Saturday, March 1, 2008

Horsey Dilemma

Yesterday on The World, Genevieve Oger reported on the Bridgette Bardot Foundation’s efforts to get French people to stop eating horsemeat. Horsemeat used to be poor man’s meat in France, but now it only accounts for 2% of meat eaten, and it’s more expensive than beef or pork, but the Foundation is focusing on giving out pamphlets and pressuring markets to stop carrying it. They admit their real goal is to try to get people to eat less meat in general, but they say that such a goal is unrealistic so they’re focusing on this particular issue.

As someone who gave up red meat with no problems 4 years ago (and pork a year or so ago; that’s much harder even for a good Jewish girl like me…mmmm…bacon) I have no real interest in trying horsemeat, although since I do eat meat when I travel abroad I wouldn’t be averse to trying it if I were in France. However, images of My Little Pony aside, I have two issues with the Bridgette Bardot Foundation’s plan:
  1. I really don’t see how eating horsemeat is any worse than eating the meat of any other large herbivore. If anything it might even be better when it comes to the environment and humane treatment of the horses since there aren’t any large factory farms that raise and slaughter horses. I assume that therefore most horse’s lives while alive are probably a great deal better than your average meat cow, and they probably consume more grass and less oil-based-fertilizer-enhanced corn.
  2. Convincing people not to eat horsemeat is not going to raise the number of people who are vegetarians or even those who eat less meat. I would be willing to bet that for every person who goes to the store to buy horsemeat and doesn’t find it, they will simply buy some other meat product. Why is the horse more special than any other mammal? It’s really just a cultural thing – it’s the reason some cultures eat dogs but no one here would even consider it – and if France’s culture still thinks eating horses is okay, albeit for a very small percentage of people, that’s fine by me.

At best this is a showy effort to bring attention to the plight of animals that are bred for the food chain. Realistically though, I think this is much like the efforts of a few socialites ten years ago or so to pass an anti-horsemeat initiative in California – it was an activity for folks with too much time and money on their hands, and the opposition encouraged us to, “Just say Neigh”.

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