“As I tried to make out what the blurry green tattoos on Leo’s forearms might have once depicted, I thought about how hippophagy—the eating of horses, denounced by the church as a symbol of Celtic and Teutonic paganism—was outlawed by Pope Gregory III in the year 723. A “filthy and abominable practice,” he called it, though some historians maintain the real motive was the church’s desire to to keep horses alive for use on the battlefield.
Despite Papal objections, horses are still commonly eaten around the world. One can find horse meat bresaola in Italy, a traditionally Catholic country. It is made into satay in Indonesia, sausages in Kazakhstan, and eaten raw in Japan. Horse meat can be found on restaurant menus in Belgium and France, and a traditional Rhineland sauerbraten is made not with beef, but horse meat.
Still, horses have never been bred for the quality of their meat, but for their physical abilities. And since horses are not raised specifically for eating in all but a few countries, aligning supply with demand means slaughtering lame, sick, or old animals that have outlived their usefulness to their owners.
Prices charged by trendy restaurateurs notwithstanding, old thoroughbreds can go for as little as $100 to so-called “kill buyers,” who hang out at racetrack auctions and bid on horses past their prime.”