A Horse Is a Horse, of Course, of Course, unless…

Update August 2017… Horses and the Slaughterhouse Issue

Two British food company executives are behind bars for the role they played in Europe’s 2012 scandal that saw horse meat passed off as beef.

* July 2016:  Nearly a decade after the last three horse slaughterhouses closed in the United States the trafficking of American horses for slaughter continues and the controversy burns as fiercely as ever. Since 2007, almost a million American horses have been sent to Mexico and Canada to be killed, butchered and exported to Europe and Asia, where local palettes find the meat a delicacy. A small amount of meat is returned to the U.S. to feed zoo animals.

**Note: In this brief video, Dr. Temple Grandin (Colorado St. Univ. professor and acclaimed author and autism activist) talks about how horses view the world and experience fear.

What Would Mister Ed Say? (an earlier blog)

The horse meat scandal in Europe just reiterates how something seemingly straightforward can become so complicated. In my childhood, horses were the trusty companions of Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. They were the countless extras used in B-grade movies before the motion picture industry worried about stating “no animals were harmed in the production of this film.” And horses were the animals that some lucky kids had on their farms to ride and pamper. One boy in my grade school class had work horses on his farm, but even then, I think we realized what a toil that would be. We grew up to be tractor jockeys.
I didn’t even think of someone eating horse meat until I lived overseas, and my only encounter with an equine snack was innocent enough. Our family was traveling in rural regions of Nagano Prefecture in Japan, and we stayed at a Ryokan—traditional guesthouses that usually provide expertly prepared local fare for the evening dinner. As the meal progressed, the kimono-clad waitress placed various dishes in front of us, and one contained a paper thin slice of red meat, cooked on the edges but basically rare, soaked with a soya-based sauce.

                                     —-Horsemeat on the menu??—–

By the time a friend at the table told us what it was, I’d finished half of the small portion. I ate the rest. I’d probably do the same again in such circumstances, but I wouldn’t order horse meat in my Iowa home region. It wouldn’t be an option, and I just don’t have any desire to eat horse. But some people do. According to this online article, several countries serve horse meat with some regularity.
I wasn’t shocked to hear that consumers are eating horsemeat in Europe, but I did a doubletake when reading about an international Swedish furniture company that was selling meatballs with traces of horse meat in them. I gotta get out more—I thought a furniture company would still sell beds, desks, and deluxe couch-potato accessories.
EU ministers are meeting about the horse meat scandal, and I imagine it involves regulations, labels, public health, and international trade. Complicated indeed—and as we watch this unfold, we’ll probably see accusations, arrests, and consumer complaints.
But horses have been in the middle of controversies before all this. In the United States, debate lingers about slaughterhouses, horse meat exports, and the general treatment of the animals. We can read many opinions online, such as this blogger’s entry explaining her struggle with understanding it all.
After trying to figure it out, I’ve decided to come to terms with horse issues by following the Mister Ed philosophy. As grade school kids, we watched the lovable Mister Ed on his weekly 1960s sitcom. The intelligent, sardonic horse would talk only to his bumbling owner, and in an early episode, this man asks Ed how to explain the whole “talking horse situation.”  Ed’s answer: “Don’t try. It’s bigger than both of us.”
Eat horse or not? Regulate all trade and inspect all meat? Allow more slaughterhouses or not?  If someone asks me to explain all this, I’ll just have to say, “neigh.”
by dan gogerty (photo from dailyhaggis.com)

Help Support CAST

Your donation to CAST helps support the CAST mission of communicating science to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber and fuel for a growing population. Every gift, no matter the size, is appreciated.