Some People Did And Never Knew It
Tesco, Britain’s largest chain grocer was recently busted for selling tainted beef. The beef was not contaminated with the usual concerns such as mad cow or dangerous bacteria, it was contaminated with horse meat. In the UK it horse meat is not a delicacy or even diet staple as it is in some countries, equine on the menu is widely considered taboo. The company responded with a two page, published apology. Tesco also tweeted apologies. But in a major fail, they created more enemies when a member of their customer care team sent on a simple, tweet:
“It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more.”
After a storm of unhappy reply Tweets and a few more apologies and explanations (the Tweet was supposedly already setup in an auto Tweet queue before the horse meat scandal broke) from Tesco, Twitter user LouLouK tweeted: “You know you can delete scheduled tweets yes?”
To which Tesco Customer Care replied, “Yes, lesson learned. #SadFace”
This news event brought up discussions on blogs and social media everywhere, and at our own family dinner table.
Would you eat a horse?
I am a vegetarian, so my answer would be simple, and without hesitation to ponder the pros and cons: “nope.” But my husband and kids do eat meat so I polled them. Nope, none of them would purposely eat horse meat either. (Although my teenage son did say he would for a million dollars.) In our family, the “no horse meat” verdict was unanimous, and, in fact, we don’t even feed products containing horse meat to our three dogs.
While it is true that we own three horses (a fourth has crossed the rainbow bridge) so you might think my personal opinion is based on being a horse owner, that is not true. If you had asked me ten years ago, or twenty, when I did eat meat if I would have eaten horse meat I still would have said no.
I am, however, open-minded enough to realize my aversion to eating horse meat is a cultural thing and will not condemn people who do have equine on the menu (but I will shiver at the thought.) My main objection is to the way animals are raised, treated, the often extremely cruel conditions under which they are made to travel to slaughter, and what they are subjected to before they are killed and how they die. I may not be able to effectively argue away someone’s right to eat animal products, but I can make a damn strong case for the need for reform in how animals are treated before and during slaughter.
My grandparents owned a beautiful 120 or so acre farm in Myersville, MD. The grew some crops, but mostly raised black angus cattle for meat. I petted the cows, talked to them, and scratched their soft fuzzy faces. I even enjoyed the feeling of their soft tongues licking the salt from my hands. I gazed into their docile eyes and told them I loved them, but because I was raised in a culture where it was okay to eat beef, I was able to push it out of my mind that the beautiful sweet creature I was petting would end up as someone’s hamburger.
So just what is it that make our stomachs turn at the idea of eating horse meat?
White knights and princes ride in to save us on horses. Unicorns, which are horses with magical powers and horns, are the subject of virgin lore. Horses can even fly, that is, if they are Pegasus. I do not think there is a mythical flying cow outside of Monty Python.
Horses are the subject of many familiar childhood stories including, The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, and sidekicks to other childhood heroes including Silver (the Lone Ranger) and Trigger (Roy Rogers) and Donkey in the Shrek series of movies. Mr. Ed, the talking horse was the star of a popular television show in the 1960s, and many movies have been made to honor the nobility and spirit of horses including War Horse and Dreamer. And let’s not forget Saddle Club and My Little Pony.
Come to think of it, I can name Secretariat, Man O’ War, Phar Lap, Sea Biscuit, and at least a dozen other famous race horses even though I have never been to a horse race nor watched one.
Aside from Ferdinand The Bull, I cannot name one single bovine hero, book, or movie.
And therein lies one possible answer. My parents never told me horse meat was taboo, the media did. The vegetarian in me suddenly feels inspired to go write a nice, long series of feel-good cow stories. Maybe my cows will even fly and rescue princesses.