Meat or no meat, that is the question
August 7, 2013
In the battle for the right to kill and eat animals, many of us believe that certain animals are strictly off limits in this country. The majority viewpoint here says that horses, monkeys, dogs and cats should never find their way into the market, while other countries accept them as normal food items. Some countries won’t touch cows or pigs. For whatever reason, be it political, financial or religious, the world has developed taste for a wide variety of meat.
It’s definitely an emotional issue, one filled with a level of introspection about our own sense of ethics. As vegetarians often point out, what is the logic of killing one animal to consume its flesh, while being revolted by the thought of killing and consuming a different species?
At Habitat for Horses, we deal strictly deal with equine and, one might say, we are pretty vocal in expressing our opinion about the human consumption of horsemeat, yet 19 out of 20 volunteers and employees will fall all over themselves trying to get another serving of BBQ. The introspective moment passes quickly when the cook is passing out brisket, ribs and chicken, but the doubt lingers like smoke from a cigarette drifts above the head of someone with lung cancer. Are we doing the right thing for our bodies? Sure it taste good, but….
That horse people don’t understand horse killers is a given. I’ve often said that there is no middle ground, no place for a compromise. I see them as demented, soulless and money driven (insert bad word here). To a far less degree, vegetarians don’t understand meat eaters, but a middle ground exists as long as there is potato salad at the BBQ. Yet there is still an unspoken gap between us.
So what would it be like if suddenly meat were available without any killing? What if that rare steak, that sausage, came from a factory that made it without ever harming an animal? It isn’t a question that floats around in the clouds because in the future, that will be very real.
Sergey Brin, the Google founder, innovator, and billionaire, craved a burger, but wanted to hold the suffering and the slaughter. Yesterday, the news broke that Brin – a primary driver in one of the most revolutionary developments in the modern era, developing new ways of aggregating information and searching for it – funded research to create meat in a laboratory setting by growing animal tissue from stem cells. In short, he has designs for a new way of growing meat, without the killing, the inefficient use of feed grains, and the waste generated by billions of animals. He said the high costs of meat, especially when it comes to the environment, are not workable for our society.
And yesterday, the slaughter lines didn’t get revved up in Sigourney, Iowa, or Roswell, N.M. – but it wasn’t as a consequence of a scientific breakthrough. It was a legal proceeding that stayed slaughter. On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, in favor of The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue, along with New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, former Governor Bill Richardson, and Robert Redford, and halted horse slaughter plants from opening operations in the United States for the first time in six years.
That federal court action provides a reprieve, but not a final answer. The judge will see the opposing parties in court about a month from now, and take a deeper dive into the arguments. Meanwhile, Congress has language pending in an annual spending bill to defund federal inspections of horse slaughter plants. And there are also bills in the House and Senate to ban the slaughter and export of American horses for human consumption at home or abroad.
Regarding the tissue-culture meat, we’ve long been concerned about the nation’s 50-year, failed experiment with factory farming. While it has provided cheap meat to consumers (while externalizing its aggregate costs to society), it’s been a calamity for animals, for the environment, for family farmers, and for rural communities. We’ve got to find our way through it, with a combination of putting more traditional family farmers on the land, getting the animals out of extreme confinement, eating more plant-based foods, and, perhaps, switching to more tissue-cultured meat, when it becomes commercially viable.
There won’t be any single antidote to factory farming. But we do have a major problem, and we need creative attention to it. Treating billions of animals like commodities, jamming them into small cages and crates, feeding vast amounts of grains to them, allowing them to generate massive amounts of waste or gases, and driving family farmers out of business is neither humane nor sustainable. We need a new way forward.
Habitat for Horses is a 501.c.3 nonprofit equine protection organization supported solely by your donations. As of today, we have 185 donkeys and horses under our care, plus two ornery, old mules. Most of them are here because law enforcement removed them from their previous owner. Our ability to rehabilitate and rehome them comes from the financial support of people like you. Please support us by making a donation for the horses we all serve. Click HERE to donate