At a business dinner with a dozen guests, including five US citizens, we were ready to order. My girlfriend and I were the only vegetarians around the table, as it is often the case. We were pleased to see at least one option that fit with our culinary preferences on a very meat-based menu as reflected by a refrigerator in the restaurant (pictured above). The other guests had more options: duck, guinea fowl, ox, lamb, horse, pig, rabbit.
One of the Americans, on my left, after making the choice of duck confit was telling me that he was surprised to see on the menu an animal that would not be found in restaurants in the United States. In Europe as in Canada, horse meat is appreciated and its consumption does not raise controversy. Yet in the United States, eating horses is no longer an option. Since California ruled in 1998 to ban horse slaughter for meat production, the idea has made its way across the United States to the White House that has officially prohibited horse transformation into meat since 2014.
Admittedly, the USA have a higher level of consideration or affection for horses than Canadians or Europeans do. Do they consider horses more as an historical animal-partner in the development of the country, a faithful companion, or is it merely the result of a propaganda campaign from an industry offering a competing product? Useless for me to make a big deal out of “dish”, I am obviously happy that such a great country has banished horses from its plate.
Meat or myth
As a result of this cultural difference between Canada and the United States, two countries with a very similar history, (the book Le Syndrome Colonial illustrates this perfectly) I can not help but draw parallels with the Yulin Dog Meat Festival? If you’ve never heard of it, maybe it’s better that way. It is a popular event in the city of Yulin in China, held in the summer solstice, during which dogs are stolen, beaten, slaughtered and then sold to be eaten.
For the majority of Westerners, eating a dog, our favourite pet, proves unthinkable, even an abject ignominy. Yet it is a situation widely reported through social and traditional media. I leave it to you to do your own research with these key words: cats dogs Chinese food.
Europeans or North Americans do not have dogs or cats on the menu because they are too emotionally attached to them. On the other hand when it comes to cows, ox and their young, it’s unanimous, it goes well in a plate, except of course for vegetarians. It seems to be accepted by most people that pet animals have more sensitivity than farm animals condemned to industrial slaughter.
The question to be asked is: does an American consider odious to see horse on the menu of a restaurant, as we consider odious that a festival of canine meat is held?