This is the second part in our series about the horse industry, so if you missed the introduction or part one, you might want to read those first. I also want to take this moment to make the distinction between “animal rights” and “animal welfare”. I am, as I said earlier this week, pro-animal welfare. I want animals to be treated, as good as we can treat, them without raising them to “human” status, while they are alive and living on this earth.
We’re still going through the Utah State University Paper that was written on the current state of the industry, and then we’ll talk about the other things that will and have come up for discussion.
To refresh our memories- Argument 1 against horse processing is that we as Americans shouldn’t participate in such a cruel, inhumane act.
Before we get too involved in looking at the second argument, it might be best to read this number first: 4.7 million.
That is the number of horses, according to Wikipedia, that the top 8 horse-meat consuming countries eat yearly. As has been mentioned, roughly 100,000 horses of the estimated 9.2 million that live in this country go to slaughter yearly. I have read numbers as high as 150,000. Even at 150,000 we are only providing about 3% of the horse meat that the world consumes. Unless my math is wrong. And frankly, that was never my strong suite!
Argument 2. The United States should not provide horse meat to satisfy the needs of other countries when Americans do not eat horse meat.
The American Horse Defense Fund , which is a fervent supporter of bills now in the United States Congress that would ban slaughtering horse for meat, declared that “foreign-owned slaughter industry need to understand that Americans will never view horse as dinner.” It’s a ringing statement, but “it’s not an entirely accurate one” (Weil, 2007).
Americans have eaten horse meat at different periods of our history, for example during WWII and post war years (Weil, 2007). Beef and pork were scarce or costly so horse meat appeared or was readily available in butcher shops. In 1951, in Portland, Oregon, horsemeat became an important item on dinner tables with three times as many horse butchers selling three times as much meat. Also, in 1973 with meat prices soaring, a butcher shop in Connecticut converted to horse meat selling 6,000 lbs a day. Into the late 1970s, the Harvard Faculty Club served horse steaks as a regular menu item, only abandoned due to rerouting of traffic flow causing delivering problems (Weil, 2007).*
The United States has been providing horse meat to many different countries for decades. Before 1979 horses were shipped live on boats to Europe, but due to transport concerns and high mortality, this international transport for processing was prohibited (Stull, 2001). The harvesting plants opened in the United States to process animals in country and ship the meat overseas. Four ounces of horse meat contains 20% greater protein than beef (sirloin) with 25% less fat, nearly 20% less sodium, double the iron and 1 mg less cholesterol. Compared to ground beef, horse meat has 55% more protein, 25% less fat, 30% less cholesterol, and 27% less sodium. For many less developed countries and with the BSE problems in beef, horse meat is a better dietary substitute (Ahern et al., 2006). As stated above the groups supporting this ban indicate that the U.S. should not provide meat to other countries that we do not ourselves consume, but the United States harvesting plants provide products from sheep and beef carcasses which are not eaten by Americans and considered delicacies in foreign markets.
All that being said, I don’t know that I’d eat horse for dinner, but if that was all I had, and I were hungry enough I would certainly consider it. It may not be something we see as acceptable in our culture, NOW, but there are other cultures that view it as perfectly acceptable (In Sweden, it outsells mutton and lamb combined. Italy consumes more horse meat than any other country in the European Community), and I’m not going to tell them how and what they can eat. Currently there are only 5 states in which it is illegal to consume horse meat: California, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. .If you’re not new to this blog you know that I’m not in favor of vegans/vegetarians telling me how to eat, just as I don’t tell them they should eat meat. And, seriously, who doesn’t love a good steak?
It seems to me, however as a result of the plant closings in 2007 that a few things have happened.
1. We haven’t stopped a single horse from going to slaughter. What we’ve done is give them a longer ride to the processing facility because now they’re going to either Mexico or Canada. And that longer ride creates additional stress and undue turmoil on them. That’s “humane”, right? That is a fact and it cannot be denied. No longer can the rancher/farmer/individual, take their own horse to the local sale, spend a few moments with it to say goodbye. Now it has to go 2000 miles or more (if they’re from SD going to Mexico) which is a 3-4 day trailer ride at best. Used to be it was a day to Illinois.
2. By taking away the rendering plants, sometimes we are prolonging the life of animals that would have been previously sent to those facilities. That’s not always a good thing. As a couple commenters in the previous post pointed out- we should really be more concerned with the horse while it’s alive- this goes back to being PRO-ANIMAL Welfare. By taking away the option of rendering, we have given owners in a financial bind less options. We will discuss this later in a separate post.
3. There has now been created a black market for horse meat. In Florida, more specifically Miami- Dade and surrounding counties, where a large population of immigrants reside, I see and hear news story, after news story, after news story, of horse owners who find their *pets* (honestly, I believe that horses are not pets, but livestock; they are too big, powerful and can be danterous- check back later today on my story from yesterday!) rendered in their stalls or pastures. Horrifying to say the least. Horses are eaten in many third world countries and even some developed nations such as Japan (where they serve it like sushi). Horse meat is also considered to have healing properties (some Latin cultures believe the meat can cure AIDS) and can be used to remove evil sprits, or be given as a sacrifice if you practice Santeria. There were no stories, such as the above, that I can find prior to the closing of the US processing facilities. If you know of some, please do, share.
I think we can take many things from this; but I’d like to point out that in the first installment, several of my commenter’s got it right. And I think that we’ll discuss their comments at another time.
I’m hoping to have a guest poster this week, who’ll talk about the food chain, and how HSUS et al is affecting it. Stay tuned!
And as always, if you can’t be nice, don’t bother.