They Still Eat Horses, Don’t They

The state of Florida is investigating the deaths of several horses that were stolen from their owners and killed; possibly to obtain their flesh to sell to people who eat horsemeat.  Comments from readers responding to articles that were written about the horses’ deaths unfortunately turned into rant fests about slaughter houses, anti-slaughter legislation and–if you can believe it–immigration policies.  The immigration reaction came about because reporters mentioned that horse meat is not typically consumed by Americans, but is consumed in other countries including France, Belgium, Japan and Cuba.  It’s probably the Cuba mention that provoked some of the anti-immigrant sentiment because I don’t think many Americans fear being overrun by “illegal” French, Belgian or Japanese immigrants.  Who knows.

All that aside, is there something unique about horses that should exempt them from being included along with other livestock as acceptably edible?  I am not a vegetarian or vegan although I rarely consume animal protein.  But is that like saying “I only murder occasionally?”  These stories that include details such as horses being led from their own fields, tied to a tree, bled until they die and butchered for their flesh make me sick.  I want to believe this kind of thing is rare and short-lived.  But is it really much different than taking a dairy calf from its mother and sending it out to be slaughtered so the mother can produce more milk for human consumption?  Or killing a lamb for chops?  Or a pig for bacon?  Or any of the other killings we commit or allow to be committed every day so that humans can consume steaks, burgers, milk, butter, cheese and so on?

Every so often there is an outcry over one or another “inhumane” method of food production.  Once it was the practice of keeping calves in small pens to produce tender veal.  Then it was the practice of force feeding geese to produce foie gras.  Recently attention was brought to a beef slaughterhouse in California whose employees were filmed dragging injured cattle with chains to be slaughtered.  We seem to agree that our treatment of non-human animals should be “humane,” but is there really a “humane” way to slaughter animals so we can eat their flesh?

A related question that preoccupies and even haunts me is what happens to the humans involved in these practices.  How does it feel to be the person who administers the stun bolt that renders the cow unconscious, or the person whose job is to dislocate the neck of hundreds or thousands of rabbits for meat production?  I just now learned that rabbits are not protected by the “Humane Methods of Slaughter Act” and are grouped with poultry under regulation (Food and Drug Administration) that serves only to protect the humans consuming the meat from food-borne illness, and does nothing to prevent the suffering of rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys killed to provide the meat.

And for any vegan who might be reading this, don’t rush to pat yourself on the back for following a practice (not eating meat or dairy) that saves animal lives (though it certainly does) until you consider the small animals–including rabbits, gophers and mice–trapped, maimed, starved and killed in the process of growing and harvesting grain, fruits and vegetables.

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