Considered taboo in many parts of the world, eating horsemeat remains sufficiently widespread in Italy for the country to have to import live animals destined for the slaughterhouse. And contrary to popular perception, not all are tired old specimens on their last legs, according to a horse-loving couple based in the country village of Vigone near Turin in northern Italy who are seeking to raise awareness of the trade with neighbouring France. In the last four years, Tony Gerardi and his wife Miky Daidone have saved around 40 healthy young horses from the butcher’s knife by training them for roles ranging from ploughing up fields to helping hyperactive kids to learn how to concentrate and relax.
People think that slaughtered horses are all mature adults, even old and worn out, but in the vast majority of cases it is young horses that are eaten because their meat is more tender.
Gerardi and Daidone know they are not going to stop the trade. Instead their goal is to demonstrate a practical alternative through their “Save the Working Horse” project. Once they have identified someone willing to take a horse, they make a date with local importers to choose the animal which will get a last-minute reprieve. Some will simply become riding horses, either as family pets or at country trekking centres and farms offering holiday accommodation. Others are trained to pull sight-seeing carriages or provide children’s pony rides in tourist spots.
As far as I am concerned, people can eat what they like and it is not realistic to try to ban something that has been done for so long. Rather the concept is to try to make people revalue these animals and say, ‘Look: see what they can do’.