Originally published at my blog Equine Progressive, on April 6, 2010, this post has been getting some play from Google searches. I think some of the links have since been broken, unfortunately, but the facts remain the same.
You can eat it if you want. I wouldn’t.
Here’s a lovely new study by the Equine Welfare Alliance, which followed eighteen slaughter-bound racehorses from the day they were administered bute (remember, it’s reported to the racing officials on race day, and filed) to the day they went to the kill. Oh the delicious, toxic meat. Bute, we should know by now, is a carcinogen, which manifests itself in bone marrow. It is toxic to the point that there are no safe levels permitted in food at all.
We might all be ill-advised to eat cattle, pigs, and chickens. But we’re flipping insane to eat racehorses.
In Alex Brown’s article, “Keeping Bute Out of the Food Chain,” he cites the Daily Racing Form’s statistic that in 2009, “99% of horses that ran in California pre-raced on Bute (7391 out of 7443).”
And these are the legally slaughtered horses.
Meanwhile, in South Florida, the legislators are writing bills creating felony charges for illegal slaughter – you know, when people find a horse they like, tie it to a tree, and butcher it while it is still alive. Evidently, they believe that this practice is limited to polo ponies, so Representative Luis Garcia (D. – Miami-Dade) assured a Miami blogger that they’ve amended the bill criminalizing illegal slaughter to include the transport of polo ponies. Which is interesting, considering the poster child for illegal horse butchering is a paint named Geronimo.
In reading the bill (which cites, in part, that a reason for criminalizing illegal horse slaughter is to “protect Florida’s natural beauty,” since unsightly horse carcasses have been found on previously pastoral roadsides), it appears that previously, it was only illegal to slaughter registered horses. The language reads that it will now “expand the classification of protection for registered breeds of horses to include any animal of the genus Equus (horse.)” Now grade horses are safe, too!
All joking aside, I find it striking that the horse slaughter debate continues to skirt the issue of food safety. You can spare me the arguments that the horse is not livestock, that civilization itself was built on the backs of horses and it is inappropriate to eat such a noble beast. As it happens, I believe all those arguments, too. But there are just as many people who will never be convinced of the social and philosophical reasons why horses are not food.
The real point to be made is that horses are simply not fit to be eaten. In a country which is repeatedly gripped by various medical panics – contaminated vegetables, bacteria-ridden meat, irradiated milk – no one is saying much about the most compelling reason of all not to slaughter horses: they simply aren’t safe to eat.