Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Hippophagy and “other” heresies

The National Horse Protection League has an urgent message for you. Their $80,000 advertisement in the New York Times pictures the silhouette of a cowboy on his beloved horse. The caption pulls at our heartstrings:

“The lone cowboy, riding his horse on a Texas trail, is a cinematic icon. Not once in memory did the cowboy eat his horse.”

Get out your handkerchiefs, because “in Mexico, American horses are killed without mercy,” slaughtered to be sent abroad for human consumption (hippophagy). Urge your Representatives and Senators to pass The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act now!

One imagines that the animal “rights” groups, the Humane Society and the Protection League must have felt pretty smug about themselves in 2007 when they forced the last three horse slaughterhouses in the United States to close. They must have imagined their work a victory for compassion and universal sentient-being love.

They convinced legislators in Texas, Illinois and California to issue bans, and won a court order stopping USDA inspections, effectively banning horse slaughter in America.

Then something unexpected happened. Guess what that multi-million dollar horse meat industry did? They started exporting horses from America to slaughterhouses in Mexico. Even though “progressives” are usually obsessed with the idea of outsourcing, they didn’t see that one coming. Mexican authorities don’t care whether horses are slaughtered humanely or not, or under which conditions. The NHPL calls their deaths there “repugnant,” and a “nightmare.”

A nightMARE? I hope there is no pun intended.

If one takes the predominant Machiavellian-liberal-humanist-utilitarian-do-gooder position that we should use whatever means necessary to achieve our righteous and progressive social goals, then we are faced with a serious problem. With the decline of the various leftist totalitarianisms and the assent of sovereign nations favoring the “mixed economy,” there is no universal mechanism for forcing our political dreams on others. The same problem becomes manifest in the global warming debate. Without some kind of unimaginable international treaty or world government, we cannot stop excess emissions or the slaughter or consumption of horses everywhere. When we try, we entrap ourselves within a ridiculous circle of counterproductive and reactionary legislation.

Since horse slaughter is going to occur regardless of our hopes, wouldn’t it be better if it happened under specific, mandated conditions, such as under USDA inspection, rather than in an anonymous Mexican warehouse where who-knows-what happens?

In order to save our souls by stopping a sin from being committed within our midst, we have ended up simply exporting the sin to a neighboring country. Now we demand legislation to prevent the tragedy that we caused. Who would be surprised if the conditions under which the horses are transported to Mexico are so horrible that they would be better off slaughtered in America?

There is no conceptual upper limit on the ineptness of bureaucratic decisions, but even the State is bound by the laws of Nature: there is a law of Unintended Consequences.

What really motivates our desire to prohibit horse slaughter? Today, even as we preach the virtues of multiculturalism, we strictly oppose tolerating any differences beyond the superficial. What we must curtail at all costs are our neighbor’s expressions of his neighborishness, i.e. his smells, his propensity to eat disgusting things and to smoke, etc.: his excessive enjoyment of life. The neighbor (i.e. the foreigner, the Oriental, the Other) really is a frightening and disgusting thing. We must avoid a real interaction with him at all costs.

Not only is the other a sinner according to our secular theology, but even their sinning is more disgusting. The ultimate proof of this can be found in “Borat” the movie. The neighbor is stupid and provincial, his women don’t shave their underarms, incest is a simple pastime, lovers engage in grotesque sexual positions (anal, etc.), they slaughter horses inhumanely and eat their greasy flesh…

Coercion minimizes discomfort to the ruling class. However, the radical alternative is to leave the other alone, let her practice polygamy, hippophagy and strange religion, and focus on our own morality.

The weird irony of a politics that can only imagine coercive remedies to our problems with the Other is that we end up with bizarre and convoluted coalitions of meddlers who would normally be ferocious enemies. Hindu cow-protectionist fundamentalists following a religious tradition are now in perfect agreement with enlightened, secular first-world intellectual social planners in their ethical vision of gastronomy.

For full disclosure, this writer is an Eastern European vegetarian, who loves horses and dabbles in Hindu philosophy.

Steven is a senior in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at hoffmann@wustl.edu.

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