Now everyone's in a lather about horse meat. Until now, hardly anyone's been asking where cheap meat products have come from. Questions are being asked, but not the important ones.
Eating horse meat, provided it's prepared hygienically, won't hurt anyone. You can be fairly sure, however, that the poor beasts that ended up in your burgers or lasagne were hurt. We know that meat products used in cheap British ready meals came from a factory in France called Comigel. We know that the horse meat came from countries like Romania. We know that most other countries, including those in Eastern Europe, have far lower animal welfare standards than we do. World Horse Welfare reports that 65,000 horses a year are transported across Europe for slaughter. They spend days in lorries without water, suffering just as all livestock does when moved this way. Romanian abattoirs are unlikely to care much about the condition of the animals when they arrive, or to bother about their welfare; they're just a commodity to them. Research done with Romanian farmers concluded:
Results of this study shows that in year 2009, 65.8% of the farmers do not have an awareness regarding the animal welfare, but 63.8% consider that in the EU exists legislation regarding the transport of farm animals related to their welfare or protection. Also, about half of farmers consider that in the EU the welfare of farm animals is better than in other parts of the world, but in Romania this issue receives not enough importance.If Romanian farmers, who work with live animals all the time, are ignorant of animal welfare standards, is it likely that Romanian slaughtermen will be any better?
So whether or not you find the thought of eating horse meat repulsive, surely the issue should be how that meat was produced?
Then, on top of all the indignation about being fobbed off with horse meat instead of good British beef, Polly Toynbee, on today's Dateline London, claimed (if I heard right) that poor parents fed their kids cheap processed meals because it was all they could afford. Horseshit! The reason that poor parents feed their kids these meals, if they do, is because they haven't learned how to cook. Meat isn't essential in a healthy diet, and if you do eat meat, it should be in moderation. Before the Chinese started developing a taste for more of it, with developing affluence, they ate small amounts of meat mixed in with large amounts of rice and vegetables, as do many Asians. Consequently, they suffered far less heart disease than we do. Never mind excusing parents for buying cheap rubbish - what about cookery lessons? In the long term, it would have health benefits. And bring back domestic science in schools. The decline of basic cookery skills has played right into the hands and bank balances of processed food producers.
The Independent: Horsemeat scandal reveals trail of shadowy suppliers - the last thing these people will care about is animal welfare.
The Telegraph: How horses slaughtered in Romania end up on British plates
The Independent: Horse meat found in British supermarkets 'may be donkey'.
Click here to read what Compassion in World Farming says.
Some of the horse meat that came from Romania could have originated in Ireland - live horses are transported across Europe.
Fiddling horse passports to avoid fit for human consumption rules? Abandoned Irish horse shown to have been "slaughtered".
More than a 1000 racehorses a year in UK abattoirs.