Lots of people are upset because they thought they were eating cow corpse but instead they are eating horse corpse. It is very upsetting.
I know how they feel, because I bought some leek soup, and it turns out it’s 25% cabbage. I am very upset.
Ok, I am being facetious, but you see my point.
Why are people so upset that their meat has been mislabeled? When I ask them, they say that products should be labeled properly, and that it is their right as a consumer to know what they are eating.
I think they know that’s not why. If it was their leek soup that actually contained cabbages, I don’t think most people would mind. It certainly wouldn’t make the news. If the products were labeled correctly, “contains horsemeat”, people in Britain wouldn’t buy them. This is not about labeling, it’s about horses.
If the beef products contained chicken, I don’t think there would be this uproar. If it contained pork, there may have been a furore because of religious abstentions, but I think people are upset because they like horses. There would undoubtedly have been even more of an outcry if the burgers contained dog. Because we LOVE dogs.
Horses and cows are very similar; they are closely related, they have similar levels of cognition. Horses run a bit faster.
Our objection is obviously because of our arbitrary cultural preferences when it comes to what animals we eat. Plenty of people eat horses, or dogs, or rabbits, or cows while others would find this objectionable. Not in the way that I find it objectionable; they are not concerned with how each animal perceives the world. They have cultural attachments to certain animals, and find the thought of eating them disturbing. Maybe because they are cute, or they grew up with them, or a religious text says they are dirty, or conversely, sacred.
British people like horses. They see them as part of the idyllic countryside way of life, they enjoy riding about on them. Even this is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. We happily jam a bit into their tender mouths to make them go where we want, and bet on which horse can run and jump the fastest without breaking their legs, whilst being whipped by a diminutive, flamboyantly dressed human.
But we certainly don’t want to eat them, because we read Black Beauty, much like we don’t want to cull badgers because we read The Wind in the Willows.
There is some conjecture that the meat is unsafe, due to the horses being given phenybutazone which may be harmful to humans over a lifetime’s exposure. If one is concerned about the carcinogenic effects of what one eats, one should probably be avoiding all red meat in the first place.
In short, if you are uncomfortable with eating horses, you should ask yourself why you are comfortable with eating cows.