Here's something I'm not proud to admit: I've eaten horse meat. And not just any horse meat -- raw horse meat, in fact.
What can I say? I was at a trendy restaurant in Toronto (where eating horse is more common?); the server told me it was the best thing on the menu; I had an impulse to try something I've never had before.
I wish I could say it was disgusting, but it was the exact opposite -- like really nice tuna tartare but fresher and without any trace of a fishy flavor (obviously). But afterward I felt deathly ill -- not because there was anything wrong with the meat (there wasn't). But because I felt so guilty for eating something that most people consider a friend rather than food.
That's exactly why I'm so skeptical of the Summit of the Horse Conference held this week in Las Vegas, which is debating how to revive horse as a food source.
America's horse slaughtering industry was shut down in 2007. But a coalition of ranchers, horse owners, and -- get this -- animal-welfare groups at the summit are hoping to revive it.
There's some support for bringing back horse processing to the United States because as it stands now, there are not many avenues in which to dispose of horses economically and humanely. It's expensive to hire a vet to euthanize them. And, horse rescue groups can only take so many animals. As a result, thousands of horses are shipped to Mexico for slaughter and suffer along the way (this is where the animal-welfare groups come in). Plus, supporters say horse processing would be economically beneficial for some rural areas.
But not so fast: Many other animal-rights groups vehemently oppose bringing slaughterhouses back to the States, arguing that there are better alternatives including providing free hay to owners who can't afford it and investing in ways to reduce horse breeding.
Here's the bottom line when it comes to the debate about whether horse processing should be brought back to the U.S.: Can we overcome the "ick" factor and get used to consuming horse? As a fresh wave of guilt and subsequent nausea pass over me at the mere thought, I have to say:
"Not a chance."
Would you eat horse?
Image via tasweertaker/Flickr