The other red meat: lift on ban allows human consumption of horses

Lyndsie Yamrus, Assistant Opinion Editor

In 2006, Congress said “neigh” and put a ban on the slaughtering of horses for human consumption by discontinuing the use of federal funds towards meat inspection services. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that all meat be federally inspected before its distribution from the plant, and the absence of this money created an obstruction for the industry.

So at that point in time, anyone who claimed they were hungry enough to eat a horse clearly weren’t doing so legally, at least not in the United States. Although the horse meat market is virtually nonexistent in the America, it is more commonly desired abroad, especially in Europe.

The ban has recently been lifted, allowing the funding towards inspections that will resurrect the equine market. Naturally, many animal activists are outraged, making claims that the slaughtering is violent and inhumane. The majority of responses to the elevation of the ban will almost certainly be in opposition. In fact, upon researching this matter online I stumbled across many oppositional opinions that more or less regarded the horse as a “beautiful and majestic domesticated creature”. Beautiful, sure. Majestic, why not. But obviously, horses weren’t always domesticated as they are today. They were hunted for their meat and served around the campfire by early modern humans.

On a side note, it is highly unlikely that the early humans would ever have evolved on a meatless diet. Regardless, the nomadic people were only trying to survive, but simultaneously and unknowingly reaping benefits.

In 1997, the USDA announced in a consumer publication that horse meat was actually leaner and sweeter than beef, low in fat and high in both iron and protein. I’m not a doctor, but horse looks like it could actually be rendered beneficial for patients who lack the latter two, such as anemic and low blood sugar individuals or even pregnant women.

The United States National Library of Medicine (USNLM) adds that horse meat is more nutritionally beneficial than beef due to its high levels of unsaturated fatty acids, which improve heart health. As an animal enthusiast, my heart of course goes out to all the unwanted horses that were ever taken to a slaughterhouse. Still, there are other aspects to observe, like what do you do with an unwanted horse? Horses are costly animals, and not all owners can afford to do so. Numerous rescue facilities exist in the United States, but the amount of horses directed into slaughterhouses per year far exceeds the capacities in these facilities. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates from 90,000 to 100,000 horses every year.

Equine protection organization Habitat for Horses says that it costs anywhere from $40 to $200 to euthanize and remove a horse, whereas it pays from $150 to $800 to sell it for slaughter, a quick and profitable gain. It would certainly be nice to allow all horses a tranquil life until natural death, but the reality of it is that it just isn’t possible. If anything, the ban would increase neglect and abandonment towards the animals. There are far too many in existence and not nearly enough individuals who are responsibly and financially competent to properly care for each one of these creatures.

It was certainly okay to say “yeigh”.