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Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

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“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” That old saying that simply means one should not be unappreciative for gifts. Yet, many are less-than-thankful about the “gift” described in the news recently as the “horse-for-beef scandal” now affecting Europe and the United Kingdom.

Across Europe and the British Isles the “horse-for-beef scandal,” in which horsemeat has been found in packaged meat and foods labelled “100 percent beef,” has shaken consumer trust. The livestock industry has come under fire as horsemeat landed on the shelves of supermarkets across France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

France heaped scathing blame on Romanian abattoirs for the disgrace. Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta came to the suppliers’ defense when he insisted, “…that no fraud took place in his country…” and expressed that “he is ‘very angry’ about the accusations” (ibid.).

The European livestock industry’s complex tracking system is wracked with problems. The traceability for animals bred to be meat is cumbersome and antiquated. Even though microchips are used in the animals until they are processed, after that it is strictly a paper-based trail, leaving the door open for fraud to occur. That appears to be how horsemeat came to be included in packages labeled as beef.

An RFI News article asks the question, “Why not eat horse?”  That is a good question.  Where can we look for an authoritative answer?

A CBS News article states, “Horsemeat is largely taboo in Britain and Ireland, though in France it is sold in specialty butcher shops.” Italy is a major consumer as well, but it is also on the menu in Japan as a delicacy eaten raw. So, why not eat horse?

Going beyond cultural taboos to the foundation and beginning of knowledge, the Holy Bible, we find clear instruction in Leviticus 11:3: “Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat.” This is the standard for what qualifies as a mammal fit for eating.

Chewing the cud has to do with the slow mastication of partially digested food brought back from the animal’s first stomach into its mouth.  Horses do not chew the cud; cows do. Horses do have hooves but they are not cloven, or split.

In Deuteronomy 14:6 God’s word states, “And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals.” This would also exclude the eating of all food products made from pigs. In verse 8 we read, “Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.”

Does it surprise you that “the other white meat” is not good for food? Who gave this edict?

Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:4), gave the laws concerning clean and unclean meat. He can dictate what humans should eat because He created us (Colossians 1:16)! He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He gave instruction as to what we should eat for our lifelong health. Horsemeat is no gift when it comes to food. Plain and simple—it was never intended to be a source of human nutrition!

Some in Europe are waving the banner of tolerance as they defend horsemeat on the menu. You, however, can prove your “horse sense” by abiding within God’s law of clean and unclean meat.

To learn more about the kinds of animals the Bible states are edible, and how to avoid illnesses associated with eating animals that don’t have God’s nutritional “seal of approval,” read, “Defeating Disease: How the Bible Can Help.”  Also, to learn more about the laws of God governing a healthy lifestyle read, “Bible Principles of Health.”