The Horse is the Wings of it’s People 2016-ongoing
The human and
the horse share a long history together. At first horses were working animals
with a practical purpose: they served as a means of transport, helped in
agriculture and in war. Nowadays, horses are domestic pets with a moral status:
used for personal pleasure, in sport competitions, and for medical therapy.
In 1948 my grandfather
began a business in what many now consider to be a taboo: horsemeat. At the
time people were poor, recovering from the struggles of World War II. The meat
was in demand, offering high quality produce for an affordable price. It became
a staple in Belgium and other European countries. Fast-forward to 70
years later; the third generation is ready to take over the wheel. My retiring
father has mixed feelings: he is proud that his children are continuing the
business, but also hesitant to provide them with a company that foresees a
Before it is
too late, I documented and investigated horse(meat) culture: Why is the horse population increasing? What happens to these
horses if they are no longer eaten? Why is horsemeat becoming less popular? Is
this only in Belgium, or is this a global trend?
The way a nation
deals with horses and horsemeat is culturally revealing. The equine industry plays a significant role in the socio-economic
and environmental sector. I travelled to nine countries spread over four
continents to visit places that hold different connections to horse culture. In Europe I visited
Belgium, France, Italy and Poland to document the end of the era.
Specialised slaughterhouses, horse butchers and restaurants are disappearing
rapidly. In Central-Asia horsemeat is not in decline, I travelled to Kyrgyzstan
where the meat is an expensive delicacy, kept solely for special occasions. In
South-America I visited Argentina and Uruguay; nations known for beef that shy
away from eating horse. They are currently the biggest exporter of horsemeat. A
big contrast was the United States; where a law is in place making sure their
horses are never slaughtered for human consumption.
The final result is a
layered documentary that explores the topic from multiple perspectives. In
doing so the story goes beyond a family history. It aims to be seen at large:
questioning where we came from, where we are today and how it might be in the
future. There must be a change in animal welfare and food production, but there
are big differences as to which route to take. How sustainable do we deal with
the earth? What is the role of the consumer? And how do we relate to animals?