The name of the course is the famous Mr. Ed

This article on the debate about slaughtering American horses for food is unexpectedly fascinating. Most Americans find the idea of eating horse meat repellant, primarily, I suspect, because of the horse’s high place in American imagery. But in restaurants in Canada, France, Italy, Belgium, and Japan, the meat is treated and priced as a delicacy. Some of that meat comes from three plants in the US, who export the meat or sell it to American zoos to use in feeding big cats.

Last fall, Congress included an amendment in an agricultural bill that would have shut the trade down. Though not banning horse slaughter, it forbade the use of taxpayer funds for the inspection of horse slaughtering facilities. This put the plants in the difficult position of being technically allowed to sell their meat, but unable to get regulatory approval of their product. It was basically Congress’s way of outlawing horse slaughter without having to take a vote on the subject explicitly.

In March, the Department of Agriculture amended its internal policies to get around the new law, allowing slaughterhouses to pay the $350,000/year inspection cost themselves. Congressmen are predictably upset, and Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced bills that would outlaw transporting and slaughtering horses for human consumption.

Arguments against horse slaughter tend to evoke noble animals involved in the Kentucky Derby, Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and the Pony Express. They also like to throw in that the three US plants are “foreign owned.” Opponents of the ban, including some veterinary groups, stress the potential unintended consequences. Unable to afford expensive euthanasia and rendering, they argue, horse owners deprived of the right to sell their animals to slaughterhouses will instead let them live on neglected and in inhumane conditions.

Personally, as long as horse slaughterhouses are held to the same standards as all others, I see no reason to ban them. But it will be interesting to see how this plays out in Congress. If the bill stays quiet, I wouldn’t be surprised if agricultural interests can keep the trade alive. If it garners public attention, I expect few congressmen will be anxious to come out in favor of eating Mr. Ed.

For more, see the Wikipedia entry on horse meat.

[Via Slashfood.]

Comments

  1. Barzelay says:

    Yeah, I’d read that article as well. From where did you hear about that article? Do you read Slashfood?

    I want to try horse. I think it is ridiculous that we’d be allowed to eat cow or pig and not horse. At the same time, I can just see the campaign ads next election.

    First we see wild horses, frolicking free in a meadow. “Senator Russ Feingold says he represents average Americans.” Cut to picture of Feingold with a bib chowing down on some meat. “But Russ Feingold supports the brutal slaughter and consumption of ponies.” The sound of terrified neighing. “That doesn’t sound like your average American to me.” Then, cut to shot of talking horse. “Hi, I’m Mr. Ed, and I approve this message.”

  2. Jacob Grier says:

    That would be an awesome commercial. A shame it would also be illegal for horse lovers to run it 60 days before his election without running into all kinds of hassles with the FEC, thanks to Feingold’s own legislation.

    I hadn’t read Slashfood till I saw it linked on your del.icio.us feed a couple days ago. Looks great though, I subscribed immediately.

  3. cassandra says:

    i went to school with a girl whose family raised horses and they killed and ate one every thanksgiving. i don’t remember why… they didn’t regularly kill their horses for other people to eat- but every november they’d go out to their pasture and pick dinner.

  4. Mike says:

    I agree with Barzelay on wanting to try horse. Of course, I generally believe that most animals should be tasted by humans at some point, and would like to taste most of them myself.

  5. Ben says:

    On a somewhat unrelated note, I’m actually helping in the prosecution of an animal cruelty case right now. But that involves hundreds of dogs kept in deplorable conditions and going blind and shit like that (it’s ugly).

    I’d say I don’t have a problem with killing horses, per se. My concern would definitely be about HOW it is done and how they live. Are they kept in one space so small that they can’t even turn around their entire lives (like some pigs are)? Is the death as painless as possible? If the conditions aren’t cruel then….well….yummy!

  6. Jacob Grier says:

    I’ve got to run, so just a brief answer…

    From what I read, “factory farming” of horses in the US is not an issue. Horses aren’t bred for slaughter here, but are rather purchased when they are old or no longer good for other purposes. There have been some concerns about how they are transported or killed, but I don’t know if these are legitimate concerns or emotional reactions to truly standard practices.

    Far larger quantities of horse meat are produced elsewhere in the world (see the Wikipedia entry), so conditions may be worse there. On the other hand, some suggest that horses are generally treated better than cows, and therefore seek horse meat as a more animal-friendly product to consume.

  7. Court says:

    How can you say things about wanting to try horses? they were at one stage the only method of transport. I am only 13 but i love the idea of a talking horse. i think it should be illegal to eat animals other than cows, pigs, and chicken.but politicians say”hey shes only a kid and only being 13 she wouldn’t know what we want.” it outrages me to think of a poor horse or pony being eaten, but as i said before. inm only a kid and many people dont agree with what i say. i love my horse as much as i love my mother but even when she kicked me and almost broke my nose i still love her. you are all stupid and dont know what you want. i am so angry right now i cant even type properly.

  8. Doug Winship says:

    I had no idea you were so hot among the 13 year old, horse-loving, libertarian, cocktail demographic, Jacob!

  9. RD says:

    The horse kicked her in the face? Yikes.

  10. Jacob Grier says:

    @RD: I hope it was the horse and not the mother.

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