Commentary by Fran Jurga as published in Equus
The conversation she is asking for is still taboo enough to be spoken only in hushed tones or in redactable memos…
A few weeks ago, she was the darling of The Jurga Report. Readers and Facebook friends were touched by Great Britain’s Princess Anne’s recent decision to source her new riding horse from the collection of adoptables housed at a rehoming center run by World Horse Welfare.
She was the royal face for Doing What’s Right in the horse world. This week, many think she’s turned her back on welfare ethics with a call to debate the place of horse slaughter in the bigger picture of neglected and unwanted horses.
Princess Anne was talking about Great Britain and Europe, but her comments are sure to be quoted around the world. What’s interesting is the way that people are reacting to her comments, made when conducting the keynote address at the annual conference of World Horse Welfare (WHW) in London on Thursday.
You might have to watch that video clip more than once to understand the context. Should a member of the royal family be so outspoken on such a hot-button issue? Should a high-profile horsewoman be saying such things? And as the president of World Horse Welfare, shouldn’t she be much more sensitive to the plight of unwanted horses? Was she really suggesting that horse slaughter, which is completely legal and somewhat regulated in Great Britain and across Europe, might have a role to play in improving equine welfare?
While Princess Anne didn’t speak directly in favor of eating horsemeat, she only stopped just short of setting a place at the table of equine welfare advocacy for it when she suggested that the value of horses traded for meat plays a potential role in ensuring that they receive better care.
But do pounds on the hoof for the slaughterhouse scale truly translate to improvements in equine welfare for horses in countries where they are traded for meat potential at the end of their usefulness under saddle?
Let the debate begin.
The monarchy in Great Britain could be seen as a celebrity sideshow capable of expansive world-theater weddings, dramatic births, and fashion icons. It’s in the horse world that the British royal family and its horses show up with their game faces on, whether in polo, Thoroughbred racing, eventing, heavy horses, and breeding classes at horse shows. The Queen likes being photographed on horseback, in spite of her advanced years, and she certainly shows her royal displeasure when one of her horses is beaten in the homestretch at Royal Ascot.
Prince William plays polo, Zara Phillips wins Olympic medals in eventing, Prince Charles farms with heavy horses.
But it’s Princess Anne who is involved at the make-a-difference level, with her involvement in organizations like the livery of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, where she is past master, and the globally-ambitious World Horse Welfare, where she serves as president. She also was instrumental in the effort to bring the 2012 Olympics to London, and has served as president of the British Olympic Association, has been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is a former Olympian herself, having represented Great Britain in eventing at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. She was president of the FEI for eight years, from 1986 to 1994.
And it’s Princess Anne who makes waves instead of the gossip columns.
his is one royal who doesn’t just pose for photos. Don’t look for the name of her outfit’s designer in the lead sentence of articles about her.
We’ve seen her fall off her horse. We’ve seen her act like a horse show mom. When she mentions a Shetland pony wearing a blanket in her speech, she makes a face only an opinionated horse owner could make.
Her suggestion that equations between better horse care and horse meat values should be openly discussed put her in the headlines more than rescuing any horse ever could. For all the wrong reasons, soundbites from the World Horse Welfare conference can be manipulated to make it sound like she is calling for her merely mortal subjects to buck up, do the right thing and eat more horse meat.
But that’s not what she said. She was suggesting that the debate open to discuss whether an increased monetary value for horse meat might translate to a better-cared-for horse among the at-risk population in Great Britain. The debate might open with the problem that if people throw food at thin horses, colic and laminitis might be the immediate results. Would a person who has neglected a horse or who claims to be unable to afford to provide better care go to the expense of veterinary care for a sick horse?…(CONTINUED)
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