Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What horsemeat can do for you

Congress has lifted the ban on the butchering of horses. A bill apparently snuck through, giving inadequate opportunity for those opposed to it to vote "Neigh."

On the very same day that a few people were getting so hot under the collar about this, a story came across my Google Reader about mixed martial arts heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem (left), who has built a rather impressive physique based on a diet of horsemeat.

But there are a lot of people who think that, while it's okay to slaughter cows, there's some kind of a problem with slaughtering horses. With some people it seems to involve simply the "ick" factor: eating horse meat just doesn't sound very appetizing. But for others seem to have a more philosophical problem with it.

I'm trying to figure out by what criteria one would make this distinction. On what basis would it be humane to kill and eat cows on not humane to kill and eat horses. Maybe some of my readers could let me know what they think of this.


Singring said...

Personally, I likewise see no significant distinction between slaughtering cows or horses. I have never eaten horse meat, but I wouldn't mind eating it if it were served in a restaurant or sold in shops. As far as I know, horses have been slaughtered to create all kinds of products, from leather to soap to glue to salami (in Europe at least), but that was usually at the end of their 'useful' life.

As to why some people find one more problematic than he other or prefer eating one over the other? Good question. Maybe its because horses have been used as individual beasts of burden and for sport or recreation for hundreds of years, which creates much stronger empathy and bonding between them and their owners. There is a much stronger culture of individualizing and anthropomorphizing horses, going back to more ancient cultures like the Mongols right up to more recent times - the American West around the turn of the century immediately comes to mind. I guess that's why you have books like 'Black Beaty' but no 'Black Daisy'.

KyCobb said...

Its just a cultural thing. In many cultures, dogs have been raised as meat animals. You can imagine how well that would go over here.

J.D. Salyer said...

Hello, Mr. Cothran --

Worthwhile question. As a patriotic Kentuckian I must say I find the idea of eating horsemeat almost irreverent.

I think C.S. Lewis treats a similar question in *That Hideous Strength*:

"'The bear, as I was observing,' said MacPhee, 'is kept in the house and pampered. The pigs are kept in a stye and killed for bacon. I would be interested to know the philosophical rationale of the distinction.'"

On a totally unrelated note, I thought you might be pleased to know your recent response to Rush Limbaugh has generated quite a discussion at the Front Porch Republic website:

Anonymous said...

Lee said...

Way back in the summer of '74, yours truly was doing hard time as an Air Force ROTC cadet. Towards the end, all of the flights took part in a competitive field day, followed by a cookout for which we had paid $4 each to cover the costs. $4 wasn't a lot of money even in 1974, and it was all-you-can-eat.

The Colonel himself was cooking the steaks at the grill, and I was scarfing down my fourth steak when it finally occurred to me: hey. There's a beef shortage going on in this country, at least outside of this military base. $4 for all the beef steak I can eat?

So I said to the Colonel, this isn't beef, is it?

He smiled and said, nope. It's horse.

Milton Friedman famously observe that economists don't know much, but they do know how to create shortages and surpluses. To create a shortage, simply enforce a lower-than-market price on a commodity; to create a surplus, enforce a higher-than-market price. The Nixon administration had decided to put that wisdom to the test beginning around 1972 with a barrage of wage and price controls, a political attempt to look like something was being done about inflation. This policy gave us, among other things, our country's first gasoline shortage, and our first (and last) beef shortage. Regulators somehow found it incredible that farmers would refuse to sell cattle if they would be forced to do so at a loss.

In any event, somehow the price of horsemeat had stayed relatively low.

Since it took me four steaks to figure it out, I guess you could conclude that horsemeat doesn't taste much different than beef. As I recall, horsemeat has less flavor than your typical Angus sirloin (it's probably leaner), and is maybe a wee bit tougher. But there are differences of taste and texture even among cattle. Living in Omaha, I discovered that dairy farmers often eat their own dairy cows, and beef farmers turn their noses up in disgust. "Too tough!"