Stirrup the Controversy: How Do You Like Your Horse?


On Friday, I was offered horse meat.

You no doubt remember the scandal that erupted in Europe earlier this year involving mislabeled meatballs which were distributed through supermarkets and even Ikea across 13 countries. The processed meat and meatballs labelled as pork and beef were found to contain traces of horse meat, which outraged consumers and sparked food-labelling debates worldwide. Animal welfare groups no doubt enjoyed riding the wave. I remain ambivalent.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the hostility towards a mislabeled food product. I have made choices to avoid certain substances in my life, and would be livid if I were tricked into consuming them. What I don’t understand, however, is how close-minded consumers are to actually trying horse meat.  Is it not a bit of a contradiction to claim you are an omnivore, but selectively choose your prey based on emotion?  The last time I checked, horses ate grass. Judging by my work with cows, they do the same. I have friends who name every cow and every horse on their farm. Both can be considered pets. All these similarities and yet we have no trouble digging into a big ol’ t-bone steak…provided it’s beef.

I discussed the concept of horse meat with an Albertan-born cowgirl. She was adamant that she would never eat horse, proclaiming it similar to cannibalism and joking about how hard it would be to go home and tell her horses she ate one of their brothers.

Smart horses, I guess.  If I happened to mention to one of the cows that I was thawing out a sirloin from one of her babies, I’m certain she would continue to chew her cud, unconcerned.

I’ve been reading on consumer preferences and reasons we don’t like to eat horse meat. It seems the romantic version of a horse as a best friend, is the main reason people choose not to eat their meat. Interesting, given many consumers have little experience with horses, let alone a real connection with one. For those that do, I’m not saying you should haul ol’ Roscoe to the slaughter house, but ask: how is eating a slab of horse you’ve never known any different from that of a cow, sheep or pig?

Another argument against the consumption of horse meat is the long commutes to slaughter facilities, and lack of strict regulations around slaughter. Hmm, seems to me that as long as we allow the romanticized version of animals to dictate our consumer preferences, there will always be great distances between horses, slaughter facilities and policy.

So, by now you can guess that I accepted the offer to try horse meat.  It was smoked and thinly sliced, perfect for sandwiches and entirely delicious. I didn’t think for a second about any of the horses I have loved in my life, nor do I think Jake will mind that I ate his kin, should I decide to tell him.

Have your say in our poll below. If you cannot see the poll, click here.

14 thoughts on “Stirrup the Controversy: How Do You Like Your Horse?

  1. Amazing…. Over 50% of Canada’s horse meat is from US entirely unregulated – mostly adulterated horses. You have no idea what you are eating when you eat horse meat. Aside from the fact that many horse owners feel that horses are like their children and find it utterly repulsive – horse meat is about as safe as eating a lab rat. I can’t believe that Canada allows entirely unregulated animals to enter a human food chain… absurd! There can never be two classifications of one species that do not cross over – by the greed of man.

  2. Meat may be meat to you, but to most people who consume it, the animal it comes from and their associations with it is a primary consideration. Who are you to suggest that people’s deepest values on that score are irrelevant? You wouldn’t eat tainted meat, meat of unknown origin, meat that had not been inspected, meat that came from unhealthy animals, or meat that came from a beloved pet. Most people are sensitive enough to have preferences in what they will eat and will not. If you love horses, you won’t eat horse. Most people won’t eat dog or cat. Many refuse foie gras and veal. They know about animals as sentient beings and they know that they suffer. You may be insensitive to that—the public is not!

    Now let’s stop chiding people for having emotions over animals. It is exactly people’s preferences for animals that drives a thriving live-animal economy. You want to tell them not to buy expensive dog and cat food? To stop medical treatment for ill pets? To not get another rescue horse or puppy?

    Emotions drive people to want to be around animals. Don’t mess with that, Ms. Murphy!

  3. Horses are not food animals. This isn’t a romantic notion. It is a legal decision that allows horses to be medicated with substances never developed for or tested for food animals.

    When I see advertisements for cattle medications they tout how quickly the med leaves the animal’s system. There is no such concern with equine medications.

  4. Maybe a little more research is needed here. I am stunned that this author is a farmer, because as a farmer you know how many things can go wrong and what it takes to produce a good quality product.

    If you think that one animal is the same as the other, as a consumer, you are asking someone to just eat anything that is served up in filet form. Where did it come from? Were there safeguards followed when producing this food? What was injected into this animal last week? Is it safe to eat? If you are eating an animal raised as a pet or sport animal, the answers to those questions I guarantee you, will scare the snot out of you, that is, if you care about your health.

    Would you just pop a pill into your mouth if it was produced in someone’s backyard? Well, a pill is a pill right? I would hope not, but that is exactly what you are purposing that people do with eating animals that are essentially raised in a backyard or on a race track.

    And by the way, the same people who are pushing horse slaughter are pushing for “canine harvesting” for China export. There are already USDA standards for shipping dogs as meat. Be very careful here people. At some point you have to think what you’re really putting in your mouth.

  5. I never understood why anyone would ever consider eating meat from an animal not raised to be food. Countless preparations used in and on per , sport and race horses are clearly marked “NOT FOR USE IN ANIMALS INTENDED FOR FOOD”. Sounds as if the writer has very little respect for consumers, point blank, period! Especially disgusting as she claims to be a farmer. How irresponsible.

  6. If this article was not so ignorant and biased I’d spend a decent amount of time commenting but I see that others have more than adequately addressed the topics I’d bring forth. This article clearly shows, to me at least, the authors bias and ignorance on the subject topic. Recommendation: Do your homework or research before publishing such tripe!

    ~”Becoming aware of the intense suffering of billions of animals and of our own participation in that suffering can bring up painful emotions: sorrow and grief for the animals; anger at the injustice and deception of the system; despair at the enormity of the problem; fear that trusted authorities and institutions are, in fact, untrustworthy; and guilt for having contributed to the problem. Bearing witness means choosing to suffer. Indeed, empathy is literally ‘feeling with.’ Choosing to suffer is particularly difficult in a culture that is addicted to comfort — a culture that teaches that pain should be avoided whenever possible and that ignorance is bliss. We can reduce our resistance to witnessing by valuing authenticity over personal pleasure and integration over ignorance.” – Melanie Joy~

  7. People are dying all over the world from eating horse meat. Horses are not raised as food animals in the U.S. The FDA regulated the drugs for horses as non-food companion animals, and has, since the 1970’s. There are over 100 legal equine drugs that are labeled, “not for use in horses intended for food.” This does not include the illegal drugs that are given to horses because they are used in competition — drugs that unscrupulous individuals give them in order to increase their odds of winning. Drugs like morphine, frog juice and cobra venom.

  8. Part of the Romantic Version is due to polls that provide questions worded the way this one is..of course that’s the intent on any poll that is created by someone that would consume horsemeat..This is just one example of how that horse meat sourced..:The Draft that Rotz loaded to take to the Richelieu Plant, which He is a contract buyer for, no doubt has Equine Lymphangitis..and no doubt at some point may have been treated for besides the fact that the meat from this horse is probably will have banned drug residues as well..that will go undetected in the random sampling protocol Canada uses and finds acceptable for meats from unknown sources, horses gathered at random, by contract kill buyers . Bon Appetit’

    Penn Valley Horse Auction, Centre Hall, PA 3/28/14 | Animals Angels – North America

  9. Most Americans are against the slaughter of horses. Even though the slaughter of horses has been happening for decades, the average American has no idea that horses are being shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered. More and more people are becoming aware of horse slaughter and are horrorstruck when they learn just how barbaric the process is.

    Likewise, most of the people overseas that eat the horse meat from North and South America would be appalled to learn how horribly the horses suffer while being butchered for their meat.

    There are no longer any horse slaughter plants in the USA that slaughter horses for human consumption. Proponents of horse slaughter say that the closure of the US plants has caused a unwanted horse crisis in America. The fact is nothing changed in the horse slaughter business once the US plants closed, except the location of where the actual slaughter occurs. The exact same suppliers, kill buyers and auctions are up and running and the exact same companies are now in Canada and Mexico killing the horses, they never skipped a beat.
    In April of 2010 an 8½ minute news segment (English version) was produced by GAIA, a respected animal welfare organization from Belgium, with much of the footage provided by Animals’ Angels USA. Belgian and Dutch consumers were shocked to learn of widespread horse slaughter-related cruelty in North and South America. Consumers responding on television websites demanded action. “They [importers] told us the meat is of superior quality because the animals live a life of luxury and freedom on green pastures…well cared for with plenty of food. But it’s a horrible lie.” “I really doubt I’ll ever eat horse meat again,” said one man. “They may say they fixed the problem, but I’ll never trust them again.”

    In late February 2010, the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) received hidden camera footage of horse slaughter practices at Viande Richelieu in Quebec and Bouvry Exports in Alberta – the latter known as the largest exporter of horse meat in North America. The CHDC has compelling proof that puts into question the effectiveness of the assembly-line slaughter of horses. The evidence demonstrates that both the facilities in Alberta and Quebec fail to meet humane slaughter standards used by the CFIA to audit Canadian slaughterhouses.

    Dr. Debi Zimmermann B.Sc (Zoology), D.V.M. describes “The numerous acts of willful abuse are also of grave concern in the treatment of these sentient and non-aggressive animals.” Henry Melvyn Richardson, DVM, “Bouvry and Richelieu are causing extreme pain and suffering to the horses in their facilities.” Dr. Mary Richardson, DVM concludes “As a veterinarian who has worked in the animal welfare field for twenty years, I feel confident that the footage from the Bouvry plant shows levels of suffering that are unacceptable.”

    The sad truth is the facts about how extremely cruel and barbaric horse slaughter is just didn’t come out in 2010, but has been made public for years. In 2007 the San Antonio News-Express released a horrifying video that resulted from their investigation of horse slaughter in Juarez Mexico. In 2008 FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) records and close to 500 gruesome photographs taken by the USDA were released to Animals’ Angels and depicted in a KHOU article and video Thousands of US Horses Slaughtered in Mexico for Food. Hundreds of articles and videos have appeared in US newspapers, online and on television over the years, but still today American horses are being slaughtered in Canada and Mexico for human consumption overseas.

  10. Human flesh is technically “meat.” Some people might make an “emotional’ decision dot to eat it. But, shouldn’t it be an individual decision. Jeffrey Dahlmer said it is delicious. I am sure cats and dogs are equally delicious. In the State of Missouri, in the uS, dogs are classified as Livestock and they are currently pushing Legislation that will make it illegal to pprohibit any Species from being slaughtered there. Just because some animal can be caught and killed (no matter how violently) does not mean that it should be.

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