The Digital Journalism Blog


Secretariat with a side of Seabiscuit: It’s what’s for dinner

By Jenny Sharron

“A cat will look down on you, a dog will look up to you, but a horse will look you straight in the eye.”

For everyone’s sake, let’s hope that pony isn’t looking at you straight in the eye as you take a bite from your Big Mac tonight. If you haven’t heard about the horsemeat contaminating meat in the UK, then you’ve clearly been living under a rock.

I agree that accidently or purposely slipping in a mystery meat into your burger is wrong, but it’s not like Grandma Sue got mixed in with your sloppy Joe.

If you’re in America and you say that you’re ok with horses being slaughtered for human consumption, prepare yourself for some looks and bashing conversation.  It’s alright if you’re anti-horse slaughter. I respect you for that, but don’t attack those of us who are pro-slaughter.

In America, it isn’t part of our cultural norm to eat horses, but it’s also not in our cultural norms to walk around naked.  In France and Japan, eating horse is actually a delicacy.

According to Rakuten Global Market, that delicacy can cost you over $100 for 1 kilogram (equivalent to 2.2 lbs.).  If the meat can be that costly to buy, why shouldn’t the United States try to sell it and turn a profit?

People need to calm down. There never was a ban on horse slaughter; the ban was actually Congress defunding the government’s ability to inspect the plants.  Without the inspections, the meat couldn’t be sold therefore the industry failed quickly.

Up until 2007, horse slaughter was a lucrative industry.  When the slaughter industry failed, the prices of horses dropped.

“A June report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ chief investigative branch, said the ban depressed prices for horses in the U.S. and led to a surge in reports of neglect or abuse as owners of older horses had no way of disposing of them, short of selling them to ‘foreign slaughtering facilities where U.S. humane slaughtering protections do not apply.” (courtesy of The Washington Times)

Later in that same article, a PETA spokesman said that there should not only be a ban on the slaughtering of horses in America, but there should also be a ban on exporting live horses to ensure that no one else is slaughtering them. Well excuse me, Mr. David Perle, but do you have the means to take in all the unwanted horses or to pay for them to be euthanized and destroyed according to EPA regulations?

I sure don’t, and I’m sure that the roughly 2,000 equine sanctuaries in America don’t either.

Another large portion of the argument is that the process of slaughtering the animal is inhumane.  There are plenty of “inside” looks of these slaughterhouses, but more research needs to be done than just believing what you see on the Internet.  Want an accurate depiction of the process? Visit one of the slaughterhouses. Since there are none currently in operation in America, visit a cow one since it’s the same process. Whatever you do, don’t watch PETA’s video and think that’s how we do it here in America.

The United States government is doing what they can to ensure that abuse is not a factor. Up until 2007, operations were running relatively smoothly until a ban was put in place to prevent USDA inspectors from staffing the horse-processing facilities.  In December of 2011, President Obama quietly passed a bill lifting said ban.

Blair Dunn who is an attorney for Valley Meat, spoke to the Wall Street Journal shortly after the ban was initially set.

“There are people in the world who want to use this protein source. Why are we not allowing people to make their own decision about what they consume?” Dunn said.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone could have asked a better-phrased question. This is America, the land where we have the right to our own opinions and freedom to choose the food we eat and the clothes we wear (unless you attend a private school with uniforms).

I’d much rather know that the animal is being treated properly in it’s last moments of life instead of continuing to hear of the horror stories happening in places we have no control of.

The bottom line is, just because you don’t find yourself picking out cuts of horsemeat for Thursday’s dinner, does not mean that the opportunity to do such should be revoked from everyone else. In order to ensure humane slaughtering, let’s keep an open mind about regulating the industry within the confines of our own country and it’s government while enjoying the economic benefits.

You never know maybe one day when you’re at McDonald’s you’ll be asked, “Would you like fries with your pony burger?”

This opinion piece was written as if it could appear on horse.com

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