To do so, we might consider ducks. A significant number of ethically concerned consumers deem foie gras nothing short of a diabolical slice of suffering. Famous chefs have sworn off the stuff, and I wish I had a dime for every omnivore I know who opposes foie gras on ethical grounds. This opinion prevails despite humanity's remote relationship with the duck -- we've never worked or lived closely with these creatures, nor do we care for them as companion animals. Nonetheless, we're somehow vehement about protecting one of their internal organs.
This position stands in obvious contrast to the collective yawn we just let out upon hearing the big news that the domestically-slaughtered horse -- an animal with whom we've plowed fields, colonized continents, waged war, rode to victory, and (with thankful rarity) buggered --may be coming to a meat counter near you.
So, the question: Why do so many people consider duck liver bad but horse meat OK? The most common response to this disparity will likely be that it's the the way an animal is raised that matters when it comes to the ethical consumption of animal products. Ducks suffer when tubes are shoved down their throats to swell their livers, but horses can lead a good life and die peacefully in an abattoir. This argument is flawed.
The duck/horse dichotomy ultimately centers on the matter of empathy. Most opponents of foie gras come to their position after hearing about or seeing videos of ducks being force-fed mush through a tube jammed down their gullets. Even if it's true that ducks lack a gag reflex, these images disgust us. They disgust us, I would contend, for the basic reason that humans can imagine what it's like to have something shoved down throats. Every one of us has choked on something in our lives and we know that it's a crappy feeling. Can you imagine your whole life choking on a tube? We can, and it's for this very reason that we empathize with ducks raised for foie gras and, no matter how distant our shared past, declare the process abhorrently inhumane.
Now the horse. We know that horses are capable of living exceedingly happy lives. Our bond with these animals has been enduring; our past with them tight. We've intimately witnessed their pain and pleasure, and understood it through the lens of our own experience of pain and pleasure. Why is it, then, that most of us -- even staunch welfare advocates -- are able to discuss their slaughter as if were the most natural act in the world? How is it that even the most openly welfare minded of consumers can casually subjugate the ethics of slaughter to the logistics of location?
Again, the answer hinges on empathy. Whereas we can empathize with having a tube shoved into our throats, most of us cannot even remotely empathize with being shunted off to a slaughterhouse. This prospect is quite fortunately beyond the realm of our most sordid imaginations. As a result, we have the luxury of fabricating what the experience of slaughter is like for the animal we want to eat. We can, in essence, make up what the experience of death is like for a horse.