Pearl Snaps

Stories of a cowgirl living life by her own lights


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Horse Slaughter: A Hard Sell

By Jesse Bussard

Reports of the reinstatement of horse slaughter have remained constant in news media since the passage of an ag appropriations bill by Congress in November of 2011 that lifted the federal ban on horse slaughter, refunding federal inspection of horse meat. Along with these reports have come recent announcements of plans to build horse processing plants in some states.

One plan for a processing plant slated for Mountain Grove, Mo., in particular has been brought to a screeching halt by local residents. Proponents of the plan did their best to sell the idea to locals touting jobs and tax revenue. However, stories of community stigma, foul odors, and environmental concerns via testimony and public records gathered while the last three horse processing plants in the United States operated were more convincing.

Residents told Wyoming state legislator, Sue Wallis, and Chevideco, the Belgian company to sponsor the plant, “Go home! If we have a horse problem we’ll solve it ourselves. We don’t need her (Wallis) and a Belgium company coming in here.” With that bold-faced response, Unified Equine, run by Wallis and Chevideco, announced they’d look elsewhere.

Since then a plan for a processing plant in Oregon has been announced and hints of the possibility of another in middle Tennessee. Whether these two projects will be met with the same opposition is yet to be seen.

As I’ve said in previous columns, I personally do not feel that there will be any horses slaughtered on U.S. soil anytime soon. The recent shutdown of the plan in Missouri shows me that it’s going to take more than the promise of some jobs and money to convince people that horse slaughter is a good thing.

In addition, a January poll conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which telephone surveyed 1,008 registered voters, found that 80% of respondents were opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. The ASPCA’s poll provides further evidence that the general public isn’t buying what horse slaughter proponents are selling. There is an element of questionability as to the demographics of the ASPCA sample pool, but with that aside, the evidence is still pretty convincing to me.

At one time, I was fully on the side of the pro-horse slaughter crowd. But over time, through various conversations and watching the progression of the pro- and anti-horse slaughter campaigns, I’ve become skeptical. Though I may understand the benefits of slaughter, the general public does not, and to be quite honest, I don’t think they want to.

The fact is the concept of consuming horse meat has become taboo and unfathomable to most in everyday society. Americans have not consumed horse meat since during the World War II era. And because of this, the reintroduction of horse slaughter into the United States is a hard, may I say almost impossible, sell.

I’m not trying to be pessimistic here, just realistic. We can sit and argue the pros and cons of horse slaughter until we’re blue in the face. But I have a feeling that all the convincing in the world won’t change the general public’s view of the practice.

In the end, arguing does neither side any good. The reality is we’ve got an unwanted horse problem in this country, and the sooner we stop arguing, the sooner we can start finding solutions.

This article was originally featured as my May View from the Range column for Tack ‘n Togs. You can access a pdf version here.

Related news:

New Mexico Governor to USDA: Deny Horse Processing Permit


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Top Chef Canada to serve up horse meat

Top Chef Canada is set to air an episode tonight on Food Network Canada serving up horse meat.  The theme of the show is classic French cooking.  The announcement that horse meat would be used in cooking on the show has stirred up outrage and controversy.  A Facebook page, Boycott Top Chef – Protect the Horses, has even been created for viewers to voice their concerns and opinions.

Food Network Canada released a statement on their Facebook Page in response:

“Please be assured it is not our intention to offend our viewers. The challenge in this episode involves having the competitors create a truly authentic, traditional French menu. One of the most traditional French foods is horsemeat. Horsemeat is also considered a delicacy in many cultures around the world. While we understand that this content may not appeal to all viewers, Food Network Canada aims to engage a wide audience, embracing different food cultures in our programming.”

Though Canada plays a large part in the horse meat business, slaughtering over 90,000 horses a year, it is not widely consumed in the country.  Though it isn’t the most popular dish, it is still possible to purchase horse meat at some butcher shops and restaurants in Quebec.  Horse meat is considered very lean, low in fat and is popular in Japan, Brazil, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, but it is most popular in Belgium and France.

I for one am okay with all of this.  I don’t see the problem with serving up horse meat.  Just because we don’t consume horse meat widely in North America does not give us the right to say to another culture that what they are doing is immoral.  All of the anti-horse slaughter activists that have been protesting the airing of this show are being hypocritical and close-minded.  Though they don’t blatantly say it, I feel that they are clearly denigrating the French culture with their comments.  Whatever happened to cultural diversity and respect for others beliefs?  Guess it’s been thrown out the window with the rest  of their common sense.

Is horse an acceptable meat course?  Peter Smith, writer for Good Worldwide, LLC, stated that “Eating horse meat hasn’t always been a taboo in the United States. During World War II, it was sold as an alternative to meat rations, and, until at least 1954, a dedicated stall at Pike Place Market in Seattle sold horse meat.”  Maybe we need to look back at our own history to remember where we came from and also remind ourselves that just because we are Americans, it doesn’t give us the right to bash other people’s cultural practices, no matter how much we don’t like it.

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