Get off high horse and don’t say neigh to horse meat

by Kenneth Leonard

Food inspectors in the Czech Republic claim packs of frozen meatballs labeled as beef and pork sold at Ikea contained horse meat DNA.

Ikea is the most recent retailer to be implicated in an ongoing European horse meat scandal. Horse meat has been discovered recently in several products, from meat sold to Burger King in the United Kingdom to a meat pasta sauce sold by Wal-Mart’s European supermarket chain, Asda. In January, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland claimed beef burgers with traces of equine DNA, including one product that tested 29 percent horse, were being sold to supermarkets by subsidiaries of the ABP Food Group.

Apparently, there’s a horse meat crisis in Europe and, for all we know, it’s spreading to the U.S. even as you read this column. I’m here to tell you, dear reader, if you are one of the many people who are disgusted or even outraged at the very idea that people may be eating horses right now, you are an idiot.

When was the last time you checked the exact breakdown of the meat in a burger you ate? The last time you went to Taco Bell, did you perform an in-depth analysis of the contents of the taco meat before you stuffed your face? We both know you didn’t and, for all you know, there could be a dump truck full of ponies backing up to a giant grinder behind West Commons, ready to supply hungry students with fresh, delicious taco meat.

While concerned citizens complain about poor, innocent horses being slaughtered and finding their way into fast-food mystery meat, there are holocausts of cows, pigs and chickens taking place around the clock in a prolonged effort to keep meat-hungry carnivores across the U.S. satisfied.

But no, we can’t eat horses. It’s taboo. Western culture simply won’t stand for it, because, collectively, we’re as intelligent as a box of doorknobs. Horse meat is perfectly acceptable in many parts of the world, but not here. The reasons for this taboo may have roots in Jewish dietary laws, which prohibit the consumption of animals without cloven hoofs because desert-dwelling nomadic tribes thought deities cared about that kind of thing. Pope St. Gregory III condemned the eating of horse meat back in 732 A.D. because ritual consumption of it was associated with certain pagan practices. The consequences of the ban by the former pontiff remain in some cultures, along with prejudices against horse meat.

We should be a civilized-enough culture to avoid taking dietary advice from ancient superstitions and outdated theocratic decrees. Some dietary taboos are way past their expiration dates, and there are simply no good reasons why anyone should think of horse meat any differently than other types of meat. If you object to eating all meat and you are consistent with this position, then I applaud you, but I will not be joining you on the moral high ground. I just love cheeseburgers and steaks way too much. If you eat some meats but abstain from eating other kinds for moral reasons, then you’re confused about what meat is and where it comes from.

Meat, in all its delicious forms, is murder. It’s delicious, savory murder. It’s murder that tastes great with a wide variety of sauces and side dishes.  It truly doesn’t matter where it comes from. Eating a cow is morally equal to eating a pig, horse or cat. No matter how you slice it (pun intended), an animal had to die somewhere so you could enjoy your meatballs.

If your objection is the mislabeling of meat, I understand your position. Consumers are entitled to protection when it comes to ensuring the products they pay for are accurately labeled. If you pay for beef and you are served horse, someone owes you an apology and a refund.

However, if you are a conscientious objector when it comes to horse meat, I suggest you become a vegetarian or grab a plate, because Seabiscuit is what’s for dinner.