Horses for courses

Allow me to put this as clearly and concisely as possible:

The fact that it’s horsemeat that’s turning up in burgers and lasagnes is not the problem.


Because there’s nothing particularly wrong with horsemeat per se. While culturally we don’t tend to consume it in great volumes, the same is not true of other countries, including other EU nations.

No, the problem is not that it’s horsemeat: the problem is that until specific testing was performed, we didn’t have the faintest idea what it was.

The provenance of our food supply is important. If we don’t know what goes into the food supplied to people en masse, then we don’t know what standards (if any) were applied at origin, and so preventing (or, should it be necessary, tracing and fixing the source of) problems in the event of a disease outbreak become much more difficult.

This is what has been bothering me so much about a great deal of the mainstream coverage of this issue: rather than express it as an indicator of a potential public-health problem (which is serious), it’s been spun around the fact that we’ve been eating bits of horse (which is not). On the one hand, the headlines scream HORSEMEAT SCANDAL, and on the other the stories focus on the trivial aspects of it all instead of the actual scandal.

Twenty-six years after the BSE outbreak in British cattle, and we still don’t exactly know what goes into meat products derived from cattle which are sold in this country and others. That is the scandal.