Sunday, December 5, 2010

Horse Slaughter Protection Act

Animal rights protest industry advocates (ARPIA) regularly submit bills to governing bodies in the hopes of enacting legislation designed to end what they consider to be immoral activities regarding human use of animals. The slaughter of horses for human consumption is purportedly one of these activities that violates the cultural morals of America if not humanity (according to Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the U.S. as quoted by

It is critical to recognize that the topic of horse slaughter is not about the humane killing of horses. Advocates of keeping horse slaughter legal are not defending methods of horse killing that cause horses undue pain and suffering. They simply want horse owners to keep their right to slaughter horses and sell their meat for food. ARPIAs, on the other hand, think that it is wrong to kill animals for any reason, except to protect human life that is in immediate danger (and for some ARPIAs that may be debatable). Since ARPIAs know that such an idea appears stupid to most people (at this time), they must pick their legislative battles carefully. They know that humans think some animals are more “valuable” than others, so ARPIAs lobby to “protect” animals that are cute and have had long histories with humans. Note, they wisely don’t start protesting the killing of rats and mice because they are still despised by humans.

Christians, however, must follow a higher standard, namely God’s principles. First, Christ declared all foods clean (Mk 7:19) so there is no moral problem (as far as God is concerned) to eat a horse. If you think there is a problem with that, then you should take up your problem with Jesus or perhaps evaluate the integrity of your Christianity. Remember, what we eat is determined by culture. So if you think that eating a horse is wrong (in the moral sense), then you might just be suffering from bigotry. Christ wants us to avoid cultural bigotry when it comes to diet.

Second, Christ says that theft is wrong. When we enact legislation that unduly restricts the rights of property owners to use their property then I contend we are participating in a form of theft. If you doubt the financial and social impact of enacting bans on horse slaughter than I suggest you read the excellent report “The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States available at The authors carefully explain the financial impact of such a law. If preventing other people from utilizing their resources is not sufficient to incur your moral wrath, then read their comments on how enacting the ban will lead to increased equine suffering.

Stephen M. Vantassel is a tutor of theology at King's Evangelical Divinity School who specializes in environmental ethics and human-wildlife relations.  His latest book is Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (2009).

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