Why the long face?

Horse meat.

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.

What’s the difference?

Last night, I became a little it distressed about dead animals.

I had been watching District 9, and this had confirmed my belief that how we treat others should not be based on what species they are, but on their qualia.

I often ask omnivores what the differences are between human and non-human animals, and why this means it’s ok to eat non-human animals. I am generally given a list of meaningless differences, such as their intelligence levels (humans have differing intelligence levels, some lower than many animals), or superficial traits, like the number of legs or amount of fur they have. This has no more bearing on how we treat individuals than skin colour. Sometimes I am told it’s ok to eat them because animals are not compassionate; lions eat zebras, or hamsters eat their babies or something similar. This logic would mean we can eat humans who don’t care about others, whether that’s because they suffer severe disability or are just plain mean. I am not concerned with how they treat others, but with how I treat them.

Sooner or later ┬áthe arbitrary speciesist argument of “because they’re not human” pops up. So where does this leave us with regard to a hypothetical alien race, similar enough to us for it to be immoral for us to treat them as second class citizens, or even as property? Now we must start afresh with why it is wrong to treat the Prawns of District 9 the way they are treated in the film. They are not human, they are not even Earthlings. Why can’t we just kill them for fun?

It’s wrong because, although there are many differences, there are more similarities, and all the attributes they have which make it immoral to harm them, are shared by most of the animals we eat. Maybe farm animals are not quite as smart as the Prawns, but again, some humans aren’t as smart as cows.

Someone once told me one can ONLY enslave humans, not non-humans. I believe you can enslave animals, I believe we do, for the same reasons I believe it is possible to enslave the Prawns of District 9.

We can go through the same thought experiment with a being which is half human, half chimp, born in a lab. Can we enslave that animal? Is it human? Can we eat it? What if it’s 90% human, or what if it’s only 10%? The ratios become meaningless, what is important is that we look at how the individual experiences the world, and what its interests are.

My aim is to show that it is prejudice against other species, not an objective scientific appraisal of their ability to experience the world, that dictates how we currently treat them.