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The Other Red Meat
Why can't you eat Trigger for dinner if you want to? Christa Weil writes in The New York Times of the attempts by the American Horse Defense Fund to ban slaughter of horses for meat. A rep of the organization claims "...Americans will never view horses as dinner." Weil notes that that's not entirely accurate, as we have eaten horse in the past, and we're not the only ones:

During World War II and the postwar years, when beef and pork were scarce or priced beyond most consumers’ means, horsemeat appeared in the butcher’s cold case. In 1951, Time magazine reported from Portland, Ore.: “Horsemeat, hitherto eaten as a stunt or only as a last resort, was becoming an important item on Portland tables. Now there were three times as many horse butchers, selling three times as much meat.” Noting that “people who used to pretend it was for the dog now came right out and said it was going on the table,” the article provided tips for cooking pot roast of horse and equine fillets.

A similar situation unfolded in 1973, when inflation sent the cost of traditional meats soaring. Time reported that “Carlson’s, a butcher shop in Westbrook, Conn., that recently converted to horsemeat exclusively, now sells about 6,000 pounds of the stuff a day.” The shop was evangelical in its promotion of horse as a main course, producing a 28-page guide called “Carlson’s Horsemeat Cook Book,” with recipes for chili con carne, German meatballs, beery horsemeat and more. While no longer in print, the book is catalogued on Amazon.

...It can be said, awkwardly, that horses are America’s sacred cows. But our reverence stems not just from their noble equine attributes. Our ability to commune wordlessly, with a shift in the saddle, the flick of a rein, a whistle, forges a transcendent relationship. I have eaten all manner of improbable items, from antelope to waterbug, but the fact that horses so graciously did my bidding several decades ago means I won’t knowingly eat their kind (or dog, or dolphin) unless hard times make it a necessity.

It’s easy to denounce the inhumane transport and slaughter of horses, even before taking into account the significant environmental cost of transporting 100,000 carcasses and animals a year thousands of miles to overseas markets.

But the fate of less charismatic food animals is also a brutal business. Last year, 150 pigs being shipped from Ohio to a Texas slaughterhouse died after spending up to 72 hours in a truck with no water, food or relief from 95 degree heat. The dispatch of male chicks on an egg farm can be flat-out horrific. The ill treatment of slaughter-bound horses is bad, but it would be worse still if it made us pay less attention to the undue suffering of other food animals.

Posted by aalkon at March 5, 2007 8:55 AM


In sitcom fiction there were several examples in the 1970s about what was going on in "real" society at the time.

One of the most memorable would be an "All in the Family" episode. The story went that it was illegal to sell horse meat in New Yourk for human consumption, so Gloria purchased some in New Jersey. Archie was against the idea, everybody else was for ir and Archie was duped into eating it.

Posted by: Guy Montag at March 5, 2007 4:30 AM

I've eaten horse. It was a red meat, indistinguishable from beef. Why not eat horse? Is it better for the horse to be turned into petfood?

Posted by: Norman at March 5, 2007 12:42 PM

Mmmm... horse.

I remember when a friend from Italy talked about people there enjoying donkey sausage. At first I thought he was joking with us, but was scared to google "donkey sausage." Turns out he was right.

My theory is that no animal is really psyched to get eaten. But then again, the tomatoes probably aren't either.

Posted by: justin case at March 5, 2007 1:58 PM

It was in Italy that I had my horse steak. Butchers' shops had signs showing the kind of animal they specialised in; some quite artistic and dramatic!

What do people think of veal, or pate de foie gras?

Posted by: Norman at March 5, 2007 2:29 PM

Veal is delicious (LOVE veal porterhouse), but I always feel guilty eating it. I can't eat foie gras. Something about the texture of it really bugs me.

Goat's not bad at all.

Posted by: Kimberly at March 5, 2007 3:03 PM

I had horse coldcut this fall, at an apartment in Philly. It tasted like salami.

Posted by: Michelle at March 5, 2007 8:00 PM

I've tried horse, as well as pretty much anything that's legal to eat. That includes ostrich, emo, alligator (or crocodile, not sure), rattlesnake, deer, buffalo, goat, as well as all the regular stuff. When it's cooked into a stew or prepared in some way, it just tastes a little gamey, but other than that, you can't really tell.

This was quite a while ago. Now I'll only eat meat when I'm in Europe where there are some kind of standards with respect to the treatment of the animals, as well as the butchering and processing of the meat. This also applies to dairy products. I try only to consume goat or sheep milk products.

I think if the animal has been treated well and killed properly, what's the difference? I would draw the line at eating cat or dog, so I understand how people get upset.

Posted by: Chris at March 6, 2007 1:27 PM

I seem remember reading -- way back in my undergrad days -- that eating horsemeat was banned by the Pope for religious reasons. Pre-christian Germanic tribes evidently ate horsemeat regularly, and it was associated with some of their so-called pagan feasts / rituals. So the Pope banned it in an attempt to induce the Germanics to embrace Christianity.

I'm sure there's some history major out there who could comment more knowledgeably about this.

But if you look at it that way, prohibiting the consumption of horsemeat makes about as much sense as celibacy for priests or prohibiting women from entering the priesthood. It's just something imposed somewhere along the line by some Pope.

Posted by: Marie at March 6, 2007 11:34 PM

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