse “. The question that arises is, why the taboo hippophagique, has not disappeared with the completion of the christianization of Europe. The reason for the religious, the long-term persistence of the taboo hippophagique be explained by moral considerations and economic. The horse has a different status from other animals consumed (beef, sheep, barnyard), it enjoys an image of “aristocratic”, which distinguishes it very clearly from the rest of the livestock domestic. The argument of health is widely used during the French Revolution by the opponents of the hippophagie. An argument of “commercial” claims until 1858 : the willingness of the butchers not to see the beginning of their privilege to trade, the exclusivity on the throughput of the meat. The privilege of corporate butchers of Paris was abolished by Napoleon III in 1858. In the 1860s, the profession is less powerful and may not prevent the government to allow the hippophagie in 1866.

In the middle of the Nineteenth century, none of the reasons previously explained the non-consumption of horsemeat does not resist. The resistance to the hippophagie in France in the middle of the Nineteenth century cannot be explained neither by religious causes or by causes health, but by commercial motives and moral. The hippophagie suffers from an image detestable at the beginning of the Nineteenth century, because it is associated with the people, the misery, the violence of the renderers, which have the reputation of mistreating the horses before the slaughter, but also prostitution.

Three hygienists are going to be the defenders of the hippophagie : doctor Alexandre Jean-Baptiste Parent-Duchâtelet (1790-1836), zoologist Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1805-1861) and the military veterinarian Émile Decroix (1821-1901). Their efforts were rewarded in June 1866, when a police order authorizing the sale of horse meat. It is for them to improve the condition of workers, by providing a cheap meat to consumers, workers, the fight against prejudice and reactionary, and to ensure the freedom of trade, by eroding permanently the old privilege of corporate butchers.

The war of 1870 is often presented as the main accelerator for the development of the hippophagie in France. The siege of 1870 put an end to most of the preventions against the hippophagie. The lack of meat prompted the authorities to distribute the horse in place of beef and mutton. The second half of the Nineteenth century is the golden age of the use of horses for farm work, transport, in the mines, on the fields of battle. The hippophagie is an effective solution for the horses of reform. A last element explains the acceptance of the hippophagie at the end of the Nineteenth century and the beginning of the Twentieth century. The meat of horse is recommended by doctors for the tb, because it is rich in nitrogen, and can be eaten raw without presenting the same risks as beef (tuberculosis, anthrax, tapeworm). The horse meat appears to be the meat perfect for bodies weakened and manual workers with strong needs for energy.

The hippophagie develop mainly in the city, in regions with high concentrations of workers (Paris, Nord-Pas-de-Calais). In the 1960s, the distribution of butchers equine cuts still closely the geography working capital. Even if the hippophagie progresses after 1870, this practice remains marginal. After a peak in consumption was reached in 1911, the hippophagie declines rapidly after 1966. In 1970, the horse meat “accounted for 2% of the volume of animal flesh consumed, 1.3 in 1985 and 0.7% in 1996 “(Hubscher, ” Nourish the people : the hippophagie in Nineteenth-century Paris “. In Guintard and Mazzoli-Guintard (ed), Farming of yesterday, farming today, pp. 139-150. 2004). As recalled by the author, “prevention” cultural ” against the hippophagie have never completely disappeared. Even during the “glorious” time of the hippophagie (1900-1960), it should be recognized that the meat of horse should move hidden to hope to be consumed. His presentation is the most typical, is it not the chopped ? To be accepted by the consumer, the horse must be forgotten. Ever the butcher horsy does not expose the skin, head, or bones of the horse, then a calf’s head adorned and decorated can trôner proudly in the middle of the showcase “

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