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Let Them Eat Horse

Let Them Eat Horse

Chapter:
(p.84) Chapter Four Let Them Eat Horse
Source:
Precarious Partners
Author(s):
Kari Weil
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226686400.003.0005

At the center of the book, chapter 4 raises what might otherwise seem an anomalous issue: hippophagy or eating horse. After a brief glance at Théophile Gautier’s painterly representation of the horse slaughter yards at Montfaucon, it seeks to understand why and how in the middle of the Second Empire, when the popularity and presence of the horse as worker, prized possession, and even pampered pet were at their height, the consumption of horsemeat was legalized for humans in France. Why was horse good to eat? This question is examined both historically through an analysis of contemporary debates surrounding slaughter, hygiene, gastronomy and domestication, and theoretically in light of Jacques Derrida’s notion of what it means to “eat well.” For the zoologist Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, who wrote the entry on domestication for the Encyclopédie nouvelle and was the primary voice behind the crusade to eat horses, there was no contradiction between the horse’s service as fellow laborer and as food.

Keywords:   Montfaucon, Théophile Gautier, Jacques Derrida, hyppophagy, disgust

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