Meat or no meat, that is the question

lab meat

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.

vegetarian doubtsIt’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.

Cultured Meat and Horse Sense

Wayne Pacelle, HSUS

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

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • I became a vegetarian in protest of factory farms and commercial slaughterhouses, and in the case of beef, to also protest the Open Range cattle ranchers we have out here in Northern Nevada that are instrumental in their determination to eradicate all the wild horses and burros. Sure, I probably didn’t eat much, if any at all, of the beef produced out here, but I figured that if I could smack the beef producers that have to lease private land to graze their cattle on that usually runs $14+ AUM instead of the pittance of $1.35 it costs the Open Range ranchers out here when they lease Open Range, perhaps the private land lease producers would turn on there cheap-skate brethren…..don’t know if it’s working, but it’s certainly worth it to keep trying.

    So I’m not going to say I’m a permanent vegetarian, but until I can bring myself, if ever, to buy locally produced and slaughtered beef, pork, or chicken, I’m really not having a hard time being a vegetarian…….and many of the veggie burgers are pretty darn tasty too…….

    August 7, 2013
  • Arlene

    If being a vegetarian will save our Horses , that is what i will be !!!!!!!

    August 7, 2013
    • BlessUsAll

      Dear Arlene,

      Are you sure you don’t have room in that huge “horse heart” of yours to include a few more species of herbivores? I mean not just to stop eating them as a way of helping horses, but to appreciate and admire and even adore them for their own intrinsic beauty and fine character?

      I ask because tonight someone sent me this video about a German dairy farmer’s cows who were saved from being made into hamburgers:

      Their pure joy — so like horses’ exuberance — is evident, is it not?

      Their urge to be unconfined — so like wild horses’ desire to run free — is tangible, is it not?

      Are you moved, as I am, Arlene, to trot and leap right along with these blissful bovines?

      Do you agree that this farmer’s decision to spare their lives brings more — rather than less — love and peace and happiness to this world?

      And isn’t that what we want for all the horses we honor: not simply to be exempt from the violence done to other innocent animals, but to be beneficiaries of hearts healed of hardness toward all animals?

      If you haven’t visited a sanctuary for cows, pigs, chickens, and other rescued animals, please join narrator Jeffrey Masson on his eye-opening, heart-expanding journey through “The Emotional World of Farm Animals” and enjoy making new friends like Susie and Freddie and many more:

      Sincerely yours,

      August 15, 2013
      • Arlene

        Dear BlessUsAll, Of Course I do , All animals our in my heart have always been , I am a Volunteer at a Cat Rescue , I am also a volunteer for OHIO FARM ANIMALS, FOUGHT FEVERISHLY ALONG SIDE MANY Ohioans, a few years ago to get on the ballet for people to vote on their humane treatment of all Farm Animals , only to be sold out by Wayne Pacelle…….. My passion is extremely strong for Horses …. I am not a full fledged vegetarian but i am working on it !!!!! My meat intake is small only fish and chicken……

        August 15, 2013
        • Arlene

          ohh Sorry I didnt mention The German Shepard i had for 15 years , he was my Heart, his name was OZZY, I still cry from the loss of him, he also Loved the Horses ,with the same passion I do !!!! His size was Huge 130 pounds of Pure innocent love to give all other animals !!!! He knew my mind and could predict every move I would make !!!! before I even made it !!! I owned and operated a Jewelry store for 25 years, for 15 years Ozzy was there everyday with me , he was Loved by everyone who frequented my Store, often people would come there just to see him and bring him doggy bones….. he was a trained K9, who knew what to do and when, he stopped 2 robberies at my Store and held them at bay until the Police arrived !!!

          August 15, 2013
        • BlessUsAll

          So glad to hear you have so many creatures’ welfare at the center of your heart, my friend! Ozzy sounds wonderful, God rest his loving soul.

          Oh, so you’re one of those Ohioans who was “sold out.” Could you elaborate on that, please? 🙂

          Arlene, you will LOVE “The Emotional Lives of Farm Animals,” I promise. When you get to the part with the high school girl who tearfully describes how she felt when she betrayed her friend Ferdinand, you will probably cry right along with her, as I did. And when you get to another spot in the film — well, who knows, you might decide that the idea of cuddling and stroking blissful chickens is much more appealing than ….

          Blessings on your loving, caring, “working on it” head!

          P.S. Hey, ya’ll, fish have feelings, too, ya know! 🙂

          August 15, 2013
  • Well said Mr. Finch,
    I think people would be very less aggressive if they stopped eating meat.

    August 7, 2013
  • Amy Miller

    I don’t like to support factory farming and want to stand up for the rights of animals in such sad conditions. I am a vegetarian and I rather enjoy eating food that is not caused by any violence on any animal. I love all animals including the cattle, pigs and birds that people eat. I agree with Laura the burger patties are tasty.

    August 7, 2013
  • I gave up meat nearly a decade ago and I have been vegan for the last year or so. I have been around horses all my life and have been lucky enough to spend time with many other livestock animals – including pigs, cows, chicken and sheep. In my eyes they are all equals and none deserve to be on our plates.
    My body and soul could not be more thankful of my decision.
    As for laboratory generated meat – I think I will pass. As much as I loved eating meat I have completely lost interest in it all together. But, if it prevents suffering, I will give it a thumbs up.

    August 8, 2013
  • BlessUsAll

    Do I speak for each and every reader of this blog when I say that none of us wants to be responsible for inflicting terror, sorrow, physical agony, or any other form of suffering on another being — much less on a BABY being? I hope so!

    Yet that’s what we do, unwittingly, every time we consume the flesh of an animal who longs to live … or drink milk made by a bovine mom who yearns to feed her child … or eat eggs laid by a hen who talks to her chicks before they hatch.

    Have any of us asked ourselves why we’ve let our society’s violent traditions con us into acting against our most compassionate instincts?

    Have any of us wondered why we make excuses for continuing in our carnist customs, given the profusion of delicious plant-based products these days?

    Have any of us considered WHY we stratify nonhumans — WHY we are so convinced that horses merit greater affection and respect than cows and pigs and goats and turkeys and geese?

    So many deserving questions, yet so little time and thought has been devoted to asking — and answering — them.

    Why must we wait for our animal-violating actions to become stigmatized by society before we relinquish them?

    When we get right down to it, is following the crowd really an acceptable excuse for killing anyone? I hope to God not!

    August 8, 2013
  • Sue

    I saw a photo recently of an American woman who had traveled to S. Korea. She was talking to a dog in a cage who had specifically been bred for humans to EAT. Is that different than American eating cows, pigs, horses? I think not.

    Totally agree with all the vegan people who have posted here. Gave up beef in support of the Mexican wolf and pigs in support of Babe. (LOL) Figured if the Hindus don’t eat cow and the Arabs don’t eat pig, I don’t need it either.

    August 8, 2013
    • BlessUsAll

      Excuse my ignorance, Sue: what does beef (a.k.a. the cooked flesh of steers) and Mexican wolves have to do with one another, please?

      Am overjoyed to see that so many thoughtful individuals are putting not only the horse but also the cow, pig, chicken, turkey, sheep, goat, goose, duck, and fish BEFORE the cart — I mean the fleeting pleasures of the palate. 🙂

      August 8, 2013
      • I might be wrong but my guess is that wolves were probably being shot because they were a threat to cattle farms. That is a scenario that plays out over and over but is not commonly addressed outside of animal rights communities.
        It is just another, of countless reasons, not to support the meat industry – the threat to native wildlife.

        August 8, 2013
        • BlessUsAll

          Oh, right, Vanessa. I didn’t know why Sue specified the “Mexican” wolf, as opposed to, for instance, the gray wolf.

          Confession: I should’ve written “what do” instead of “what does” in the comment above.

          August 8, 2013
  • Valerie W.

    I LOVE YOU! Thank you for sharing this article & information! I just read about the guy from Google the other day, & thought it was an awesome idea, at least everyone would have more choices. I had read part of his reasoning was because of the possibility of a meat shortage! Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Wonderful for all those poor animals. I tried explaining the whole meat industry better to my daughter, & that if you choose to eat meat, you need to know where it came from, how it got there, & that “it” had a life, & to make smarter, healthier & humane choices. Like instead of buying “beef” or whatever from a grocery chain, buy it from local farmer’s markets, or Whole Foods stores, if it’s certified humane. I stopped eating any meat, fish or poultry as my personal protest to the horrid abuse of these creatures, &, as a general revolt & disgust at eating another living being! I will probably add eggs & cheese next to my “no eat list”, also because of what “they” do to all those helpless baby chicks. I already have eliminated most dairy products as I quit needing “boob juice”, aka milk, when I “grew up”! I also got some good, even if temporary, news about a judge here in Missouri who just denied “Rains Natural Meats” from starting horse slaughter, YAY!!!!!

    August 8, 2013
  • Judy Wendt

    Most people against slaughter of any kind – unless they are just species specific (horses, dogs, cats, monkeys, human animals) – find their way toward compassionate eating. They may need to bring their family members along slowly, but quiet a revolution is underway. Great cookbooks by “The Conscious Cook” by Tal Ronnen, “Vegan Cooking for Carnivores” by Roberto Martin, or “Vegan Fusion World Cuisine” by Mark Reinfeld &
    Bo Rinaldi are very helpful. Also processed “mock meats” by Gardein, Tofurkey, Yves, and (some of the) Boca, Morningstar Farms, and Garden Burger companies are available in most supermarkets. High end stores like Whole Foods have even more selections. I even had a “Beyond Meat” chick N wrap at a Tropical Smoothie Café franchise last weekend. I live in a rural area, but travel to Portland, Oregon once or twice a month where there are numerous vegetarian restaurants, food carts, vegan-friendly markets, etc., so I feel fortunate, but even in the rural area where I live, I have been able to find plenty of fresh, organic, healthy ingredients to satisfy this foodie’s appetite.

    Some people are forced into reconsidering their meat addictions when faced with health issues especially heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. For those who doubt the seriousness of continuing down the meat and dairy path, read “The China Study” or rent the video “Forks Over Knives.” They may not be ethically oriented in their change, but they still help the planet while helping themselves. Many physicians have the same addictions so they are reluctant to tell their patients to change (as they think their patients will just fail anyway). Not informing their patients of the high fat and cholesterol, carcinogenic protein overdose, diseases (such as salmonella and E Coli, and further heath problems from growth hormones and antibiotics that contribute to superbugs such as C Diff) contained in meat is just unethical, IMO. Environmentalists, however, are telling us that the vast amount of pollution from animal slaughter (factory farms, feedlot filth) is unsustainable. It gives me hope that Front Range, HSUS, et. al., will prevail in trying to stop yet another species (the magnificent horse) from adding to this horror.

    August 8, 2013
  • Susan Davis

    In protest of animal cruelty that is rampant in factory farming, I too chose to become a vegetarian 7 years ago. I buy eggs but only from a local individual here in my town as I refuse to purchase eggs from any grocery store. As for the tissue cultured meat, I’ll pass. The fact that stem cells would need to be harvested to “grow” the cultured meat means animals would be subjected to harvesting methods. You can be sure this will turn into some greedy rogue conglomerate.

    August 8, 2013
  • Mustang man

    I converted to being a vegetarian 8 months ago. I have to say I am debating the effects of it. I feel better, my cholesterol has almost reached outstanding numbers, I sleep through the night. Sleep very well rested in 7 hours as opposed to the semi rested 8 -9 hours. My horses like that I have lost 20 pounds off there back. I no longer have arthritis that I have lived with for more then 15 years. All from giving up animal flesh. Hummmm, was it worth it? I miss a rack of Pig Ribs but pigs look at me different now that they don’t smell me auntie piggy on my breath. I also have noticed that horses seem to like my smell better as well. To boot I have not missed eating meat one day. Not bad from a 7 day a week meat eater to a none per week meat eater. Sure, tell me how you will be less healthy or that you need to absorb that 40% of protein as opposed to absorbing that 90% of the protein in Vegetables, blah blah blah

    August 12, 2013
    • BlessUsAll

      That’s wonderful news, Mustang man! Am very glad for you, the animals, and the earth. 🙂

      If you’d ever like to take the next step — that is, being a hero to “dairy” cows and their calves and to “laying” hens and their hatchery-bred chicks — email Jerry and he’ll forward your email to me. I’d be happy to suggest products that enable you to do that painlessly. Your taste buds won’t even know the difference, but your conscience and your constitution will. You’ll be a few steps closer to FULL FREEDOM from a despotic
      industry that is, thank goodness, starting to lose its oppressive hold on our minds and bodies.

      August 12, 2013
    • Judy Wendt

      BlessUsAll is right, Mustang Man. You didn’t mention an improvement in your love life, but most men report experiencing a rejuvenation in that area, too, without such clogged arteries, etc. The loss of weight would make you more attractive, so if this is important to you, then keep up being a veggie – or even better go vegan as BlessUsAll suggests!

      August 13, 2013