Western European nations are up in arms right now over the fact that horse meat has been finding its way in to food products labelled as beef. While the act of including horse meat into food products while not stating its presence is obviously fraudulent, it has raised a more social question; is it OK to eat horse meat.
Meat, broken down to its most basal definition, is essentially the flesh of another living, breathing thing. While in Western society, the most common definitions of meat centre on beef, chicken, pork and fish, the scope of meat actually consumed is much wider. Hunters eat deer, moose, caribou and even bear meat. The Inuit of Canada’s north traditionally eat seal meat. The list of what we eat as a society is as endless as it is varied.
Yet there is a great debate waging over whether it is socially acceptable to eat horse meat, or if you are a restauranteur, to serve horse meat. Why has this happened? If meat is but flesh, why must we differentiate between what is good to eat, and what is taboo?
In his comedy sketch ‘No Cure for Cancer’, actor/comedian Dennis Leary quipped that if you were an animal, you would be much more fortunate to be an otter than a cow. Otters, you see, can do “cute little human things with their hands”, which is undeniably cute, whereas cows are, well, cows. Are attractive animals less likely to end up on our plate? Perhaps.
It would be easy to assume that we simply don’t eat cute animals, but that is not always the case. Everyone loves the site of a cute little bunny rabbit, but many also like the gamey flavour of that same bunny rabbit.
This debate is a question of emotional attachment. Ask a hunter if he would eat a horse, and the hunter/gatherer attitude instilled within him would likely lead to an answer of ‘yes’. Ask him if he would eat the trusty Labrador Retriever at his side, who has accompanied him on every hunt over the last ten years, and I can assure you, his answer would be different, despite the fact that a horse and a dog are, in the most basic sense, the same thing; animals.
That we debate is human nature, but that we are debating this is pointless. Horse-eaters will not convince those who love horses that it is OK to eat horse. Horse-lovers will not convince dedicated carnivores that a horse is any different than any other animal. And anyone with a vested interest in this conversation should have a look outside their own country, where the choice of food livestock can take on a decidedly different flavor.
If you eat horse meat, carry on, but don’t brag about it to horse lovers. If you are a dedicated horse rider, carry on, but don’t look down your nose at those who don’t understand your love of the animals.
But please, for all that is good and sacred, don’t eat cats. They are solely reserved for Internet memes and YouTube videos.