A member of Long Island’s Newsday editorial board, Lane Filler, authored an attempt at a troll droll column recently, which effectively endorsed the slaughter of American horses as food. The aptly-named columnist posits in absolutist and seemingly libertarian terms his Fillerosophy, chock full of crass cracks about the slaughter of sentient horses. According to Filler, only those who oppose all consumption of animals as food may ever morally oppose the destruction of any animal. Anything short of that, at least according to Filler, is mere hypocrisy.
The Fillerosophy is stated as follows: “when the subject of eating the animals we deem too charming to chew comes up – around the grill, among people who happily consume some animals but not others – the hypocrisy can be harder to stomach than a poodle-and-potato pie when the poodle hasn’t been marinated right.” Filler’s sophomoric hyperbole is telling; many horses are raised closely with humans, often perceived as part of a family and loved. He glibly notes he does not “want to eat dog. I’m pretty sure if I did, Rosie, my Boston terrier, would find out about it, and give me the look. I don’t want to eat cat, although they give me the look regardless, nor monkeys nor dolphins nor any fish species that’s ever had a featured role in an animated film.” However, he detours before taking a position whether it is inappropriate in this nation (or any other) to serve dogs and cats as entrees.
Sure, some horses in the U.S. are raised to perform work, whether to plow, or herd, race or jump, or even dance in dressage. However, the idea that highly-intelligent species so closely connected to humans may be slaughtered (and abundant evidence exists, including through the USDA, that the killing of horses is done in a manner often causing substantial suffering, with some reportedly remaining conscious in the abbatoir as they are strung up by one leg and their throat is slit) poses a grisly threat to the opposition of killing any sentient creature for human purposes.
Implicit in Filler’s argument is that humans eat animals because humans are superior and no nuance appears to exist anywhere within his binary perspective. It would seem the Fillerosophy implicitly endorses human consumption of American Bald Eagles, along with every endangered species, or at least it looks the other way because to do otherwise would be “hypocrisy.” Because its progenitor likes “triple cheeseburgers too much to soul-search the breeding, imprisoning and slaughtering of feeling creatures to provide me with meaty deliciousness,” he maintains no moral ground exists to oppose the slaughter of horses, or at least he can identify none.
Filler maintains his view may be rooted in some “amoral reality,” because he loves to consume various dead animals so much. He also takes no position about the growing body of evidence documenting incredibly depraved acts of animal abuse on farms throughout the U.S., nor does he address the new crop of laws protecting animal abusers from covert video recording, perhaps because it is connected to producing animal protein, and as one of its blissful customers, he apparently contends no coherent moral grounds exist to oppose inhumane practices like these, or at least he cannot find any.
The Fillerosophy suggests any human consumption of animals is somehow unassailable by anyone other than a vegetarian (for whatever reason, Filler fails to mention veganism, let alone make any distinction between the two dietary lifestyles). Filler readily admits he “can’t make a coherent moral argument against others doing it, and my boss has asked me to refrain from the incoherent moral arguments for a bit.” Fillerosophy seems to maintain that one who has ever eaten a scallop cannot conceivably oppose any animal abuse if it is conducted to produce some, as he says, “meathead’s” meal. His view lacks any granularity regarding American attitudes about animal abuse, and conspicuously ignores that 4 out of 5 Americans polled in February 2012 opposed horse slaughter.
One can only wonder what those poll results might have been if respondents first viewed Tim Sappington’s snuff video. When he recorded the video, Sappington was an employee of one of the current USDA slaughterhouse applicants, Valley Meat Co., LLC, of Roswell, New Mexico, owned by Rick De Los Santos. Sappington is first seen petting a two-year-old horse in the two-minute video, and then he defiantly faces the camera and exclaims, “to all you animal activists, fuck you,” just before shooting the beautiful horse dead.
De Los Santos later fired Sappington, albeit not initially, and only in what appears to be damage control following the groundswell of negative publicity mounted against him and his controversial company when the video went viral. Sappington’s former employer appears to have more than its own share of legal problems due to a lengthy series of detailed allegations regarding questionable business practices which, if true, would seem to pose a public health threat. One can only wonder if Filler could identify any coherent moral objection to Sappington’s gratuitous sadism or the troubling allegations against De Los Santos, or perhaps the practices which have resulted in conclusive findings and the levying of regulatory sanctions against the latter?
While denizens of this blawg are far more likely to occupy the other end of the spectrum from Filler, and certainly Sappington, the Fillerosophy seems designed more to desensitize rather than reveal some truth. Embedded in Filler’s polemic is that anything humans do to animals for the sake of protein ostensibly evades any criticism by anyone who has ever consumed an animal product. According to the absurdly simplistic Fillerosophy, anyone who has ever eaten farm-raised eel as sushi cannot morally oppose the barbaric practice of capturing sharks, hacking off the dorsal fins and tossing the mortally wounded fish back to the sea to drown, catering to the insatiable appetite of those who covet shark fin soup, a culinary emblem of social status. How dare the State of California enact a law recently making it illegal to “possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute” any shark fin within the Golden State? Surely some of those legislators have eaten fish at least once, and therefore, at least according to Filler, they somehow lack any moral standing to promulgate the prohibition. Perhaps the California legislature possessed a coherent scientific and/or environmental basis to enact such a law?
Sharks preceded dinosaurs and many species now face imminent extinction because new technology allows for such rapid and efficient destruction of ocean ecosystems, a practice Mr. Filler ostensibly endorses, or at least cannot find any coherent moral basis on which to oppose it. If you have ever consumed farm-raised tilapia, at least according to the Fillerosophy, you lack any moral ground to oppose the slaughter of more than 100 million sharks per year, primarily to satisfy growing Asian market demand. According to Filler, he does not claim “these animals deserve to be spared more than the ones I do happily nibble. A cultural preference is not a moral imperative.” Setting aside his real or feigned attempt to avoid ethnocentricity, wholesale elimination of aquatic predators is bound to disrupt ecosystems in a manner much like fossil fuel use has disrupted the atmosphere, along with its many collateral consequences. It is unlikely that Fillerosophy takes likely scientific and environmental consequences into pragmatic consideration with such a simplistic and antagonistic paradigm.
It seems that perhaps among Filler’s aims is an attack on the group of litigants who have delayed establishment of horse slaughterhouses in the U.S. by postponing USDA approval of new slaughterhouses, due to alleged failures to satisfy the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. § 4321, et seq.) as part of the permit process. According to the plaintiffs, the USDA has failed to conduct NEPA-required environmental reviews.
Anti-government types frequently and stridently reject any need for new laws and instead advocate blithely for enforcing the ones “already on the books.” While I have not yet examined the NEPA-based litigation against the USDA closely, the plaintiffs seek enforcement of a law enacted almost 44 years ago, before the USDA should even begin to consider the repulsive applications to slaughter horses in the U.S. Meanwhile, Mr. Sappington’s former employer, Rick De Los Santos, has sued a number of the litigants for alleged defamation and causing delays in the USDA permit process he says are costing him money. Perhaps coherent legal bases exist for litigants to seek enforcement of a federal environmental health and safety law promulgated almost a half-century ago?
Filler does note, correctly, that Congress will likely defund the USDA horse slaughter inspection process altogether (and the Appropriations Committees in both houses of Congress already voted to block funding last month), and President Obama’s FY 2014 budget eliminates all USDA funding for horse slaughterhouse inspection. What Filler fails to note, however, is that the litigation-based moratorium actually does taxpayers a financial favor by halting inhumane horse slaughter profiteers from wedging open a door the legislative and executive branches have already indicated will be closed soon. Instead, he makes awkward and inartful attempts at callous humor such as “I don’t want to eat any Steakatariats or Seabiscuits, but I can’t make a coherent moral argument against others doing it.” Rep. Jim Moran D-Va. said late last month that every “horse slaughter facility opened would cost taxpayers more than $400,000 per year in inspection and operation costs.” Perhaps coherent fiscal bases exist to avoid wasting millions in taxpayer money to temporarily approve and implement a much-loathed practice already on the cusp of being defunded and perhaps soon outlawed?
Six domestic horse slaughter applications are believed to be pending with the USDA, for death chambers to be located in Iowa, Missouri and New Mexico. If those who seek to become horse-flesh merchants in the U.S. successfully obtain license to kill thousands of horses for profit, they necessarily will be processing the blood, organs and tissue of animals that may contain a variety of potentially dangerous substances, some which are known dangers, and others never tested on humans, fraught with unknown potential dangers. For example, use of the cancer-causing anti-inflammatory painkiller, Phenylbutazone, known more commonly as “Bute,” is prevalent in horse racing and poses several health risks. Many young thoroughbreds are doomed to destruction after injury compromises the speed of their stride. “Bute” has been found in horsemeat, even in what was passed off to the public as beef by Burger King. Perhaps a coherent health concern exists?
Previously of South Carolina and Pennsylvania, Filler has apparently been unable to persuade his former elected officials of Fillerosophy merit. Senator Lindsey Graham R-SC is among the bipartisan sponsors of the proposed Safeguard American Food Exports *(SAFE) Act, H.R. 1094 / S. 541, introduced this year by Mr. Graham and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., as well as Representatives Patrick Meehan, R-Pa. and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. Now pending in both houses of Congress, the Bill aims to: (1) ban all horse slaughter in the U.S.; (2) eliminate export of American horses for foreign slaughter; and (3) protect the public from consuming toxic horsemeat. Perhaps coherent public policy exists?
Even if domestic slaughterhouse applicants are denied, as expected based on reports regarding stated legislative and executive branch positions, the threat of brutal death marches for American horses to Mexico and Canada remains without passage of the bipartisan legislation. Long Island-based Baiting Hollow Farm Horse Rescue has made great progress over the last six years to educate the public about the senseless peril of horses discarded at young ages, having outlived their “usefulness,” at least as some define it, and opposes the export of American horses to foreign countries for slaughter. It urges compassionate people to express their outrage to elected officials and advocate for swift passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act to bring an end to this barbarism, at least in our nation.
In my opinion, this particular Filler isn’t worthy of a Taco Bell.
Post script: I would be remiss to omit mention of an amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill, offered by Iowa Rep. Steve King (R). The misguided amendment gives absurd cover to shark finning and horse slaughter and is offered not by a king, but rather a jester.