An animal advocacy group has challenged a US presidential candidate over his apparent decision to eat a horsemeat sandwich.
Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee, who won the recent Iowa Caucus vote, has been asked by United Animal Nations (UAN) to educate himself about horse slaughter and reconsider consuming a Dutch horsemeat dish, which he reportedly described as tasting "like chicken".
According to Washington Wire, a Wall Street Journal blog, Huckabee made the comment on December 21, when speaking with reporters in Iowa. The blog entry suggested that Huckabee was perhaps pandering to the Dutch Iowan vote when he mentioned several of his favorite Dutch foods, including one made from horsemeat.
"Given that an estimated 70% of Americans disapprove of eating horses, and that our own House of Representatives passed a bill to ban horse slaughter in 2006, I was shocked that a high-profile presidential candidate would show such flippancy about a current issue that is important to many Americans and legislators," UAN President and chief executive Nicole Forsyth said.
"We hope that Mr Huckabee will check the facts and learn why most Americans view horses as an icon and companion, not as a dinner option. We have sent him a letter explaining why most Americans find eating horses deplorable."
In the letter, the organisation pointed out that although horsemeat is considered a delicacy in Europe and Asia, the vast majority of Americans oppose eating it.
The group argued that horses suffered during transport to the slaughterhouse and were killed using equipment designed for cattle.
The US Department of Agriculture reported that 92% of the 100,000 horses slaughtered in the United States at three foreign-owned slaughterhouses in 2006 were young horses in "good" condition, contradicting a common belief that slaughtered horses are typically old or injured.
In 2007, state-level legislation and legal action caused all three US slaughterhouses to close.
Federal legislation to permanently ban horse slaughter for meat is currently in both the US House and Senate.
The popular celebrity gossip site TMZ.com also carried the story of Huckabee's meal preference, drawing several critical comments from readers.
One posted: "Americans find it offensive to eat a horse due to our culture, and it is our culture that shapes our laws. Mr Huckabee if you truly want to be president I advise you to take those Americans into consideration."