Friday, September 08, 2006

The troops are being shot to bits, but the horses are safe

Yesterday I received two email messages from my congressman regarding the horse slaughter legislation he was promoting. The first was alerting me that the bill was to be under consideration that afternoon. The second arrived that evening, proudly announcing that the bill had passed.

According to Congressman Moran's email, 90,000 horses are slaughtered in this country each year:
The reason so many horses are treated in this manner is that the overseas market for horse meat is very lucrative. So-called "killer buyers" purchase horses at livestock auctions, from families and individuals believing their animal is going to receive good treatment. Instead, these unscrupulous buyers then turn to one of the three foreign owned horse slaughter houses (the only horse slaughter houses in the country) who put these proud animals through a painful rendering process. The byproduct of these actions ends up on the dinner plates at fancy French, Dutch and Japanese restaurants overseas.
I have been vegetarian for about three years now. You might think I would be against the slaughter of horses, but I'm having trouble being particularly concerned about the animals' plight. I generally tell people that I am a vegetarian not for ethical or health reasons, but for conceptual reasons. I do not think it is wrong for humans to eat animals. Certainly I am concerned about the conditions that animals are treated in and I know I benefit from eating less animal fat, but mainly I don't eat meat because the whole idea of eating an animal started to gross me out. Should I be more concerned about horses than I am about other animals that are used for meat?

Maybe I only feel this way because I don't feel any particular attachment to horses. I've never been on a horse in my life, and I'm a little bit of afraid of them, to be honest. What if this were cat slaughter legislation? Would I feel differently then? I thought about that last night as my cat curled up with me in bed. I certainly wouldn't be sending her off to the slaughter house (although I would totally threaten it when she wakes me up in the middle of the night to play), but I don't think I would be in favor of that legislation either. If other people in this country or in others want to eat cats, that's their business. I'm not going to eat cat meat, and I'm not going to send Cecilia off to the slaughter house when she reaches the end of her little kitty life, but I can't see defining eating cats or horses as wrong when it's okay to eat rabbits and pigs.

When I read the above paragraph I also wondered whether the "painful rendering process" these horses really go through is worse than what cows and pigs go through when they are slaughtered. I know there are many people in favor of more humane treatment of animals that are raised for meat, and I can support those beliefs, although since the animal ends up dead and eaten in the end regardless, I often think the humane treatment may be more for our benefit than for the animals'.

My favorite part of Moran's argument in this email is his statement that "this practice is simply un-American. Americans do not eat horse meat. We are taught from an early age to treat these animals with dignity and respect." Why horses in particular? According to Moran it is because they are an icon of the American West. According to a group advocating for the passage of the bill, one of the top reasons is that horse slaughter hurts the U.S. beef industry. (I'll have to look up whether Moran has taken any donations from them.)

I was disappointed to read that the bill had passed yesterday. I don't think the legislation is the right thing to do, and I'd really rather that my representatives in the Congress were working on more important things. In Moran's second email he seems to agree with me; after announcing the passage of the H.R. 503, he says:
Unfortunately, this Congress, with only three weeks left on the legislative calendar, still refuses to tackle the major issues that confront the American people. Issues such as the emerging civil war in Iraq, the exploding federal deficit, the growing ranks of the uninsured and rapid global warming continue to go without debate.
But then he adds:
In the absence of the Majority Party's willingness to tackle these vital issues, passing the horse slaughter ban means that the final month of session will not have been a complete waste.
I'm not so sure about that.

And you know what else bothers me about the whole thing? Apparently the Bush administration is on my side on this one.

The Husband contributed the title of this post. He says that if he could draw, he would create for me an illustration of beret-wearing horse thieves sneaking up on some child's pet pony, drooling, knife and fork in hand. I think it should be a cartoon strip, and in the next panel, John Sweeney and Jim Moran could swoop in and save the day using their amazing powers of . . . um . . . legislation?


perry said...

Wow, when I first started reading this entry I thought, god here it comes, 'save the horses'. And then blam, the most common sense comments I've ever seen.

Completely unexpected.

I think you are right, this isn't about horses, it is about beef.

BTW, because this entry knocked me out, I've backread a lot, congratulations on the coming birth.

ps picked you up from ann's blog.

The Sister said...

I was similarly disappointed when Congress spent a day deciding that tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable.