Just Say Neigh: Why Some People Are Disgusted by Horsemeat

The horsemeat scandal sweeping Europe has turned many a stomach over the past few weeks.

In several countries, including China, Kazakhstan, and even France, horsemeat consumption is culturally acceptable. But many Westerners find it repulsive.

University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Paul Rozin has made a career out of studying such culturally distinctive disgust patterns. And he explains why many of us freely eat beef, pork, and poultry while gagging over the thought of a horseburger.

“Horse meat has disgust qualities,” he says, “because a) it is meat (almost all disgusting foods are animals or animal products), b) it is not one of the exceptions we make to the ‘animal-food-is-disgusting’ general rule; and c) horses are vaguely in the category of ‘pet’ animals, and we are especially offended about eating pets.”

Over the last 25 years, Rozin’s research has focused on human food choice, considered from biological, psychological, and anthropological perspectives. He has studied attitudes toward meat and the development of food aversions and preferences.

For more about Paul Rozin and his research, click here.

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