It’s not that I don’t think killing horses is cruel. It’s just that I think killing chickens, pigs, sheep and cows is equally bad. Morality based on aesthetics is pretty shallow.
Curiously enough, that quote comes from an article in Time, which doesn’t really seem like a horse eating sort of publication. (I must credit the Ethicurean’s excellent digest with finding the article in the first place.) I’ve also written about my experiences with eating horse, and astoundingly was not descended upon by a flock of enraged teenage girls…presumably because most teenage girls are not out trolling websites for reports of horse consumption. But Time is a different matter, and I expect that they are going to get some riled up letters from readers.
In the United States, it is very difficult to obtain horse for consumption, as Stein points out. The sale of horse meat for human consumption is illegal, and I have a feeling that the government would ban the eating of horse as well, if they could. The thought of eating horse viscerally bothers Americans in a way that confining and tormenting chickens does not, apparently.
Stein makes an excellent point in the article when he talks about relative taboos: why is it ok to eat pig, but not horse? He made a very telling comment when he talked about how he couldn’t help but visualize the horse while he was eating the meat, wheras most people do not visualize pigs when eating bacon, or cows when eating hamburgers. It personalizes the meat in a way which some people could, I suppose, find traumatizing. The thought of Black Beauty cantering through the meadow is not really the image I want while I’m biting into a juicy steak, personally.
Would I eat horse again, if it was put in front of me? Hell yeah. The flavour is unique, and I would love to experiment with different preparations and seasonings, just like I do with all meats. I don’t have a problem with eating horse, and I felt sort of smug, reading the article, thinking about small minded readers being shocked by the content. But the end of the article also reads like a bit of a challenge:
Nonetheless, until I decide to stop my less-than-noble practice of eating other animals, I’ve got little choice but to order up some more horse.
It’s a challenge aimed at readers who deplore the consumption of horse, but it could just as well be applied to other species.
Would I, I asked myself, eat dog?
Well…no, I wouldn’t.
But why not? Other people eat dogs. It’s just a cultural hangup, that I don’t view dogs as food.
But I don’t really view horses as food either, or cows, or sheep, or anything else. I view them as unique individuals who live varied lives, just like we do. They also happen to be tasty, but maybe humans are too…I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t eaten one.
So you would eat human, but not dog?
Well…maybe. I’m not sure. I mean, dog is not a paragon of food chain efficiency, and neither is human.
Ah, the old food chain efficiency ploy.
Yes, the old food chain efficiency ploy. It’s true…I do have a really hard time visualizing myself eating household pets, and my weak justification for it is that it’s not efficient. Of course, neither is meat in general, although carnivores are certainly even less efficient than other types of meat. I think house pets are the boundary of my personal taboo, and while this is inconsistent and somewhat hypocritical, I’m afraid that I am going to have to stick with it.
It is good, sometimes, to be reminded that I am not infallible.