Meatworkers rally around besieged horse butcher

The meatworkers' union says Australians need to get used to the idea that horse meat is no different from meats like steak or pork.

The issue of eating horses came to the fore late last week when a Perth butcher said he had received death threats after getting the go ahead to sell horse meat for human consumption.

Graham Smith from the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union says that is outrageous.

"There are people employed in this industry, and if you start talking about shutting down the industry you simply start talking about putting people out of work," he said.

"And if you start chucking people out of work in those rural areas a lot of those towns rely on that employment - it would be a disaster."

The union says the economic importance of horse meat production to South Australia should not be ignored.

The town of Peterborough is one of only two Australian centres to have a horse abattoir and the industry is a small but important employer in South Australia's mid-north.

Mr Smith says any threat to the industry is a threat to rural jobs.

"The industry is not a particularly big industry it's not likely to get any larger than what it is," he said.

"It supports a couple of towns around Australia - they rely on it for their lifeblood basically - it employs a number of people - Peterborough is a small town, it relies on that meatworks for a lot of its economy."