Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Case for Legalizing Horse Meat

The Case for Legalizing Horse Meat:
The USDA has
approved
the first domestic horse slaughter facility in the
United States since Congress lifted a five-year ban on such
facilities in late 2011.
The facility, located in Roswell, New Mexico, has already been

inspected
, one of the last hurdles before it can open.
Four
other
horse slaughterhouses are also in line to open.
Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack
indicated
the agency will grant the necessary permits so the
Roswell facility can soon open.
“We are going to do this, and I would imagine that it would be
done relatively soon," Vilsack
told
NBC News.
The ban was always controversial. And its terrible unintended
consequences were both predictable and predicted.
As I noted in a 2011 post
at Hit & Run, a 2006
report
, The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane
Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States
,
predicted that "[t]he potential for a large number of abandoned or
unwanted horses is substantial" under the ban.
That’s exactly what happened almost immediately after the ban
went into effect.
A June 2011 GAO report, Horse
Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from
Cessation of Domestic Slaughter
, revealed that “state, local
government, and animal welfare organizations report a rise in
investigations for horse neglect and more abandoned horses since
2007[.]"
The report “recommend[ed] that Congress reconsider the ban.”
A few months later, Congress
did just that
.
The main arguments against domestic horse slaughter, as I
described in another Hit & Run
post
in 2011, are that it’s somehow inherently cruel to kill
horses for food and that Americans don’t and won't eat
horsemeat.
Neither argument holds up to scrutiny.
“To be clear: Horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia,”

claims
the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals (ASPCA).
But the group’s rationale to support its arguments quickly veers
from the humane to the irrelevant. The group justifyies its support
of a ban because previous “slaughtering plants paid no export taxes
and little in income taxes… [and t]he slaughterhouses themselves
were not clean/green enterprises[.]”
Even if that’s all true, it’s got nothing to do with horse
slaughter.
And then there's this: “Horse slaughter can be done humanely in
a well designed facility that has good management,”
writes
Temple Grandin, often hailed as the leading authority on
compassionate animal slaughter.
On the issue of an American appetite for horsemeat, there does
appear to be a demand.
For every news story that
begins with
“Americans don't want to eat horse meat…,” it’s
none too difficult to find another news story that
lays waste
to that claim.
The ASPCA argues, though, that some animals are more equal than
others.
“Due to the historic role that horses have played in the
development of our country and culture, the ASPCA is opposed to the
slaughter of horses for human consumption,”
says
the group.
But in the American melting pot, culture cuts (and cooks) in
innumerable ways.
“Horse has a long and proud culinary tradition, and is eaten all
around the world,” writes
celebrity chef, author, and television personality Andrew Zimmern,
who supported an end to the ban. “I happen to think horse meat is
not only delicious, but also a great alternative protein.”
Before you rush on down to your local butcher seeking a cut of
said alternative protein, though, bear in mind that the Roswell
facility may still face some roadblocks before it opens.
Just this week, a Colorado horse rights group
announced
it may sue to put the skids on the Roswell
facility.
And New Mexico
Sen. Tom Udall
and Virginia Rep. Jim
Moran
are among those in Congress who would like to maintain a
ban on horse slaughter.
I hope for the sake of chefs, butchers, ranchers, consumers, and
horses alike that neither the courts nor Congress ever saddle this
country with another horsemeat ban.