Horse Burgers

1 12 2011

In 2006, the US congress effectively banned the slaughter of horses for human consumption by withholding funding for the legally necessary USDA inspection of horse meat. On November 18, that funding was restored when President Obama signed a spending bill. Now, I have a serious problem with de facto bans. If congress refuses to fund inspections that a law passed by the very same congress requires, the lack of funding should automatically cause the inspections to not be required. The government shutdown that nearly happened earlier this year would’ve apparently effectively banned the production of all meat and maybe produce too within the United States. I have to wonder what would’ve actually happened if all USDA inspections had stopped. Would slaughterhouses have let meat rot while waiting for inspectors to show up? My hope is that everyone involved would realize the absurdity in following the letter of the law and ignore it, when following it would lead to a massive food shortage and ultimately starvation. My wish is that this would become the legal precedent, that unfunded laws automatically become moot.

Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people weren’t even aware that horses where ever slaughtered for human consumption in the US. It has apparently been an ongoing practice throughout my life up until 2006, and even then I only have one distinct memory of the practice being mentioned by anyone. There was an Episode of All in the Family where Archie unknowingly ate horse meat, and I have some vague memory of it being an option for pathetic poor people who can’t afford “real” meat. It turns out that it’s pretty common in Mexico, France, and much of the rest of the world. Some animal rights groups are upset that the de facto ban is ending, but PETA isn’t. They’re actually looking at the real effect of the law:

In an interview with the Monitor, PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk said the US should never have banned domestic horse slaughter – a stance that has put the organization at odds with other mainstream animal rights groups, like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

The reason he feels this way is that the ban on horse slaughter has led to the exportation of horses for slaughter, and from a horse’s point of view being shipped a thousand or so miles and then being slaughtered in Mexico is worse than being driven 80 miles away to be slaughtered in the same state.

While PETA says the optimal solution is to ban both consumption slaughter and export of horses, it supports reintroducing horse slaughterhouses in the US, especially if accompanied by a ban on exporting any horses at all to other countries.

Okay, that sounds more like the PETA I know. I don’t see how any combination of bans could ever be “optimal” in any sense, but I can appreciate the fact that they acknowledge that a ban on something they find distasteful has actually worsened the situation from their perspective. Other groups are reportedly outraged by the end of the ban.

The issue has galvanized the animal rights community, which contends that horses are too intelligent to be food animals, and that legal processing of horse meat will endanger wild horse populations and motivate Americans to raise horses specifically for human consumption.

That won’t happen, but what if it did? Horses are neat animals, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me that they’re any more intelligent than the other tasty animals we eat. Horse meat will only become popular if people discover that they taste awesome, which is apparently the case. I’ve just read a few random internet people claim that it’s pretty good, much like beef with a slightly stronger taste. If these people were eating meat from retired work horses, and not from horses raised specifically for meat, we can speculate that food horses might be even tastier. Also, if horse meat wasn’t tasty, the French wouldn’t be eating it.

The totally predictable effects of the ban haven’t been awesome…

…more abandoned and neglected horses in the US are being sold and processed for meat anyway in countries that may not have the same standard of humane euthanasia that US law requires. Government statistics show that 138,000 American horses were sold and processed for meat in other countries in 2010 – a 660 percent increase from 2007, according to the GAO report.

…especially on horse owners, some of whom aren’t rich.

The poor economy has been tough on horse owners and the animals themselves, leading to what Representative Kingston calls an “unanticipated problem with horse neglect and abandonment.” InColorado alone, horse abandonment “increased 60 percent from 975 in 2005 to 1,588 in 2009,” the GAO report stated.

What’s more, The New York Times reports that the law forced many breeders and owners to go out of business because their inability to sell horses for meat “removed the floor” for prices while forcing owners to shoulder costs for euthanizing and disposing of unwanted horses. Before the ban, the horse slaughter business generated some $65 million in revenues a year.

I picture small time breeders have a much harder time shipping their horses to Mexico for slaughter than larger operations, so the now worthless horses are either euthanized or abandoned. Awesome.

Part of me hopes that the ridiculous fears of the animal rights folks that Americans will begin raising horses specifically for human consumption become true. After reading various reports, I’d really like to try some roast horse.