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Horsemeat and the unbearable smugness of veggies

The Great Horsemeat Scandal!  Hee Haw!  You have to laugh!  Well, if you’re a vegetarian like me, that is.

No horsing about, this is a serious matter. An outrage!  Here were the poor customers thinking they were eating beef burgers when they were actually horsemeat burgers.  All those who’ve ever said “I could eat a horse” have had their wish come true!

So the terrified animal which was dragged, after a short, forced-fed life, into a bloody hellhole of a slaughterhouse to have a bolt shot through its head wasn’t a cow but a horse. What a scandal!  That’s not exactly a fair crack of the whip, is it?  For the meat-eating customer, I mean of course. Not the cows, sheep, pigs and horses – they’re only meat on four legs after all, aren’t they?

“Whoa, there!” says the righteous Brit.  Don’t include horses in your list of meat suppliers. Don’t you know horsemeat is taboo? Tally ho! Horses are reserved for hunting other animals and giving little girls something to do on a Saturday morning whilst their gullible Dads lose money on those ones which have had their brains bred out and speed bred in.

A meat-eating Johnny Foreigner is much less hypocritical.  He eats meat so what’s the difference between cow and horse meat?  The horse meat found in Tesco burgers and Findus lasagne is apparently no danger to health. I suspect its quality is pretty much the same as the other meat used in these products. So why get so giddy-up about it?

Wouldn’t it be more sensible to leave the ingredients alone and just change the packaging?  Isn’t that horse sense? “Contains horsemeat.” There it’s done. Or even better, just call it “Horse Burger”.  It has a certain ring to it. Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  It might become a bestseller.

Anyway, let’s not put the cart before the horse.  Meat eaters should be grateful there’s even horsemeat in some of these products. I once did a stint in the factory of a major supplier of sausages and pies.  My job was to prepare the mix for the meat pies.  Well, there seemed to be precious little meat in the mix and an awful lot of flakes, colouring plus something which looked like sawdust – it wasn’t of course but it looked like it – and a huge amount of water.

Workmates looked at my very liquidy mess and enquired whether the pies came with spoons or perhaps even life jackets. One day, I decided to thicken the mix.  An hour later, the enraged foreman from the pie department, red-faced and eyes bulging, was bawling into my ears.  My thicker mix had bunged up his pie making machines!  I never changed the mix again.

Nor did I make any comment about the sausage machines. The only ‘meat’ I saw going into them appeared to be huge chunks of grist. That was almost 40 years ago. I can’t imagine, in our increasingly cheapskate world, that things have improved.

I’m not even sure the suppliers of horsemeat burgers and lasagne are to blame. Given the way the big supermarket chains have used their monopolistic powers to drive down the prices paid to producers, I’m surprised we haven’t found crushed dung beetles in the burgers.

Anyway, crushed dung beetles wouldn’t be any worse than large doses of salt and bulking agents.  As for animal painkiller – perhaps it adds a dash of extra piquancy to the taste.

You might be thinking that I’m one of those fanatical veggies who look down their noses at meat-eating, animal murderers.  You might wish me to ride off into the sunset – or the Glaswegian equivalent.

Well, hold your horses. I’m no veggie evangelical. That’s not a hobby-horse of mine.  I just gradually ate less and less meat till I ended up eating none at all.  Now, I’m like the person who’s given up taking sugar in their tea. It’s just impossible to go back. If others want to eat meat, that’s their business. 

Still, I can’t help feeling just the tiniest bit smug. At least, I can be certain I haven’t eaten any horses lately.

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