Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Horse meets versus horse meat

The question of Why can't you eat horse meat in the U.S.? takes on special force when the horses in question are retired race horses. The NY Times reports that the slaughter of such horses for human consumption arouses special repugnance.
The article Ignoble Endings Far From Winner’s Circle reports(emphasis added):

"The most significant source of racehorse deaths is the slaughter industry, one driven by overbreeding and demand from the lucrative global meat market. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 100,000 American horses are slaughtered each year in Canada and Mexico to satisfy horse meat markets in Europe and Asia.
The slaughter of domestically bred horses represents a breach of the American covenant between horses and humans: horses bred for sport, industry and agriculture are not part of our food chain. They are not supposed to meet death in a slaughterhouse."
"Many owners, faced with the choice of keeping retired horses and continuing to pay for their feed and care, instead opt to sell them at auction for $300 to $500 a horse, not realizing or not caring that if they are exported they can eventually be slaughtered.
“We’ve got lots of work to do here,” Waldrop said. “The problem is far from being solved. There is a high demand for horse meat around the world, and they create a market for horses that competes with our efforts to adopt and retrain these horses.”
The last of the horse slaughterhouses in the United States were shut down in 2007. But at least four states — Montana, Illinois, North Dakota and Tennessee — have either proposed or contemplated legislation to reintroduce horse slaughter. Two bills stuck in committee in the House and the Senate would make it illegal to transport horses across state lines or to foreign countries for the purpose of slaughter. The industry should push Congress to pass pending anti-slaughter legislation."

In a related story, concerned with wild horses also, see Pickens Once Raced Horses, Now Works to Save Them

HT: Muriel Niederle


YCL said...

Reminds me of the Chinese repugnance towards eating oxen which had been put to the plough. I think the rationale was that it's ungrateful to eat an animal which had spent its lifetime feeding you.

(Also, practically speaking, old oxen are all muscle--I doubt that's fun to eat!)

Anonymous said...

In a society that promotes recycling everything from trash to human organs, why does the thought of eating an unwanted animal cause such a controversy?

Joe Poniatowski said...

With no slaughterhouses for horses, what exactly are horse-owners to do with their aged or permanently lame horses? Rescues are great, but it is impractical to expect them to be able to accept all of them. Burying horses is not permitted in a lot of places, and cost-prohibitive for many people. With no other choice, I've seen owners send their horses to landfills to be buried in the garbage. Is that so much better as an end than if they were used to contribute to the fight against hunger?

vertigo symptoms causes said...

this is very cruel to hear about horse deaths for consumption ,there are lots of other food sources nowadays .

Horse Trainer said...

To respond to Joe's comment, you can still sell your horses to kill buyers at auctions all over the US, as has always been the case. However, the slaughterhouses don't want "aged" horses - they want young ones. Also, "permanently lame" horses can't withstand the long, crowded trailer rides to the slaughterhouses, so are likewise not what kill buyers are looking for. And frankly, how about providing a humane death to an animal that has spent its life serving you. Would you send your "aged" or "permanently lame" seeing-eye dog to Korea to be slaughtered and eaten? The cost of euthanasia is probably the same as you spent on your last pair of cowboy boots.

But back to the topic at hand - the more important issue about horsemeat is its toxicity and complete lack of production oversight. Meat production is a serious business and any medications used are strictly controlled. Horsemen are not in the business of meat production because horses are not raised for food in this country. Food safety protocols are not followed from birth. The decision that a horse will become food is usually not made until the animal becomes useless as a performer. Often this is preceded by a period where the animal is on drugs trying to improve it's performance. Surveys have shown that 100% of racehorses for example are given the drug commonly known as "bute." It is as common in horses as aspirin. And bute has no known withdrawal time, because it is absorbed in the a horse's fatty tissues. It is completely banned in food animals, because in humans, it's a known a carcinogen, which manifests itself in bone marrow, and can cause suppression of white blood cell production, aplastic anemia and granulomas.