The princess, one of Britain's best-known horsewomen and the charity's president, said in a speech to a conference Thursday that horses in Britain might be treated better if they were used for food, Horse & Country reported. She said she hoped to start a debate on the subject.
"Our attitudes to the horse meat trade and the value of horsemeat may have to change," she said.
Horse World Welfare reported last month that the number of horses being neglected or abandoned has increased because of Britain's economic problems. Anne pointed out in her speech that in France horse meat often sells for higher prices than beef and said that the horse meat scandal this year was a result of false labeling.
Roly Owers, the charity's chief executive, called eating horse flesh a "taboo" subject in Britain and said Anne was "brave" to talk about it. Owers said World Horse Welfare is concerned about how horses are treated while they are alive and does not oppose the humane killing of horses.
But animal rights groups were angered by Anne's suggestion. Andrew Tyler of Animal Aid told the Daily Express that chickens, cattle and other animals used for food are not treated humanely.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged Anne to oppose "the cruel horse-racing industry." Most of the royal family, including the princess, are racing enthusiasts.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which boasts Queen Elizabeth II as a patron, said it has "sympathy" with the view that horses are "companion animals" and should not be regarded as a food source.