The taste for horse meat has waxed and waned throughout European history. Horses were certainly on the menu for paleolithic Europeans, but for centuries Papal and royal decrees outlawed hippophagy throughout much of the continent
But in 19th-century France, the taboo against horse-eating was relaxed in no small part to the efforts of Émile Decroix, a military veterinarian who argued that surplus horses could help alleviate hunger among the Parisian population. The consumption of horse meat became legal in France in 1866, and viande chevaline received a boost in acceptance during the Paris Commune of 1870-1871, when many starving Parisians turned to horses—as well as with dogs, cats, and rats—as a food source (though the wealthy were better able to afford more exotic fare from the city’s zoo).
Parc Georges Brassens now sits on the site of les abattoirs, where up until the 1970s horses were butchered alongside cattle and sheep. The market stalls where horses were sold now houses a used book market on Saturdays and Sundays. Several monuments commemorate the glory days of the chevaline industry, including a bust citing Decroix’s work as a “propagateur” of horse meat and a memorial for chevaline workers killed in the first world war. The book market under the halle aux chevaux and a 1991 bronze statue of a meat porter can be found along Rue Brancion at the eastern edge of the park. Le Portail Abattoirs, an ornate arched entryway, topped with a horse’s head, marks the 1907 location of the marché aux chevaux at the northeast corner of the park.
On certain occasions, Parc Georges Brassens still offers pony rides.
Know Before You Go
Bus lines 89 and 95 have stops at the northeast corner of Parc Georges Brassens.
Metro station Convention (metro line 12) is 1 km northwest of the Portail Abbatoirs park entrance.
Metro station Porte de Vanves (metro line 13) is 400 m southeast of the Decroix memorial.