OK, so let’s start with the basics…
In Britain, and a lot of the Western world, horses are not bred for, nor considered as an option for, their meal-time meat. (Though I’m aware that areas of France (especially if you include donkeys), Portugal and Spain include horse meat on their menus, my knowledge of Europe beyond the West is pretty scarce, especially when it comes to culinary conventions, sorry.)
Here in Kazakhstan, especially by Kazakhs, horse is considered to be a normal meat/edible flesh, in the same way as chicken, beef or fish is. Although horses bred for eating are treated very differently, and indeed look different, to those destined for racing or transport on the steppe, a horse is just another animal that serves a purpose.
Recently, investigations have revealed that some supposedly beef-based ready made meals in Europe (stories from Britain have cropped up most in my online reading) have contained very high proportions of horse meat. Now, to the people that keep horses as cherished companions/pets, especially around younger children, I can completely understand the revulsion many will have felt… However, to most of the other people now loudly exclaiming their revulsion online, and threatening boycotts, I have to ask, how many had already consumed these not-pure lasagne/bolognese/mince meat, and not noticed a thing at the time?
For anyone honestly able to recall a yuck-what-the-hell-is-this? incident PRIOR to hearing about the scandal, my sympathies are with you. To all the others, I would simply ask, do you not now consider horse meat to be a viable alternative? If not in your homeland, where social convention leads you to consider horses as some how more sacred than other mammals, then at least if/when you travel abroad?
I have eaten horse meat more times than I can specifically count, and the only problem I have with it is the method… beshbarmaq is flat sheets of pasta (not too dissimilar to lasagne, in that respect, spookily enough) with onions and boiled horse meat. Other than crisps (I failed to find images of these online, sorry), this meal is the only time I’ve knowingly encountered and consumed horse meat. Besides a big joint of ham, all meats should be baked/grilled/fried as far as my fussy taste buds are concerned!
Anyway, if you couldn’t tell the difference when you consumed a “tainted” UK ready meal, perhaps it is time to consider whether horse meat always belongs on your no-no list?