People ride their horses during the annual pilgrimage in honor of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, in Garcia, Mexico on Monday. Daniel Becerril/Reuters.

Foto Friday: Catholic ritual in Mexico featuring horses and horse meat survey

HOUSTON, TEXAS — As long as we have been advocating for horses we have heard that horse meat is taboo in predominantly Catholic countries and at some point banned by the Vatican.

Yet here we have Mexicans pictured above honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe on horseback while just around the corner they may be butchering horses for people to eat. Is it wrong to kill horses for others to eat even if your own citizens historically don’t eat horse meat? What is today’s view among Catholics?

It was the featured image above that prompted me to ask these questions.

We talked about it at the Horse Fund and decided to take a street poll in downtown Houston asking 250 people of Mexican heritage what they think about horse meat and slaughter. We dressed in modest business attire and asked the questions below taking yes, no and not sure answers only. We asked in both English and Spanish. Approximately 3 out of 4 communicated clearly in English.


Question 1: Do you know that horses were killed for their meat in the US for many years and still are in Mexico and Canada?

NO: 92 YES: 73 NOT SURE: 35

Question 2: Do you think it is wrong for horses to be killed for their meat?

NO: 66 YES: 127 NOT SURE: 57

Question 3: Would you eat horse meat?

NO: 187 YES: 14 NOT SURE: 49

Question 4: Is your answer about whether you would eat horse meat influenced by religious beliefs?

NO: 5 YES: 186 NOT SURE: 59

What do you say about the results of our small informal poll?

Many have researched and written on the topic of horse meat — who will and not eat it and the possible reasons why.

It is difficult to arrive at any definitive conclusion regarding Catholicism and its impact on the consumption of horse meat but you may find the following interesting from Slate Magazine, written at the time of the horse meat scandal overseas:

Caslon Quote Left BlackPope Gregory III wrote a letter to Boniface, an eighth-century bishop in Germany, instructing him to eliminate the practice among pagan converts. The pope described hippophagy as a “filthy and abominable custom.” (Also, horses aren’t kosher.) The popular view among historians is that banning horse-eating helped distinguish Christians from the pagans, but some think the pope’s real motivation was to preserve horses for warfare. Around the same time, the Irish Collection of Canon law sought to end the Celtic and Teutonic habit of eating horse, forcing violators to subsist on bread and water for four years.

Americans looked on with curiosity as Europeans went back to horse meat in the 1800s. It had become so common by the end of the century that Scientific American published an article in 1892 remarking on the popularity of horse in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and Milan. (Residents of Turin apparently hated the stuff.) While Americans wanted no part of hippophagy, they were perfectly willing to supply the raw materials. In 1899, the USDA engaged in a contentious exchange with a Norwegian paper that complained American inspectors rarely visited horse meat factories, because they didn’t sell domestically.

U.S. hippophagy seems to have reached its high point during and shortly after World War II, because of domestic shortages of other, more conventional meats. Horse steak was even on the menu at the Harvard faculty club, although ordinary Americans never fully embraced it. After publishing an article about the growing popularity of horse meat in 1943, Life got a series of pithy letters to the editor. One reader wrote: “If your illustrated article on horse meat is followed by one showing how to make chicken chitterlings, the meat problem will be solved. We’ll all be vegetarians.” Another responded: “Not this side of starvation. Not while there are beans.” (One hippophagy enthusiast suggested that the problem was horse doesn’t have a dinner table euphemism like “beef” or “pork.”)

People ride their horses during the annual pilgrimage in honor of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, in Garcia, Mexico on Monday. Daniel Becerril/Reuters. Source.

4 thoughts on “Foto Friday: Catholic ritual in Mexico featuring horses and horse meat survey”

  1. Re Question 4
    Interesting that the overwhelming majority answered Yes.
    St. Francis (saint for the animals) – if he was around today would be saddened by the horrific cruelty suffered by the horses.
    Today’s Pope Francis has spoken up for the animals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are putting together a similar exercise in downtown Mexico City and hope to poll at least 500. I think the comparison of thought will be interesting. Thanks Carolyn.


  2. Yes – euphemisms provide a smoke screen for sensitive minds while the stomach can take anything — not really. If we had relationships with farm animals, they wouldn’t be eaten either. Why do people love some, but not the other as Mercy for Animals says. So, let them eat beans, veggies and Field Roast instead!

    Liked by 1 person

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