Thursday, December 01, 2011

Let them eat horse! Should eating horse meat be banned?

Controversy is rocking butchers across America, as a law banning the eating of horses is set to expire. But what's the big deal about eating horse?

Horse. Great with mashed potatoes?
For the last five years, the preparation and sale of horse meat for human consumption has effectively been banned, because the government refused to allow federal meat inspections which would allowed horse meat into the food chain.

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.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Roland, I could not AGREE more!

I really had not heard anything about this until I was driving home from work last night. Mark Levine was on the radio, and just as mad as hell about the whole deal.

Levin was so way against it that it really stumped me.

Hell! How much cattle has the man consumed in his lifetime? LIVE STOCK is LIVE STOCK.

Heck, I'm a vegetarian, and only eat fish meat (Since mammal for me, thank ya' very much!), so it's no skin off my nose either way. But, the uproar was just sad & funny to listen to.

Okay...horses are smarter than cows. But, pigs are smarter than horses. Of course, Mark probably doesn't eat pork (which is the smart thing to do). But the whole thing is truly hypocritical.

We are (currently) at the top of the food chain. If there is a market for horse, then raise and sell them. Hell, if I broke my non-meat-eating ways, I'd probably go for a horse way before a damn goat.