Considered taboo in many parts of the world, eating horse meat remains sufficiently widespread in Italy for the country to have to import live animals destined for the slaughterhouse.
However, contrary to popular perception, not all horses set for slaughter 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 neighboring France.
Over the past four years, Tony Gerardi and his wife, Miky Daidone, have saved about 40 healthy young horses from the butcher’s knife by training the animals for roles ranging from plowing fields to helping hyperactive kids learn how to concentrate and relax.
“People think that slaughtered horses are all mature adults, even old and worn out,” Daidone told reporters. “However, in the vast majority of cases, it is young horses that are eaten because their meat is more tender.
“That’s why every year there are thousands of colts and fillies imported from France to be slaughtered in Italy,” she added.
Gerardi and Daidone know they are not going to stop the long-lived 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.
Daidone said the selection process can be difficult.
“Obviously, we can only take one at a time and the others will go to the slaughterhouse. However, that is how it is, and not all of the horses have the psychological or physical characteristics required for a working life,” she said.
They are not out to change the world, she said.
“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,” Daidone said.
“Rather, the concept is to try to make people revalue these animals and say: ‘Look: See what they can do,’” she added.
Most of the horses they take are of the Comtois breed, a medium-sized French working horse that was used in the cavalries of Louis XIV and Napoleon, and is famed for its docile temperament.
After arriving at Gerardi and Daidone’s ranch L’Estancia, the horses are allowed to recover from what have often been traumatic journeys before the initial phase of breaking them in begins.
“Tony takes care of that, because most of these horses are wild, they can be skittish and it can be dangerous,” Daidone said. “Then I help him, and in the final phase the new owners come to learn how to continue the training. Usually, that all takes about three weeks.”
The horses that pass through L’Estancia are bound for a variety of roles.
Some will simply become riding horses, either as family pets or at country trekking centers and farms offering holiday accommodation. Others are trained to pull sight-seeing carriages or provide children’s pony rides in tourist spots.
There is also growing interest in Italy in the use of horses in therapy for people suffering from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems, including children with attention deficit disorder.
One supporter of Gerardi and Daidone’s initiative is Henry Finzi-Constantine, who uses heavy horses rather than tractors to pull plows at the nearby Castello di Tassarolo, a wine estate.
“Tony has a keen eye,” he said. “When I got my horse, Cyrus, from him, he said: ‘Henry, this is your horse,’” Finzi-Constantine said.
“That was a Monday and he was due to be slaughtered on the Wednesday. So I had to empty my pockets on the Tuesday,” he added.
“However, Tony was right: Cyrus has the head of an angel, the heart of a lion and the backside of a farmer’s daughter. He is by far the best horse in the stable,” Finzi-Constantine said.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Dark matter, mysterious invisible stuff that makes up most of the mass of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is confounding scientists again, with new observations of distant galaxies conflicting with the current understanding of its nature. Research published this week revealed an unexpected discrepancy between observations of dark matter concentrations in three massive clusters of galaxies encompassing trillions of stars and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed. “Either there is a missing ingredient in the simulations or we have made a fundamental incorrect assumption about the nature of dark matter,” Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, a coauthor of