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Horse slaughter triples in Korea – Would you eat horse?

Photo: Flickr
Chung Hye-min
Written by Chung Hye-min
To eat or not to eat – that’s the dilemma an increasing number of people in Korea are facing as the country actively promotes the horse meat industry.

Figures obtained exclusively by the Korea Observer on Monday show that the number of horses slaughtered in the country has tripled from 315 in 2003 to 1,036 in 2014.


Source: The Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency

“The government will promote the consumption of horses by making and distributing a wide range of horse meat recipes and hosting horse meat tasting events,” a press release by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs reads.

From the government’s point of view, the horse meat industry is a niche market that can grow fast and bring extra revenue to horse breeders.

“The horse meat industry can become a potential blue ocean, which might be able to revive the domestic rural economy,” a spokesman for Korea Racing Authority (KRA) said.

“The most important thing at this moment is to increase the supply of horse meat.”

Horse meat is currently sold at around 60 percent of the price of Korean beef and can be purchased online as well.

An official at the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency claims that horses are slaughtered in the same manner as cows and he sees no reason that horses should be treated differently from other animals that people eat.

“We knock out horses with the same hammer that we use for cows. Things may get a little messy if they do not pass out at the first blow”
“We knock out horses with the same hammer that we use for cows. Things may get a little messy if they do not pass out at the first blow,” he said.

“Once they faint, we shoot a metal rod into their brain.”

The number of horses slaughtered in Korea surpassed 1,000 for the first time in 2014.

Nearly 85 percent of the horses are raised and slaughtered on Jeju Island where you can find more than 50 restaurants specializing in horse meat cuisine.

“It is safe to say that nearly all of the slaughtered horses are for human consumption,” a senior official at a slaughter house in Jeju said.

For now, the public’s opinion is on the government’s side. A survey carried out by the KRA last year found that 65.1 percent of Koreans are willing to eat horse meat.

The KRA argues that Koreans are more positive about eating horse meat than people in France, Belgium and Italy.

Fifty percent of French reacted positively when asked if they would eat horse meat, followed by Belgians with 51 percent and Italians with 58 percent.

It is not difficult to find blog or social media posts by Koreans who strongly recommend horse meat. Many of them say horse meat tastes like beef but is more nutritious and has less fat.

In Korea, it is also common to eat raw horse meat like sushi.


Photo: Twitter

Animal rights groups, however, argue that the government should ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

“The horse is one of the species that humans tend to bond with so consuming horse as meat will create uneasiness,” Cho Hee-Kyung, Executive Director of the Korean Animal Welfare Association, said

She argues that the government also lack technologies and systems to effectively oversee the transport of horses for slaughter.

About the author

Chung Hye-min

Chung Hye-min

Chung Hye-min is an intern reporter at the Korea Observer and a junior majoring in history at Dartmouth College. She writes for the student daily newspaper ‘The Dartmouth.” She enjoys writing about campus events on the topic of international affairs. Follow her on Twitter @hannahthechung.

  • marismet

    This is horrific …. to slaughter, to kill every animal, to eat every animal — it’s unnecessary, you have a wide array of food to choose from … so much on that menu … please DO NOT EAT HORSES … DO NOT EAT DOGS …. DO NOT EAT CATS …. they’re all sacred! Get some standards, draw the line somewhere! PLEASE STOP THE HORRIFIC, BRUTAL SLAUGHTER OF THESE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS, WHO HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO LIVE!

  • Kat

    In other words the animal is beaten over the head. That is sickening and sadistic. Horses are amazing beings. I hope those who do this find a timely end.

  • Equus

    There’s a dreadful, inherent contradiction the Korean Racing Authority seems oblivious to. Promoting the prowess, stamina and speed of horses as they hurtle at 40 miles per hour doesn’t fit with ‘and you can eat them!’
    Just an aside; eating horse in Europe was associated with famines in the nineteenth century. Also, during the French Revolution the horses of aristocrats were eaten as one last insult to the guillotined aristocrats.
    Horses clearly were recognised for how they could help civilisation, not feed it except when times were dire.
    The unsourced figures quoted above regarding the popularity of horsemeat in Europe are suspect. In France the vast majority of consumers are over 50 with barely 7% being under 35. That’s according to the bbc and the daily telegraph.
    I think a big factor is cost but safety and regulation should be terrifying to most wannabe consumers. Clearly many people, like those French revolutionaries, wish to thumb their nose in the face of animal rights people, but a cheap source of meat with lousy regulation should scare any rational person. And that goes for dog, dolphin and whale but clearly these last three are discussions for other days.
    Ultimately though, I find it worrying that something which promotes horse racing sees this new role as a natural fit. Rather like a beauty salon deciding to expand by branching out to provide mortuary services, in the same salon.
    Changing horses midstream is never recommended.

  • Nancy Or


    • Meat eater

      Tell that to the French and Italians too!

      • JanWindsong

        The French and Italian markets are shutting down, realizing that a congenial species such as the horse is so aware of he process that is uttterly cruel o slaughter them. Also, your Korean racehorses are probably given drugs that will afflict humans, in partcular t Asians with deadly changes to the blood marrow.

        • Meat eater

          First of all, the markets shutting down is quite irrelevant. So should Korea shut down too? What an Euro-centric argument! So cows and pigs don’t know they are being slaugthered? really? And then all of a sudden you shift your concerns to the health of Asians. Even if Koreans did slaughter racehorses, the increasing demand would eventually lead to horse-breeding for consumption, canceling out racehorse for human consumption. Parts of the western world use racehorses for livestock anywho?

  • Meat eater

    Man the writers here are truly attention whores.

    • Meat eater

      I’m talking about the article writers.

      • Equus

        What an excellent point you make, why should they be trying to get people to read these articles? That’s just insane isn’t it? It baffles the mind that they are going for stories that draw people’s attention and which many people are interested in reading. Mad really. Why can’t they have more stories about crochet and cat videos? For shame.

  • JinROK

    In Korea and America people eat pigs. I have read about some Americans who have pigs as pets that live in their homes. What is a pet to one culture or country can be food to another. I don’t think people should kill and eat other people’s pets. However, if they want to breed different kinds of animals for food (horses, dogs, cats, etc.), I do need see the harm in it as long as the animals are not abused, and they are slaughtered in a humane manor. In regard to pets, what is considered sacred is subjective and/or arbitrary for different cultures and regions. -It is healthier to focus more in vegetables, right? 😉 …This is my opinion. Everyone has a different opinion. It is okay to disagree. Tangent: This is related…but for those who would argue that humans are another form of animal, I disagree. I do not believe that humans are completely the same as animals because I do not believe in macroevolution (microevolution is logical), and I also think humans have an eternal soul unlike animals. …Many will disagree and that’s okay.

  • dk

    From the article, “We knock out horses with the same hammer that we use for cows. Things may get a little messy if they do not pass out at the first blow,” he said. “Once they faint, we shoot a metal rod into their brain.”

    Horses are not cows, which is why they rarely “pass out” on the first blow, like cows, or cattle. This is also why it sometimes takes 11 blows to the head to kill a horse.

  • carty42

    Maybe we should pull our military from the border if they continue to eat horse. Or better yet may they get sick from all the drugs that’s in horse meat.

  • Kimberly Harris

    Horses are not food animals, they are companion animals. It’s like eating your dog. Oh, they do that in Korea, too! Something is very wrong with a culture that eats its pets.

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