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What's Wrong With Eating Pony?
Americans have a real problem with eating cute food. I find cows quite darling, for some strange reason, but I have no problem enjoying a nice rare steak. I do think animals should be humanely killed (which means no Kosher or Halal meat -- animals barbarically let bleed out). Jacob Sullum writes in Reason about the people trying to prohibit the slaughter of horses for meat:

Horses are nice. Killing them for food is mean. This is the gist of the argument for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

It was enough to convince the House of Representatives, which passed the bill by a vote of 263 to 146 in September. If the ban makes it to the floor of the Senate after Congress reconvenes this month, we are likely to see another lopsided victory for arbitrary sentimentality.

Not content at trying to stop foreigners from catering to Americans’ taste for gambling, Congress is on the verge of passing a law aimed at stopping Americans from catering to foreigners’ taste for horse meat. I generally avoid the phrase cultural imperialism, since it’s often used by people who object to the voluntary consumption of American products by non-Americans. But when Americans want to forcibly impose their culinary preferences on people in other countries, it fits pretty well.

As supporters of the horse slaughter ban never tire of reminding us, Americans are not big horse eaters. The three U.S. plants that slaughter horses, two in Texas and one in Illinois, cater mainly to consumers in countries such as France, Belgium, Germany, and Japan. Since the plants are owned by foreigners and serve a foreign market, the National Horse Protection Coalition asserts, “no U.S. interests are involved.”

What about the Americans who work in the plants or sell horses to them? What about the U.S. interests in fairness, tolerance, property rights, and some modicum of logic in the formulation of public policy?

...The bill says horses “deserve compassion and protection” because they “play a vital role in the collective experience of the United States.” I’m not completely sure what that means, but it does not bode well for fans of bison meat. The bill also says horses, unlike cows and pigs, “are used primarily for recreation, pleasure, and sport.” If it’s the fun-to-food ratio that matters, Americans will have to stop slaughtering pigs once enough of us keep them as pets.

And no, I don't have a problem with people eating dogs or cats. Of course, my little Lucy doesn't have enough meat on her bones to be a real meal.

Posted by aalkon at November 10, 2006 7:37 AM

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Actually, a lot of the horse meat is sold withing the US as well. Zoos purchase it to feed to their large cats. I wonder what they'll eat now?

Posted by: meshaliu at November 10, 2006 6:51 AM

And there is the 'you eat Bambi?" crowd. I grew up in rural northern Michigan, where deer hunting is about meat for the winter, not just a sport. I learned that Bambi is delicious. Bear tastes awfull. Moose is fatty, but good. My mom would make squirrel is a sour cream sauce that was great.

I do respect people who have moral objections to eating meat but don't force their belief on others. I was a vegetarian in college because beans and rice were all I could afford.

Posted by: Ruth at November 10, 2006 7:24 AM

Does anybody anywhere eat rat meat?

Posted by: Lena at November 10, 2006 8:01 AM

Gitmo prisoners held without charge, legal representation, or trial I would imagine. Certainly rat bourguignon was on the menu in WWII prison camps.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 10, 2006 8:27 AM

Fish don't count, right?

Posted by: Crid at November 10, 2006 3:36 PM

The problem with eating horses -- and dogs and cats -- is that no society has ever broken that taboo unless it's experienced famine. Once that line is crossed, because of extreme circumstances, the obligation to kill the animals reasaonably humanely is also regularly crossed, without much thought. Is that a good thing to encourage?

You can see this in China and Viet Nam, for instance, where dogs are routinely sold for food with their arms tied behind their backs; cattle are not normally kept in such pain before they're sold for food. Would you like to see your dog sold in this country for food with her arms tied behind her backs? If not, why is it that OK for other people's dogs? Or for dogs unlucky enough not to be someone's pet?

I've read accounts of historians tracing the history of famine in certain areas -- China, for instance -- by examining which areas eat horsemeat and which don't. And most don't, because the horse is far too important an animal to human civilization... there were no great land empires until people learned not only to ride horses but also to ride them with stirrups, allowing hands free for holding swords and such. Eating such an important animal breaks the tacit but important pact that was made with that animal by domesticating it. Same thing with dogs and cats.

Some historians have also argued that storing grain -- another essential element of civilization -- is almost impossible without cats to keep down mice, which is why the Egyptians didn't allow cats to be exported, and certainly never ate them.

Libertarians, both the small l as well as the nutty large L kind, tend to be so hostile to the extreme animal rights groups that they're also ridiculously hostile to basic humane treatment of animals -- witness Penn and Teller's odd statement that they'd rather see every chimpanzee in the world exterminated than see one more drug-addicted AIDS addict die. So an entire species should vanish from the earth just to make a point against the anti-animal testing PETA crowd? How, exactly, is that a good thing?

I realize Jacob Sullum wrote this piece for Reason, but not everything in Reason (or everything a libertarian believes) would strike most reasonable people as reasonable. This pro-horsemeat, pro-dogmeat attitude is a good example. It seems to come from more of a True Believer mindset rather than a reasonable one. I'd say it's really not such a bad idea to avoid things that seem basically disgusting. There are basic, human (as well as humane) reasons for that disgust, as long as we're speaking of Reason.

Posted by: Cathy Seipp at November 10, 2006 3:47 PM

PS: Forgot to add -- as far as "eathing Bambi" goes, venison and bison and pigs and rabbits have traditionally been either hunted or raised for food in mosst human societies, so eating them violates no taboo. For those who think that taboos are made to be broken, I'd ask them to then define what's so wrong about incest or pederasty or bestiality, for instance? Maybe we should take laws against all that off the books and welcome people who practice such things as our friends and neighbors.

Posted by: Cathy Seipp at November 10, 2006 3:53 PM

I strongly disagree with Penn, but the way chickens are currently factory-farmed is far from humane. In fact, the way geese are raised for foie gras (now prohibited or on the way to being prohibited in various places in the US) is much more humane. And for me, that's the question -- not the type of animal eaten (although I don't want to eat horse or dog), but whether it's humanely killed. I joked about eating Lucy, but I can't imagine people eating their pets, even if their pet is a cow or a pig.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 10, 2006 4:21 PM

The Animal Rights crowd continually states that slaughtering animals is down- right inhumane. I'm not sure that facts supports that claim. Check out for some food for thought (no pun intended).

Posted by: Alex at November 13, 2006 8:52 AM

Thank you so much for the link -- clears a lot up.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 13, 2006 10:13 AM

The fact of the matter is that 70 percent of Americans are against the slaughter of horses and the Senate is ignoring it.

Foreign businesses are making money by slaughtering an American icon. We don't eat horse in the US so why should we allow foreign companies to make money off of us!

Posted by: Ivanka Steener at November 28, 2006 3:07 PM

The fact of the matter is that 70 percent of Americans are against the slaughter of horses and the Senate is ignoring it.

Foreign businesses are making money by slaughtering an American icon. We don't eat horse in the US so why should we allow foreign companies to make money off of us!

Posted by: Ivanka Steener at November 28, 2006 3:08 PM

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