Trinis eating horse meat
By SEAN DOUGLAS Monday, February 18 2013
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Food Production Minister, Devant Maharaj, says horses from the Arima Race Track are routinely eaten by people....
EVEN as Europe is hit by a food scandal of the secret addition of ground-up horse meat to beef to make hamburgers, reports are that Trinis are knowingly eating horse-steaks as a delicacy. In fact, horse meat consumption is thriving so much in east Trinidad that it is threatening the traditional supply of old horses from Arima Race Track to feed the lions of the Emperor Valley Zoo, which now has plans afoot to create its own supply of horse meat.
Food Production Minister, Devant Maharaj, said horses from the Arima Race Track are routinely eaten, as Newsday sought details about the possibility of TT unknowingly importing ground-up horse-meat.
“We don’t have the number of horses for that,” said Maharaj of the industrial-scale addition of ground-up horse meat to make burgers. “It wouldn’t be economically viable.” However Maharaj said despite that, horse meat is eaten in TT.
“Normally when a horse dies on the race-track, before he probably even hits the ground, he is sliced up and diced up already.” He said the horses are turned into horse meat by track staff such as the grooms.
“Once you’re living in Arima and a horse dies on the tracks, that horse ‘dish up’ already. Barb-B-Q horse! Soup! Remember those thoroughbred horses are very lean and have no set of fat, but are very well taken care of,” said Maharaj.
“Other than the racetrack, there are not many horses in Trinidad, except for a couple of farms. We don’t have the land-space to have horses running all over the place.” He did not think horse meat was openly sold at markets, simply because it is too rare. “No, no. It’s too much of a delicacy,” Maharaj said. “You have to go to the race-track and wait until a horse dies or something.”
He said as a delicacy, the rarity of horse meat gave it a panache akin to that of lobster. Maharaj could not comment of the European horse meat scandal which falls under the Minister of Trade, under which falls the Bureau of Standards, while Maharaj’s Ministry deals with locally-made foodstuffs.
Zoological Society head, Gupte Lutchmedial, told Newsday human consumption of horse meat now threatens the supply to the zoo’s carnivorous creatures such as lions and ocelots.
“For all the time that the zoo has been in existence, the horse-racing industry has been able to give most of the meat, the old racehorses, to the zoo. In fact we collect horses weekly, a horse or two horses, that are old horses or horses of no value to the owner. On different days we collect them.
We have two large deep — freezes and we store up as much meat as possible, but we keep a certain number of horses alive. We have a 40-acre corral in Manzanilla beach right now where we are keeping about 16 horses. We keep them alive, but if we run out from the deep-freeze we use them.” A badly injured horse will be slaughtered and put into the deep freeze, he added.
“But what is happening over the last two years is that we are having competition from people who are selling and eating horse meat. There’s a butcher from east Trinidad who barbeques horse meat on weekends, and sells curried horse meat. “He has started to compete with us because he will go and buy the horses instead. Last year we had to pay up to $2,000 per horse when normally we could get it for free. We are competing with humans.
“This butcher goes around places taking orders for horse meat and delivers it to them. He sells about 400 or 500 pounds of horse meat every week.
“He is doing a thriving business,” said Lutchmedial. He said the butcher also sells at a certain market in east Trinidad.
“That is putting pressure on us at the zoo because we have some carnivores which depend on horses from the racing industry, as we can’t afford to buydomesticated meals for large animals.”
He said he did not think anyone tried to disguise horse meat as beef in TT, but said some people buy it outright, for $10 to $15 per pound.
Lutchmedial said the zoo’s carnivores eat 800 pounds per week. The zoo has 30 carnivores consisting of four lions, eight ocelots, one cougar and smaller animals, and also has birds of prey such as owls and hawks.
He said the zoo now plans to use its lands at Manzanilla to start to maintain and rear herds of horses, cattle, goats, sheep and water buffalo to supply animals to the carnivores, failing which they will have to import horsemeat.
However the safety of horse meat is queried due to the medications fed to race- horses. The global lobby, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), says many horses are fed the drugs Lasix (which controls bleeding in the lungs), phenylbutazone (an anti-inflammatory), and cortisco-steroids (for inflammation).