A couple of days ago I read an article that reported “Horsemeat found in beefburgers on sale in UK and Ireland“. This BBC publication explained that DNA evidence showed that horse meat was present in “beef” products.
I’ll start with my bottom line on this story: So What!
Sure, I know that slaughtering horses for food may be illegal in some countries, and I don’t mean that laws should be ignored. And I realize that these products were mis-branded. They were sold as beef, and to some extent that was a false claim. I don’t mean that mis-branding should be tolerated either. But I don’t think this article was meant to expose a big case of lawbreaking. I think it was meant to sell advertising by shocking and disgusting people who have cultural or other reasons to find eating of horse meat shocking or disgusting. I am not one of those.
I am aware of at least some of the arguments against slaughtering horses for food:
Horse slaughter can be inhumane and horrifying. But I say that all animal slaughter can be inhumane and horrifying, and in fact such practices are happening all over the US, and they rarely make news any more. Animal slaughter can also be humane and with minimal or no suffering.
Horses are special, social animals, intelligent and easily bonding to humans. So are pigs, but Americans do love their bacon.
If horse slaughter is legal, even circus ponies or show horses could be killed for meat. Yes, or the family potbellied pig, or pet chickens, lambs, goats or rabbits.
Horses may be treated with dangerous chemicals. We’ve managed to deal with drug contamination with other food animals. Why can’t we manage this concern for horse?
Most people in the US would not eat horse. 30 years ago most people in the US would not eat raw fish either, but sushi is legal and has become quite popular. And by the way, raw fish can be dangerous unless it is properly caught, killed, transported and prepared.
Horses may be stolen to sell as meat. And cows are different how? I raise goats for milk, and chickens for eggs. I would not want them to be stolen and sold for meat. Neither would I want my dogs to be stolen for meat. But I don’t put legalizing horse meat in the same category as legalizing theft.
I have eaten horse meat, years ago in Europe. It was not unpleasant, either before or after I found out what it was. It was normal food for that place and time, just as beef and pork and lamb are normal food in the US.
I say why not eat horse meat? In most of Asia and Europe, it is not only legal, it is popular. Canada and Mexico have a thriving horse meat business. In the US the slaughter of horses for meat was banned on and off until 2012, when the previous 5-year ban was lifted. Even in the UK, where this article was written, horse meat is not illegal – it is “out of fashion“.
I’m neither an animal rights fanatic or an animal rights scoffer. I am an animal rights realist. I don’t like the fact that cows and chickens are often raised and slaughtered in inhumane conditions. I try not to buy meat without knowing this is not the history of my purchases. I just think that articles like this one should be relegated to the realm of media sensationalism and ignored.
So I’ll say it again – So What!