|Horse. Great with mashed potatoes?|
That's all set to change. President Obama has just signed a law which includes a provision to lift that ban – and see horse slaughterhouses open up again in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, there's uproar. Horses are held in high esteem in America – often perceived as one of the great symbols of the Old West. The last U.S. Slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 – and animal rights activists have vowed to fight against any reopening.
But my question is this – what's the big deal about eating horses?
In America, we consume millions of tons of cow meat every year, plus untold millions of tons of pork, chicken, bacon, turkey, lamb and venison. Rarer delicacies often enjoyed include alligator (I had some just last month) snake and pretty much anything else that's too slow to escape the gunsights of this nation's avid (and hungry) hunters.
Why should horses be any different?
Well, I have one very good reason in mind: Taste.
I've only eaten horse meat once, in Paris, and it was tough and revolting. Why is this? Because unlike beef, lamb or pork, horses slaughtered for human consumption are never raised for human consumption. They're traditionally the old, injured or sick animals carted off the slaughterhouse because the owner can no longer look after them.
Speaking as somebody who loves a good bit of meat – mouthwatering tenderloin, buttery veal or succulent pork chops – I speak with authority when I say that sick, old animals make shitty eating.
I'm also not keen on the way horses are sometimes transported and handled when they're destined for meat preparation – the live export of horses in Europe is just heartbreakingly cruel; even from the perspective of somebody who has no twang of conscience when it comes to eating other animals (who are generally slaughtered more humanely – not for ethical reasons, but because "stressed" meat doesn't taste as good.)
Horses, on the whole, do not lend themselves to eating.
But in America, you can turn the animal cruelty issue on its head. Unlike in Europe and China, where the export and slaughter of horses is cruel, the opposite is often true in the U.S.. Since the ban on slaughtering horses came into effect, farmers and horse owners have had nowhere to take their old or unfit animals – and that's seen a 60% jump in horse neglect cases and abandonment; which is arguably far more cruel than a quick, clean kill in an abattoir.
Ultimately, I support lifting the ban on the slaughtering of horses because anything else is just hypocritical. It's ridiculous to watch lawmakers claim that eating horse is "cruel" or "wrong" when we happily eat all sorts of other animals. Why the double standard? Aside from an old fashioned romanticism – which I am fully part of, don't get me wrong – there's no logic to not eating horse.
I just won't be ordering it any time soon.