Well done to David Thomas (Wiltshire Times, February 22) for highlighting some uncomfortable facts that everyone seems determined to ignore.

We Brits pride ourselves on being animal lovers. Yet now we learn that even whilst we’re donating to charities that help horses in countries where animal welfare is non-existent, these same creatures are ending up on our dinner plates.

Some have been left to die by the roadside. Others are wild horses rounded up by criminal gangs. They will have been petrified, exhausted, quite possibly diseased. All end up in slaughter- houses to be killed in ways – and conditions – that in the UK would result in criminal proceedings.

But these contaminated meat products may also contain horses slaughtered more locally. Last year some 9,000 met their fate in UK slaughterhouses, the majority being thoroughbred racehorses callously sold by owners who were determined to make every last penny out of them (rather than paying to have them put down humanely and with dignity by a vet).

In some cases, foals as young as a few days old ended up dying alongside their mothers. The rest were once-loved but now no longer wanted family pets. What’s more, few people realise that processed meats may also contain those ponies we all ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over during trips to the New Forest and Exmoor – despite regulations about sending them for slaughter abroad, many are still exported to suffer horrendous journeys and barbaric deaths.

Whilst macho carnivores insist they don’t care what’s in their burgers as long as they taste OK, and jaded comedians find something new to joke about, it’s often the youngsters who have open minds, who dare ask questions, who want to know the truth. Yet last week on Radio 2, a teenage horse-owner who’d decided to give up meat was described as ‘emotional’, a word that carried more than a hint of criticism.

What’s wrong with caring about animal suffering? Isn’t it why so many of us support the RSPCA and other such organisations? And if we can admit to being emotional about cats and dogs, why not horses and ponies too? And cows, sheep, pigs and all the other animals that end up in the human food chain, come to that?

It’s the cheaper meat products that are most likely to be contaminated. Yet most supermarkets now also offer a vast range of vegetarian sausages, burgers, frankfurters, nuggets, mince for use in a variety of dishes, all tasty, inexpensive – and completely guilt-free. Surely it’s worth giving them a try?

Of course, if you want to try something more challenging there are equally as many natural ingredients to whet your appetite and inspire you. And if you can’t cope with being completely vegetarian, how about seeing meat as a treat rather than a basic? Buying from your local butcher may cost a bit more, but at least you’ll know exactly which animal it is you’re eating.

Jan Hunt, Box.