Thoroughbred horse meat on the restaurant tables of Europe is a sad fact of life, say top names in the racing business.

As revealed in last week's Herald on Sunday, horses, including many bred for racing but found unsuitable, are sent to Gore abattoir Clover Export for export to Europe. The slaughterhouse is Belgian-owned. New Zealand exports $2.27 million of the meat annually.

Top breeder Sir Patrick Hogan of Cambridge Stud (CS) reacted to the story with pragmatism and sadness. "I wouldn't really like to see a CS brand on horses to be eaten," he said.

"You certainly wouldn't get me to eat any horse meat. I guess at the end of the day, the main thing is that they are slaughtered humanely. If they are, then that's pretty acceptable to me."


Sir Patrick supported Wellingtonian Stephanie Davidson's idea of re-homing retired horses, but said there was a large number of such animals requiring a lot of land and resources. "But at the end of the day somebody had to look after the horse."

Greg Purcell, chief executive of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, said the organisation "doesn't oppose horse meat export".

New Zealand had about 200,000 horses including about 42,000 thoroughbred and harness racing horses. Last year just 5700 horses started races, 7900 were registered brood mares, and only 162 registered stallions.

Antwerp butcher Marc Goeminne was amazed to hear New Zealand thoroughbred horse meat was available in Belgium.

"Racehorses mostly are beautiful horses. Even when it's not a good race horse you can ride it - it's not for eating."