Man Cannot Live by (Horse)meat Alone

I think it’s time we all calmed down about the horsemeat “scandal”. While I agree that it’s distasteful (no pun intended) that horsemeat, in whatever percentage, has turned up in some processed food, the world hasn’t ended. Horsemeat is not toxic, and is widely eaten in other cultures. Apparently, it’s lower in fat and healthier than beef. It is, therefore, probably far healthier than some of the “meat” that is used quite legally in a lot of processed food.

I would have been more concerned if unfit meat had been discovered, something that posed a genuine risk to human health. Apart from the slight risk that the veterinary drug bute might be present, this hasn’t happened. How many drugs are animals that we intend to eat pumped full of? Anti-biotics, growth promoters and God knows what.

I think this whole “scandal” shows more about the British attitude to animals than anything else. This is a country that allows animals being transported to slaughter more space than a human commuter: if animals were carried in the same conditions that your typical tube traveller has to put up with, there would be an outcry. Remember the foot and mouth crisis of 2001? The thousands of livestock animals slaughtered for having something not dangerous to humans, and which most infected animals would recover from? With the smoke from pyres blackening the skies all over the country? Where were the protests then? The silence was deafening. The only objection I remember was when a cute calf was threatened with death. Only then did people shout, and even then, they didn’t question the mass slaughter.

This has the hallmarks of something similar. We are more concerned that a noble old racehorse, or that Penelope’s old pony, has ended up in a cheap burger, than with the fact that the Food Standards Agency has had its budget slashed. More concerned with thinking certain species as cute, than with livestock being fed the ground up remains of other animals. More concerned to have cheap meat, then moaning when we find out what’s in it. If the British took their attitude to animals to its logical conclusion, they would all become vegetarians.

Perhaps one day, the British will be able to have a sensible, grown-up debate about such things. I won’t hold my breath.


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