Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Save a horse, eat a cowboy

Look into my eyesNo, I'm not actually proposing you eat a cowboy, unless you are a fan of Ree's site and well, I'll leave it at that.

Anyway, for those of you not following along there is a bill languishing in the Senate (S. 311) to ban horse meat for human consumption. The text of the bill reads that S. 311 "amends the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption."

According to the USDA, in 2006 about 100,000 horses were sold in auctions and killed in the three slaughter facilities in the U.S. that existed at that time. Last year Illinois banned horse slaughter and a federal court upheld Texas law that prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption, thereby shutting down all three of those slaughterhouses.

The Humane Society states that despite these actions:

The horse slaughter industry continues to haul American horses to slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Our horses are forced to endure an agonizing transport, and once they arrive at the slaughter plant, they are stabbed to death or suffer multiple gun shots to the head.

This delicacy for foreign diners is offensive to many Americans who hold horses with the same regard as other beloved pets and animals. However, this is not true for many individuals who make money off the horse trade and see the slaughter as a necessary evil.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should horses be protected from human consumption or should we see horseburgers being served in the school lunchroom?

If you want to take action and let your Congressperson know that you support the bill, you can do so here. This link also contains a (somewhat graphic) video explaining the process of shipping horses to Mexico for slaughter.

For the record, Obama, McCain and Clinton cosponsored the bill. It looks like all three of them have at least some horsesense.


Anonymous said...

What, no candidate came out with the Pro Horse Taco platform? There is hope for the Democrats after

I absolutely support not eating the horsies...,but if we are against it because of their intelligence, why are we still eating pigs? Aren't they also suppose to make good pets and have dog-like brains? Not that you will catch me knitting little matching sweaters for me and a porker, but just throwing it out there.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that horse meat is not a delicacy in foreign countries - I know that, at least in France, it was a cheap way to feed large families.

Considering how we treat factory-farmed meat in the is country, I fail to see why horse meat should be so much more of an outrage.

Anonymous said...

I see nothing wrong with eating horses -- and if the arguments are about the cruelty they suffer during slaughter, why isn't every other slaughterhouse destined animal also being protect -- oh right, they're culturally accepted 'food' but horses are 'pets'.

I'm all for animals as animals and not interested in anything that restricts what we can or cannot eat. Of course, horsemeat won't be gracing my table anytime soon, and I don't need the government helping me make that decision.

Anonymous said...

I have zero interest in ever tasting horsemeat, but, really, it's no different than any other meat. I'm completely against making it illegal.

DC said...

Random thoughts:

1. Organic Needle -- pigs are actually smarter than dogs . . . and some people.

2. I use the following dialog from Pulp Fiction to help me resolve these kind of issues:

Vincent: Want some bacon?

Jules: No man, I don't eat pork.

Vincent: Are you Jewish?

Jules: Nah, I ain't Jewish, I just don't dig on swine, that's all.

Vincent: Why not?

Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don't eat filthy animals.

Vincent: Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.

Jules: Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherf*cker. Pigs sleep and root in sh*t. That's a filthy animal. I ain't eat nothin' that ain't got enough sense enough to disregard its own feces.

Vincent: How about a dog? Dogs eats its own feces.

Jules: I don't eat dog either.

Vincent: Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?

Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way.

Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?

Jules: Well we'd have to be talkin' about one charmin' motherf*ckin' pig. I mean he'd have to be ten times more charmin' than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm sayin'?

3. Do "free range, organic" horses sound more palatable?

4. Stay away from the "stallion burgers" at the school lunch room. Also avoid the "downer dogs."

5. I'm a vegetarian, but I ocassionally drink milk and eat cheese, which indirectly results in animals being slaughtered. When milk cows are no longer capable of providing sufficient quantities of milk, they are killed because it is no longer profitable to keep them. This is true for both organic and regular cows.

6. There's no end to moral dilemmas. You just have to draw the line where you feel comfortable and go on with your life without guilt and regrets.

Rejin L. said...

Since the bill specifies that horses are not to be slaughtered for "human consumption," does that mean that it is OK to put horse meat in animal feed?

All factory farmed animals are treated horribly, and endure an agonizing transport, et c. The only difference between horses and other livestock is sentimentality.

... I wonder where PETA stands on this bill?

Joyce said...

I love horses and wouldn't eat horsemeat, but really, how is it different than those cute brown cows I see on my way to work? I'm with Donna Jean.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Peta's position on any dealing with animals:
Animals Are Not Ours to Eat
Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way

All you meat eaters really ought to watch the slaughterhouse videos- better yet, visit one so you can hear the agonized screams and watch as your next meal is skinned while still twitching and possibly skinned alive(gotta keep that line moving ya know).
Bon apetite

Chile said...

As a vegan, I don't see the need for the consumption of any animal. However, I have to agree with Donna Jean. Why select some animals as acceptable to kill for food but not others? It's a choice based strictly on sentiment. Don't kill any of them. :)

There was just an article in the local paper recently about the Arizona horses being sent to Mexico for slaughter because it's cheaper. What will happen as the economy tightens and horse owners cannot afford to keep their animals? Craigslist here has quite a few horses listed on a regular basis.

Greenpa said...

If this silly law gets passed, it will once again turn out to be "good intentions" - gone far wrong.

Farmer has horse.
Horse has sex.
Farmer has 2 horses.

You can step in and solve the problem at any time. Outlaw all horses? Horses shall not exist?
Ban horse sex? Ever hear of "oops"? Or frustration?
Abort all baby horses?

No? Then, you have horses. Then, more.

Now what? This pasture feeds 2. Three- will starve in misery. Not good.

One horse has to go- where?

This cute horsie here is not The Black Stallion; worth zillions to a rich person- it's just a plain horse- and NOBODY WANTS IT.

It can either be slaughtered - with someone officially watching to TRY to be quick about it- or- left to starve miserably over months.

You cannot legislate animal population dynamics- try all you want; nature will find a way. This is a bizarre fantasy cooked up by some well intentioned- well, use the pejorative of your choice.

It's already going on- horses that were worth $300 for slaughter, and went to a nearby inspected slaughterhouse- are now worth $20 to the farmer- who may pay less attention. Then they get crammed into a truck; shipped hundreds of miles (remember they're worth nothing) - and killed anyway- far out of sight.

Sometimes- it's better to leave bad enough alone.

camp mom said...

I'm not a big meat fan to begin with but I wouldn't want a law to be passed agianst it either. Alot of other cultures eat foods most americans wouldn't dream of eating. Horses, cats, dogs etc. I'm more for seeing that if they are slaughter it's done more humanely. That includes transporting them to slaughter also.

Jason C said...

DeKalb, IL just shutdown what I think is the last horse meat plant in the States. The meat was shipped to Europe mostly. If you google "Cheval meat" you'll find loads of info - check Flickr, too.

I'm not exactly sure why a domesticated horse is any different than a domesticated cow in killing and eating it? I guess it's more because of the views as horses as pets.


Rechelle said...

Did you take that photo of that horse's eyeball? Cuz that is really beautiful, but personally I prefer pics of horse's butts.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Dear Greenpa
Is that the same reasoning you use with your dogs, cats etc. Or do you get them spayed and neutered?
Sorry but your argument doesn't hold up to the reality of animal slaughter in the US and probably everywhere else.

Chile said...

Here you go, Rechelle.

ruchi said...

Yeah, I kind of agree with Donna Jean, and a lot of other people here. Since I eat meat, and have come to my own conclusions regarding the morality of eating said meat, I don't think it's fair of me to say that certain meat (ie horses) are unacceptable. Especially since I'm not able to offer any rational or scientific reasoning to back it up.

To me, this seems like one of those laws that is more "political theatre" than anything. Instead of addressing the terrible conditions of slaughterhouses, the politicians focus on horse meat. Then when they get it banned, they can claim some dubious victory. Even though they still have never managed to address the really big problem: slaughterhouses.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I wanted to clarify a few things.

1. This bill is worded to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Not just plain old slaughter. So, Greenpa, this is not to say that horses cannot be slaughtered to be used as dogfood.

2. These types of bills are written (there was one on the ballot in CA in '98) to assuage horse owners who had sold their animals as pets only to find out that dear old Pony wasn't being ridden by a small child, but was sold for human consumption.

The argument goes something along the lines of the fact that if you could no longer take care of your dog or cat and, thinking it went to a nice home, it turned out that Fluffy was made into a scrumptious dinner for the family down the street, how would you feel?

Of course, only about 36% of horses in the U.S. are pets so the majority being sold into the meat trade are not pets, but this provides protection for those horse owners who don't want to see their animals eaten.

3. Polls show about 80 percent of Americans are against the slaughtering of horses for food.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong, but it is something worth thinking about.

If any of this is incorrect, by all means, someone correct me.

Greenpa said...

Crunch- :-)

1.- yeah, it's the foot in the door, though, and we all know it, including most definitely those pushing it. Why should Fido be able to eat Flicka; when I can't?? We'll pass that bill next.

From the humanitarian standpoint- are we more careful with food in the humanfood chain, or the dogfood chain? Which is worth more? Which animal gets better care, all its life, the one worth little, or the one worth much?

2. Yeah, I know. I don't like X, so let's make it illegal. These arguments have been around pretty much forever- and emotion stops logical processes dead. People need to think of the entire life cycle of horses- in all the places they live. I live in Amish country. They aren't going to neuter the mares. And stallions will get through the fences- someday. I've almost never run into a vegan who has actually thought about "cows" -logically, where that train goes is to a world with NO cows, at all. I don't think that's an improvement. At all.

3. I'll bet you my shirt that all the polls run so far have been written by the anti-meat folks. And handed to pleasant looking urbanites. The very few people actually involved in slaughtering horses are tired, broke, and aware that few people like the idea of eating Black Beauty. They don't run polls.

Can you write a poll so you get the answer you want? Good grief, that's almost the only way they get written. We have "professional" pollsters to TRY to PREVENT that from happening every time. That percentage - 80- is pretty strong evidence.

What's the percentage among working horse owners? And I don't mean race horses. I'll bet you that poll has not been run.

Jennifer said...

I'd have to agree with everyone above... I see no real difference in eating a horse vs a cow vs a dog.

I don't eat any of them, but am pretty ambivilent to others eating them. (and yes, I have dogs.)

I think the REAL point should be humane raising and slaughtering of ALL animals destined for the food table, instead of the digusting commercial way that currently provides most of our meat.

Anonymous said...

This is a marketing issue as much as it is an animal rights and environmental issue. The only reason people think it's ok to slaughter and eat a cow, pig or chicken, and not a horse, dog or (gulp) cat, is because of fancy ad campaigns and lobbyists at the meat and dairy council. It's the same reason people feel ok drinking milk from a cow and not from old dog Rover. Once again, the media has convinced us to forsake our morals and do the unthinkable. Someday we will realize we are not 'above' animals and that we really do not have the right to use them for our own purposes. It's not the legislation that is at issue here, it's our inability and unwillingness to decipher truths from the media machine and protect our values in the face of them.

cheflovesbeer said...

If someone wants to eat horse, I say let them eat horse.

Some very high end chefs in France believe the best way to make fries is in horse fat. It is not available in the US.

Mrs. Gregorton said...

I don't really see the difference between eating horse or any other meat. But inhumane treatment of any animal, whether we think of it as food or not, is wrong. Maybe bills like this can be used to raise awareness of the horrible way most animals are slaughtered, not just horses. I guess we have to start somewhere.

Kim said...

I think I'm with most of the other posters. I don't really see how this is different from from the industrial slaughter of other animals.

I don't agree with the methods...but if the methods are legal for one animal, then I'm unclear why it's necessary to make it illegal for another.

How about looking at reforming the whole system instead?

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

"I've almost never run into a vegan who has actually thought about "cows" -logically, where that train goes is to a world with NO cows, at all. I don't think that's an improvement. At all."
Haven't run into many vegans/vegetarians, have ya? Most of those that I know are thoughtful and quite capable of following a thought to its possible conclusion. First off, this is a specious conclusion. There wouldn't be as MANY cows, but familes would likely raise them for milk and private slaughter.There are also zoos, demonstration historical farms, etc. In fact, however, all greenies know that the earth(meaning all of us)would be way better off without factory farm production of meat. So it would indeed be a big improvement.

Greenpa said...

equa- oh! excuse me.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

OK, end of adult discussion.

Anonymous said...

I'm with greenpa. Problem with outlawing slaughter for human consumption is what to do with all the horses nobody wants. Horses aren't cheap to keep. I see a market being found for other uses for horse meat, and feeding it to animals comes to mind, etc...I think we're trading one bad scenario for another.

And hey, Equa Yona, one can be a meat eater and choose to eat only humanely raised and slaughtered animals. It isn't all or nothing.

e4 said...

I'm pretty sure people were eating cows and pigs and chickens long before advertising and meat & dairy councils came along. And horses, goats, raccoons, and rats.

A good farm will mimic a real ecosystem - and real ecosystems have animals as well as plants. Is it better to run tractors to plow up grasslands so we can grow more soybeans, or to leave that soil intact, with perennial grasses and let an animal graze on it to produce milk and meat while improving the soil, with no fossil fuel input. Know why Iowa had such amazing topsoil? All those bison...

There is no ecosystem on earth that doesn't include carnivores and omnivores. Like it or not, every animal is food for something else. An entire ecosystem of only herbivores is at best inefficient and at worst unsustainable.

And trust me, nobody ever keeps a bull, a stallion, or an intact male goat out of the goodness of their heart. Keeping them is very often a dangerous proposition. If we relied on zoos, we'd lose untold genetic diversity in whichever species is in question. There are a hundred varieties of cows and a hundred of chickens. All the zoos in the world couldn't maintain that kind of diversity.

I'm all for not making animals miserable. I'm all for preventing their suffering. And if you want to eat less meat, or sustainably raised meat, or no meat at all, I think that's great. But if you tell me that all of humanity should stop eating meat, I refer you to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Horses? Well, I guess I'd rather see somebody eat a pasture-raised horse than a cow who spent it's life standing on shit-covered concrete, next to a lagoon of groundwater-contaminating wastewater, probably festering with e-coli, while getting pumped full of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and medications, tearing up it's rumen by eating nothing but genetically modified corn grown with massive doses of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides, and shipped halfway across the planet.

Er, sorry. Was that out loud?

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand. If
"this provides protection for those horse owners who don't want to see their animals eaten" then why don't they just sell their horses to people who won't kill them??!! I think a pet owner has to take responsibility for the entire life of an animal, whether it's a pet or useful/not useful as a beast of burden. If you're going to sell it, you're responsible for selling it to the right person. I don't eat any kind of meat, but I can't think why horse meat is any worse than beef... Cows are friends, not food! :)

DC said...

Well, I just looked at the text of the bill, and Crunchy is absolutely right that it is very narrowly drafted. It only prevents slaughter for human consumption -- and there is a specific reason for the legislation. Apparently, most of the horses that are slaughtered are in good condition and are not unwanted, but rather wind up in slaughterhouses by happenstance. People selling their horses are often unaware that their animals may be bought for the purpose of being slaughtered for human consumption.

Let's say that you can't afford to keep your horses anymore, but they are healthy, and you want them to go to a good home. There are buyers who pretend to buy such horses for their personal use and then sell them to be slaughtered for human consumption. Apparently, there is a huge market for horse meat in parts of Europe and Asia, where it is considered a delicacy. The legislation is designed to address this type of issue only -- not to give horses some type of general protected status. The U.S. Humane Society believes that this type of slaughter ban would not lead to an increase in horse abuse and starvation or neglect cases, would not cause environmental harm, and would not create a negative precedent for beef, pork and poultry producers by legitimizing efforts to end consumption of food derived from any animal. You can read more about it here.

Chile said...

This is getting off-topic from Crunchy Chicken's post...

Quoting e4: "If we relied on zoos, we'd lose untold genetic diversity in whichever species is in question. There are a hundred varieties of cows and a hundred of chickens. All the zoos in the world couldn't maintain that kind of diversity."

In this scenario, if we were relying on zoos to preserve genetic diversity, it seems like the genetic diversity that would best be preserved is that of animals that evolved naturally, not ones that were bred (no matter how many different varieties were created) by one particular species on the planet - humans. Humans displaced and destroyed considerable genetic diversity, partly due to the introduction of selectively bred livestock.

Crunchy Chicken said...

DC - thanks for the well-written followup.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading this blog for a while, I'm a Diva cup divaee who also rides horses. Within the last two years of slaughter being outlawed in the United States, coupled with a drought across most of America, the horse market is in a severe slump.

Many horses are dying of starvation. Good trainers and breeders are struggling to keep their businesses alive because the market is completely flooded with spare equines.

I don't believe that we should only approach this surplus from a slaughter point of view, but rather also regulate breeding. The reality is this will not happen anytime soon, and if legislation is passed to control breeding it most likely will not be well enforced.

In the meantime, I believe we should reinstate slaughter in the United States but instead introduce new laws to ensure a humane death for horses so that they do not have to suffer the long trips to either Canada or Mexico.

On a side note, Diva cups are comfortable to ride in too and make it very easy to go out on long trail rides without a worry!

Greenpa said...

DC- I'm still not buying it. Yes, it's written very narrowly - so they can get it passed; but, several points-

People sell horses and don't know where they're going? I REALLY doubt that happens often. You have a horse: you hang around with other horsey people- you gossip. I guarantee. The idea sells well to folks though - "poor innocent horse owners are being tricked!" Seriously- ask somebody who owns a horse-

And- what the heck does human consumption have to do with THAT? There will be unwanted horses. The idea that there ARE no unwanted horses has been disproven, repeatedly. The US Government tried dealing with too many mustangs, by offering them for sale, for $1, to anyone providing a good home. That program died out, when it turned out a lot them wound up- slaughtered, one way or another.

If my Amish neighbor cannot sell his extra, old, horse for human consumption - where it might bring him $300- he'll sell it to the dogfood people - for $20; and nobody will be watching. This is bad for the horse.

Something else to know- the US Humane Society - is huge- well funded- and young. There are two others; the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and the Humane Association.

The USHS does so much advertising that a lot of people now think there's only one united group. Not so. The ASPCA and the HS tend to spend their money on- animals. A lot of old-timers in the animal welfare area consider the US group to be just a tad right of PETA.

Anonymous said...

How do we decide which animals are food and which ones are pets? I have cats that I adore, and I feed them chicken and fish. Why are the cats part of the family and the chickens and fish merely food? Cuz the kitties are furry and warm and snuggly. But that doesn't mean that in other parts of the world they couldn't be meat. Yes, I find the idea of eating a cat repugnant, but that's just my socialization. While I wouldn't eat a cat, I wouldn't pass a law to prevent others from eating them. Cats are not endangered species. (I do, however, support the law that says you can't come to my house and take the cat that lives there with me and eat her!)

I know, this issue is about horses. But I have no experience with horses, so I have to relate it to the kinds of animals I am familiar with. And when I do that, I find I can't support a law that raises one animal above others as food.

So the vegans would say we shouldn't be raising human animals above others either. And I can see their point logically. But it's a fact of nature that animals eat one another to stay alive. My cats, being obligate carnivores, would not last long without being able to eat other animals. And they don't worry about which animals are okay to eat and which ones aren't. They eat what they instinctually know to be food. And I have no doubt that if I died alone in my apartment, those cats would feast on me once they got hungry enough.

So human beings create laws to protect ourselves from other human beings. None of us wants to be killed for food or for any other reason. Fine. It doesn't mean we have some moral superiority over the rest of the animal kingdom. It just means that our brains happen to have evolved to the point where we can protect ourselves, generally, through cooperation and lawmaking. And we have the ability to look at the consequences of our actions and make choices that will ensure our long-term survival. It's the reason blogs like Crunchy Chicken are able to exist!

But if we've also decided that eating other species besides humans is okay to do, then what rules do we use to determine which animals are food and which must be protected when opinions on the matter as so culturally diverse? It seems we've come to pretty much a consensus that we need to protect endangered species. But what's the rationale for elevating certain domesticated animals over others? Other than culturally-based socialization?

So maybe the horse owners need a different kind of protection. Not a law that makes selling a horse for food illegal across the board. But an organization for the protection of retired horses that the owners could join and enroll their horses in at the end of their "useful" lives?

It sounds silly. But until we outlaw eating all domestic animals, I don't see how we can legislate protection for some and not others.

Anonymous said...

I had heard that in Texas were the horse meat is already illegal, the judge base his decision on the fact he never saw the cowboys in western movies eat their horses.

e4 said...

Chile - You know how much respect I have for you right? A lot. So I'm hesitant to even engage in this discussion.

Non-domesticated cattle breeds have been extinct since around the 17th century. But even without that, think of the genetic loss! Imagine if we eliminated all domesticated tomato varieties, or potatoes, or peppers. That would be devastating. I could never get behind that.

Chile said...

e4, thank you for sharing your opinion respectfully. I respect you as well and your right to your opinions. :)

I have no problem with preserving the genetic diversity of edible plants (excepting, of course, GMO plants.)

Anonymous said...

I am a vegetarian, but if someone wants to eat a horse, I really don't see how that's any different than eating a cow!

In fact, it seems to me that it would be more wasteful to not use the horse somehow if it could provide food to people who don't have cultural squeemishness about it.

Also, I don't know why someone would keep a huge animal like a horse for a pet anyway.

Isle Dance said...


Yes, it really does happen. Too frequently, I'm afraid. It's a serious concern for all horse people and one that most of them are far too familiar with.

If the government programs are failing, it's because instead of protecting and allowing wild horses to roam the truly wild range, they're bringing them into civilization to domesticate them. Or they're allowing civilization to be built out too far.