By Alexandra Fileccia
As the horse meat scandal continues in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the people’s trust in the meat industry is on the decline. Since January 15, the day that the public of Ireland and surrounding countries was informed of horse DNA found in frozen beef burgers, the public looked for someone to blame leaning toward the major meat manufactures in Ireland and the UK.
A lot of pressure has been put on big food regulation organizations, as well, to control the horse meat outbreak and find a solution. “We have been working with the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with its investigations,” says Jane Ryder, press officer for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. “At the request of the European Commission, we, like all Member States of the EU, have commenced a testing program of 50 samples of beef products for horse meat and will report back to the European Commission by 15th April.”
Though horse meat is safe to eat, according to the Food Standard Agency in the UK, if there is little trace of phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory commonly used in animals, are found, the majority of the population thinks that eating horse is wrong and seen as a taboo in most countries. In a survey mentioned in the article “Horse Meat Survey Reveals How Many Americans Think Scandal Should Be Handled: Give To Poor” by The Huffington Post, most people would rather eat alligator meat than horse meat. The survey showed that people would only eat horse meat over dog meat, which makes sense since both of these animals are commonly domesticated and people view eating them as eating their own pets.
With all of the tests being conducted on DNA in beef burgers, it came to light that many of the patties contain not only horse meat but pork as well. The horse meat scandal exposed the cut corners made by the meat companies. It was found that a French meat processing company, Á la Table de Spanghero, knowingly sold horse meat as beef, which was bought from Romania and relabeled by the French company.
“When we carried out our survey we were looking at beef burger products on sale in Ireland,” says Ryder. “We had no idea that what we uncovered would lead to a much greater issue of fraud throughout Europe.”
By relabeling the packaged horse meat as beef, meat producers knowingly lied to its consumers. “People don’t like to be deceived. The idea of getting what you pay for and not something else is fairly fundamental,” says Maureen O’Sullivan, chairperson for the Vegetarian Society of Ireland.
Reports have shown that vegetarian alternatives meat products have increased in sales due to the horse meat scandal, and meat products sharply decreasing, according to The Guardian. What does this mean for the future of the meat industry in the UK and across the globe? At the rate that sales are going, it seems that majority of the population will shift away from meat consumption. “The numbers of vegetarians increased during the BSE or ‘mad cow disease’ scandal some years ago,” says O’Sullivan. She says the number of vegetarians will most likely rise because of this scandal as it has in the past.
Though this incident directly affected Ireland and the UK, it will have an impact on the entire world and change the way people think about eating meat. “The meat industry is a very cruel one,” says O’Sullivan, “so I wish that, in the words of Paola Cavaliere, that meat eating would become taboo in the same way in which we don’t eat humans.”