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Sometimes the commercial news media makes me want to puke. This subject deserves better than this clumsy post, so if you're interested in these issues I urge you to follow links and learn more.

Recently the Channel 7/West Australian conglomerate reported with some hysterial that a butcher was receiving death threats because he wanted to sell horse meat. Horses are pets, people said, and you can't eat pets. Full stop.

I have no objection to the idea of eating horse meat. I eat cows and sheep; wouldn't it be hypocritical--all other things being equal--to reject a different mammal? Well yesterday I found out that a few of my unconscious assumptions were seriously flawed. Horse meat does not arrive on the table in the same way as cow meat or sheep meat. At this point in time horses and cows are most definitely not interchangeable, and it's got nothing to do with their cuteness or abilities to do tricks.

Many thanks to shrydar for pointing me to an important information source. The blog Don't Eat Aussie Horses mentions a couple of, oh, minor points of which I was unaware:

There are no facilities to humanely slaughter horses for meat in WA. Or anywhere else for that matter. Slaughterhouses do not do what vets do. Equipment and processes designed to minimise pain and stress for cows do not work with horses. That piece of meat is guarranteed to have gone through a minimum of several hours (and possibly days) of major fear and pain before it gets to you. A seriously frightened horse will turn itself inside out with bruises and break legs, but that might go unnoticed.

Horse meat is unlikely to be safe for human consumption. Who knows where that horse has been? Because the horses in question have not been raised as food stock animals there is no way of knowing what diseases and parasites they've been exposed to, nor what medications they've been given. Cows are much more closely regulated.

Apparently one of the most common medications given to racehorses renders their flesh unfit for human consumption, and failed racehorses are one of the more likely sources of flesh. More reasons to hate the racing industry. Gah. And young thoroughbreds make such wonderful subjects to go through cattle yards in a calm and orderly fashion.

And there's more, but those two points would have made for a slightly different story. The story ended with a taste test (ah the irony), and the reporter concluded that horse meat was delicious.

So according to the "news" the protesters against horse meat are people who object to the idea of eating pets. They are horse lovers, which make them somehow out of touch with reality. Girls, mostly, so not to be trusted with rational arguments. Serious animal welfare and human health issues are apparently not relevant. I wonder if Media Watch knows about this story?

The argument "you can't eat pets" *is* true, but not because pets are cute and fuzzy and we love them. It's because pet animals have not been regulated to make them safe for consumption, and there's no industry dedicated to their welfare whilst turning them into meat.

Just like whales really.



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
The Zoo lost some of their painted dogs to horse meat that'd been put down chemically - and it was supposed to have been guaranteed.

I would still prefer to eat kangaroo over cow though. But not horse.
Jul. 18th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
I'd prefer to eat the most sustainable and healthy thing, whatever it might be. For now I'll stick with organic free range chicken and occasional local lamb and beef. Kangaroo is not allowed.
Jul. 19th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
Not allowed dietry wise? Darn if so.
Jul. 16th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
There are amazing gaps in the anti-horse side. Why should it be about race horses? We eat kangaroos and we don't know where they've been, they are not stock animals, blah, blah, blah, just the same as wild horses. If we are exporting tens of thousands of horses to Europe for human consumption, the "unlikely to be safe for human consumption" tag is clearly bullshit.
Jul. 17th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
It's not just about racehorses, but that's an industry that happens to produce a huge surplus of "useless" and unwanted animals. The drug in question is given to all types of horses. Brumbies may be more organic, but you still can't slaughter them safely.
Jul. 17th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
99% of the stuff on supermarket shelves is unsafe for my (and many others') consumption. This includes supermarket meat of all kinds, because of the way it's stored and handled, and frankly mislabled. There are a huge number of steps between hoof and plate, and that story failed to mention some of the big ones.
Jul. 17th, 2010 06:18 am (UTC)
Indeed - have you seen "Food Inc"?

It was an education!
Jul. 17th, 2010 06:32 am (UTC)
I don't know if I've seen that (TV docco?) in particular, but I'm always interested/horrified to find out where food comes from.
Jul. 18th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Looks very interesting, thanks.

Edited at 2010-07-18 02:35 pm (UTC)
Jul. 17th, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
If 99% of what's on supermarket shelves already is unsafe for you, then that's specific to certain people and not specific in any way to horses.

If we are exporting large amount of horse meat to Europe without contravening their regulations or making them sick, then the food safety issue sounds dubious. Indeed, it sounds like a rehash of very much the same things that were said about the legalisation of kangaroo for human consumption. The only part that appears to be different is the humane killing aspect.
Jul. 17th, 2010 10:08 am (UTC)
I don't know enough (yet) about the European exports and what happens to them to comment. Maybe the meat is heavily processed? Food standards also vary enormously from country to country.

I beleive the advice with kangaroo or any game/feral meat is to cook it well to knock off parasites. The same would apply to feral horse.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 17th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
I think part of the problem with the whole argument is a question of scale. For small amounts it's possible to ensure a line of supply through specialist producers and good butchers with their own businesses such as your friend Vince. I've had long chats with my butcher about their sources and methods and I'd trust them. Problems arise with commercial quantities and mass production.

I know I'm wishing for the moon but all I want is all the relevant information without emotional or media-enhanced hysteria. Hysteria annoys me.
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:25 am (UTC)
Hysteria annoys me too.

I'll be going straight to Vince to get some answers soonish. Long chats with him are nothing new.
Jul. 19th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC)
By all means let him know that I for one do not wish his demise.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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Stephanie Bateman-Graham

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