How hungry do you have to be to eat a horse?

The debate over the consumption of horse meat in the US is a historical one. Several individual states have banned the sale of horse meat for human consumption for years and congress agreed in 2006 by cutting funding to horse meat inspectors which in turn closed the last of the horse meat processing plants. That funding has recently been reinstated due to concerns over horse neglect and unsanitary conditions. The recent controversy about horse meat being found in all kinds of beef products (including Ikea’s meatballs) in Europe has started this debate all over again.


Some of the concerns appear to be based on fear over the drugs horses are given that are not FDA approved for animals intended for human consumption. Others argue that these drugs are not any worse than what cows, pigs, and chicken are routinely given.


I, and many others, have a feeling that the debate goes deeper than that. It seems as though part of this controversy is due to the fact that Americans are more morally opposed to eating horses than other animals (pigs, chickens, cows, deer, etc.).


Humans feelings about eating animals vary immensely based on our relationship to the animal. Americans view cows, pigs, and chickens as indisputably inferior and thus have few qualms about eating them and changing their titles to something more menu worthy (pork, ham, bacon, beef, steak, etc.). However, many Americans would probably rather starve than eat a dog because we dote on dogs and welcome them into our families. The idea is similar with horses. Teresa Genaro, a Forbes contributer, explains the moral debate quite well.


We view horses more as pets or beautiful animals to admire than food. Joel Stein succinctly sums up the illogical nature of this debate, “It’s not that I don’t think killing horses is cruel. It’s just that I think killing chickens, pigs, sheep and cows is equally bad. Morality based on aesthetics is pretty shallow.”


In many ways, eating horse meat is more ethical than other meat consumption. Horses tend to lead a longer, happier life than animals bread for consumption. They are prized for their health and beauty and are thus well taken care of. They release less methane than cows, and do not degrade as much land. Additionally, when is variety a bad thing?

The FDA unapproved drug use is a problem, but one that I am sure with some regulation we can fix. Other than that, I see no good reason why horse meat should be excluded from the American diet.

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