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Of late there has been a 'scandal' in Europe, where it was discovered for example that 'beef' being sold in a major UK grocery chain actually contained a substantial portion of horse meat (and pig meat, and as it turned out even goat, donkey, and water buffalo). The citizenry is outraged, embarrassed apologies have been made, inquiries have been promised by involved companies and government types. It turned out that even Burger King was buying meat from a tainted supplier, though no sign of whinnying has yet been detected in BK fare, but not long thereafter, Nestle joined the panic, pulling horse-meat-infused beef ravioli and beef tortellini products from European shelves. And Ikea stopped the sale of Swedish meatballs (prompting one noted blogger to observe, as quoted by Conan O'Brien, that those outraged by horse meat in Ikea meatballs ought to first ask themselves why they are buying meatballs in a furniture store).

But, at the end of the day, how odd from a more worldly perspective that people would be at all offended to discover horse meat in their hamburgers -- as though eating the flesh of a horse somehow differs on some hidden hierarchy from eating that of a cow. I must concede that I too have eaten horse meat, though I knew exactly what I was getting when I got it. Astute observers might note that I am a vegetarian -- and indeed I have been for thirteen years -- but for over two decades before that, I was as avidly carnivorous as the next guy. And as vegetarian I have come to be equally baffled by the whole spectrum of meat-eating. Naturally, there was a time when I, too, was a meat eater, and in my day I sampled such fare as iguana, toucan, rattlesnake, and capybara. I've eaten what is eaten in parts of the world with differing tastes, in Japan, in Southeast Asia, in Peru.

And in all of my experiences, despite the ephemeral distinction in flavors and textures, I never encountered a discernibly deeper fundamental difference, morally or biologically, between eating the flesh of a horse or donkey or goat, and that of a cow, a pig, a dog, or a hippopotamus. Arising as they do from a universal common ancestor, over the course of evolution, what separates the horse from the cow is little more than the length and thickness of bones. Amino acids generated by startlingly similar DNA, all of them. Horses might not be 'raised to be eaten,' but they are probably even healthier fare given the things manufacturers now put into cows, to fend off the super-bacteria in which they wallow, and to make them fatty and faster-growing. So, while I will never again seek to eat the flesh of a fellow animal, nor can I put reason to the notion that eating some barnyard regulars is fine, while eating the meat of the horse is objectionable, bordering on the criminal.