By JENNA BRAUN
Eating your pets after their death seems like something only a savage in a horror film would do. I have two dogs and the thought of eating them sounds emotionally scarring and horrendous, but I have to agree with Helena Stahl, the 24-year-old Swedish horseback rider who ate her racehorse after it had to be put down due to injury, when she defended her actions in a Facebook post, saying, “It’s about how we take care of the animals when they’re alive, not what we do with them later.”
Too often, animals that are born solely for human consumption live uncomfortable and painful lives.
Let’s take a look at beef cattle.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ dehorning fact sheet, in cattle raised for beef, “all methods of physical dehorning cause pain and side effects.” Dehorning of cattle is done for many reasons: the cattle require less space in transit and feed bunks, price advantages can be gained when auctioning, the cattle are less likely to be aggressive and they’re easier to handle. The dehorning process is done by burning the innervated tissue on the cattle’s head with an iron.
According to Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals, all beef cattle at Canadian auctions bought by American buyers must be branded – a painful process for the cows that leaves third degree burns. No, they don’t receive anesthetics.
I’m not saying that all beef cattle, or pigs and chickens, are treated poorly before they make it to our plates. I do realize that some of the uncomfortable and painful processes animals are forced to go through may have their benefits, as dehorning does. I know there are many wonderful local farms that treat their livestock as kindly as possible – but that’s just not the case for all of them. Many unethical practices still go on every day, even in Ontario.
So can we really say that Stahl’s decision to eat her deceased pet was inhumane? It was a little creepy, and probably turned the stomachs of many, but it wasn’t inhumane. Nothing was done during the horse’s living days that anyone needs to get huffy about. Sure, despite my stance on what she did, I still find it atrocious, but Stahl did nothing wrong.
Her horse was dead. She treated it well while it was here and that’s more than I can say about the cow that provided the steaks my Dad barbecued last Saturday. Maybe that cow on my parents’ plates was raised on a farm where the workers treated it like pure gold or maybe it was treated horribly. At least Stahl sat down to dinner that night knowing exactly what kind of life that horse lived.