Energetic and industrious Chinese man prepares and cooks a horse’s head and it is sickening

I am doing a series of posts about Chinese cuisine in China. To Europeans and North Americans, it can look disgusting. To the Chinese it is normal. The difference is in the attitude towards animals. Many Chinese in China regard animals as utilitarian meaning that they need to benefit humans in a functional way other than companionship. So, they can be working animals and when their work is done, they should be cooked to provide a meal. That’s my interpretation.

Ai Weiwei the Chinese contemporary artists says that animals are only valued as tools for productivity. When they can’t work, they should be eaten. And the idea of compassion in regards to animal welfare is foreign to many Chinese he implies. Compassion is a questionable emotion. To Westerners compassion is an admired and deeply respected emotion. So, we have a stark difference between Americans, Europeans and the Chinese in their attitude towards animals.

Of course, I am generalising. There are many Chinese in China who are concerned with animal welfare.

Why on earth cook a horse’s head? Is it because that they believe that every part of an animal needs to serve a purpose? Or because they are poor and to throw away a horse’s head is a waste of good food. Or perhaps it tastes delicious.

Europeans in general don’t eat horse

In ancient times, the horse had a powerful association with deities. And the horse became an important sacrificial animal in many earlier pagan religions. When Christianity began to spread they mounted a campaign against this paganism and the new rules discredited the sacred customs of old religions. Eating horse flesh became wicked and dirty.

Despite the teachings of Christianity, pagan horse-eating persisted for several centuries. I’m referring to A.D. 700 and through mediaeval times. Buddha specifically prohibited the eating of horse flesh. The Prophet Muhammad (Islam) never ate horseflesh. Few Muslims eat horseflesh today. And neither do Hindus.

So there are widespread religious restrictions regarding eating horse. It is this background, argues Dr. Desmond Morris, which has resulted in North Americans, Europeans and many other citizens of many countries regarding the eating of horse as objectionable.

No such problem in China in any shape or form.

The French eat horsemeat

The French are well known for eating horsemeat. In Britain it is rarely eaten except perhaps by accident because suppliers are supplying horsemeat when they say that they are supplying beef. But apparently in France eating horsemeat wasn’t always popular. What I’ve mentioned above about Christianity outlawing horsemeat because it was linked to paganism applied to the French.

But things changed with the French Revolution. The starving masses appropriated the horses of the rich and wealthy, the aristocracy and ate them. And then in the 19th century I’m told starving French troops without food supplies and driven to desperation started to eat horses.

Napoleon fed his troops horse soup season with gunpowder at the Battle of Eylau in 1807. Through the eyes of history we can see how attitudes have changed. And it is perhaps therefore conceivable that the attitudes of the Chinese living in China will change too.


The Chinese are very committed to their traditions and their long history. They have a completely different attitude towards cuisine and the animals that they can eat or enjoy eating. Chinese cuisine is far more functional and not tainted with emotion. To some people like me it can seem almost brutal and simply unpleasant. This is a cultural difference. We can’t criticise just because there is a cultural difference.

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