Horse was the other red meat.
I will eat just about anything really. Liver, snails, elk, all sorts of odd and dead things from the sea that others might turn their nose up at. However, I won’t eat anything at all. I do have some personal limits. I don’t eat horse, or dog. This isn’t because I don’t think they would taste good and not exactly due to a cultural more. It’s because I find these animals to have greater use to me than food. If I were stuck on an island with only a horse and no other food, then I would eat it. But given the option of other food I would rather use the horse to pull a plow, to ride on, or move heavy objects and a dog to hunt, track, and keep my company.
I never really though about this as a luxury until I read an article on the subject of horse meat, which discussed how eating horse meat fell out of favor, even though it was once quite ordinary. One of the main reasons, according to the article, was a cultural pressure placed on people not to eat horse meat in order to keep the useful animals alive.
“Within Christianity, horse-eating became taboo with a papal decree in 732, when Pope Gregory III deemed the consumption of horse meat to be a pagan practice (possibly in an effort to preserve horses for more practical purposes, such as war).”
In that sense my own reasoning is much the same. It’s edible, probably tastes just fine and all, but it’s a useful animal. Nevertheless in European countries such as France, Italy, and Germany eating horse is accepted, though not common.
But some people will eat what they can.
In most places around the world people eat whatever they can get. Food is food regardless of whether it’s a horse or a cricket. In China and India many farmers eat rat. That’s something Americans and Europeans would certainly turn their noses up at. We go through a great deal of effort to kill them and dispose of their bodies not thinking twice about the precious protein we are throwing away. Take the man in China who has been catching rats, carefully, and cleverly for decades in order to eat them and share them with friends and neighbors.
I’m not advocating we eat crickets, rats, or even horses. Rather I’m saying we take a moment to reflect on just what it is that allows us to make the choice not to. You see, we’re rich, even the poorest McDonald’s eating American is taking advantage of a wealth unlike any in history as well as in most of the world today. Billions of people don’t have that choice.
That made me reflect on vegetarians and vegans. What a luxury it is to live in a country where you can eschew as immoral an entire food source, and protein no less. Though I personally think both choices are totally silly if someone wants to go that route that’s fine with me. I just hope they recognize that the fact they can even do that is outstandingly rare in human history. I think we have all heard the vegan line of thinking about how eating animals is wrong, is inhumane. A fine example of this thinking is found in the following quote.
“The problem is that humans have victimized animals to such a degree that they are not even considered victims. They are not even considered at all. They are nothing; they don’t count; they don’t matter. They are commodities like TV sets and cell phones. We have actually turned animals into inanimate objects – sandwiches and shoes.” Gary Yourofsky
There is a reason the majority of people in the world don’t share this perspective. It’s a simple reason. The most basic, if not the most base, of all reasons. They are hungry. Where some may see bacon and see the little pig it came from, imagine an anthropomorphic friend, cute, pink, and curly of tail, others see life extended for another day.
We are meat eaters. It’s not immoral. It’s evolutionary and revolutionary.
Even in small amounts there is a high pay off, in terms of energy, with meat. We have evolved to be one of the few creatures that handles meat and plants equally as well. A lion isn’t going to have a salad and a llama isn’t going to eat a steak. Part of our success as a species is our ability to make use of all available food. Having limited evolutionary tools we had to. No claws, no fangs, no armor to protect us mean we are ill-equipped to attack. We aren’t great diggers, nor are we great climbers, which means our ability to get at tubers and things high in the trees is also limited. We ate what we could when we could get it. As a result evolution favored teeth, hands, and a digestive system well suited for this type of consumption.
Though it is true that various religions have restricted foods it is also pretty obvious that there was a health connection with that. Take the prohibition on pork for example that exists in Judaism and Islam. There was a high likelihood of parasitic infection from pork already that was heightened by the nomadic and desert lifestyle of those people. The Hindu faith reveres cows, which is where we get our expression “holy cow!” (not from them, but mocking them) but the Hindu still use the milk and use the cow in agriculture. Again, it has a value to them beyond what slaughtering it gives them. Better to keep it alive and get a much greater supply of milk and labor than to just get some meat.
It’s my privilege to eat meat.
I grew up without a lot of money eating food that most would consider “poor people’s food” and I loved it. I didn’t think of it that way at the time. I remember picking the scant meat off a ham hock and it was pure delight.
People nowadays talk about white privilege, and male privilege, but they ignore, and often embrace, the ultimate privilege of them all, the privilege of turning your nose up at food and pointing the finger of disgust at those who don’t.