I’m not about to tell you what you should or should not eat. I find that as personal as whether you decide to be “pro choice” or “pro life.” But I learn by talking things through, and if you can lend me your ear, or just keep reading what I’ve typed, then I would really appreciate it.
As you may have heard from NPR’s Philip Reeves, or others, some British “meat products” were composed of much more horse than the gentlefolk of that country ever imagined and a lot of people are in an uproar about it. But we don’t have to go across the Atlantic pond for such, shall we say curious, discussion topics. The United States Department of Agriculture is in the process of inspecting horse slaughter plants right here at home, though the resulting “meat products” will be sensibly exported.
I’ll admit, and you probably already know, I think of my horse as a pet. He’s as much a part of my life and family as Duke (my standard poodle), but too large to sleep in my room and a little harder to potty train. Naturally then, when I first heard of this New Mexico, and now Oklahoma, horse slaughtering business, I wanted to be outraged. How dare they?!
Fortunately, or unfortunately, once a philosophy student, always a philosophy student. I have the often-annoying internal push to form arguments that make sense. Part of that means that I must give the person I’m arguing against the benefit of the doubt and interpret their arguments with a sense of grace. After all, someone capable of running a large agricultural business must be an intelligent, sophisticated, and worthy opponent. This said, I am also a law student with a love of horses. I darn well hope to convince people not to kill the ponies! But how?!
I could argue things like: well….why don’t we start a dog slaughtering business for all the abused and neglected puppies and export that “meat product” to countries that desire it? Tempting…but not likely to be taken seriously as a suggestion and still leaves me with the pony-killing-problem. So instead, I’ll take Michael Jackson’s advice: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”
I, personally, wouldn’t eat a horse (at least not unless the world were at war and my nieces were starving, and then…ay ay ay….one step at a time). The reason I wouldn’t eat a horse is that experience tells me they are cognitively and emotionally intelligent, sentient, and social creatures. So is my dog. So are elephants. I would never eat either (except for maybe…just see the previous parenthesis). But then, I realize if I stop there I’m not a very principled person. After all, I think maybe pigs and cows are also significantly more intelligent, sentient, and intentionally social than say, turkeys and chickens. As a side note, I found a Jim somewhere that agrees with me, and have asked whether he’d be willing to chat more on the issue.
In the meantime, I need to figure out what I can eat while remaining the kind of person, true to self and principled, that I want to be. Kristen Daily’s summary of how animals become meat, in the Iowa State Daily, helped a little. But I’m still left with only an outline of what I need to do and a lot of questions.
At the base of it, I am an omnivore and a predator (eyes in the front of my head, instead of the side, make that obvious). Therefore, I don’t think I have to be an all out vegetarian or vegan to stay true to myself.
Maybe, since intelligence seems to be a big thing for me, I can eat poultry and stay away from beef and pork until I have the resources, and guts, to raise, humanely kill, and cook my own livestock on my own property. But if I’m going to do that, and not drive myself crazy over whether the chicken are free range, and what other “animal products” I’m consuming, etc., I’m going to have to be willing to forgive myself for being a well-intentioned, though probably ineffective, horse lover. I could do that.
Still, the thought that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” creeps over me. And I wonder…
Is my, perhaps half-baked, attempt at being principled really honest or worth it?