What’s the big deal about horse meat?

2013-02-28 00:00

I KNOW I should be appalled at the whole horse-meat scandal, but frankly I just don’t get why people are so freaked out.

As a meat eater I have known that I have been on the losing end of the moral debate for years as vegetarians grow in numbers.

Quite frankly, I prefer not to think about where my meat comes from. That is why I can still eat meat. I like to believe the meat I eat comes in an air-sealed packet from the supermarket — I don’t allow my vivid imagination to go beyond that.

I have visited the SPCA on occasion to do stories on animal cruelty and have noticed that the staff members are vegetarians, and I am quite sure that if I saw the abuse they witness regularly then I too would become vegetarian overnight.

And no, I have never been to an abattoir. It’s not on my bucket list. I like to think of cows grazing peacefully in a meadow and lambs gambolling in green fields with white daisies, and I look away when I see a truck filled with the poor things on the highway in front on me.

I am quite fond of vegetarian food, but have to say that the smell of boerewors sizzling on the braai is enough to banish all thoughts of converting to vegetarianism.

But regular meat eaters should hardly be in a tizz about the whole horse-meat scandal. In France it’s a delicacy. Horses are quite similar to cows really — they are farm animals and they eat grass, and I would expect their meat to be more lean than cows.

Perhaps it is the thought of eating Black Beauty that just offends sensitive stomachs. But logically they should also be appalled at the thought of eating Mary’s little lamb or Daisy the cow. That’s why the argument doesn’t really wash.

You could get scientific and see meat as purely a source of animal protein, and then you would eat the meat of any animal — snake, rabbit and crocodile.

They can even make synthetic meat in a laboratory by using protein cells, so in theory you could order meat that has been grown in a petrie dish and you could in all good conscience nosh your burger knowing that no animal was slaughtered for your benefit.

I am not against vegetarians, but I am against the air of superiority they don when they see you order a meat dish from the menu. In their minds they can almost see the chef in the kitchen hacking off the offending meat bit to be eaten while the animal is alive and feebly moaning. I wonder if the cucumber is silently screaming as the knife slides through its green, nobbly skin? Has anyone tested the pain threshold of carrots?

My colleague told me that while she was in Alaska she had the unenviable job of digging worms out of fish fillets. I was gobsmacked. I had no idea that fish had worms — I thought that you caught them with worms.

I am sure we would eat most things as long as they were dressed up and flavoured, and given a suitably descriptive name. I draw the line at things that look revolting. You won’t catch me nibbling on a fried grasshopper or eating a chicken foot.I like the look of genetically modified foods with their fake shine and perfectly proportioned sizes, but I have to remind myself that they are like Barbie vegetables — plastic and empty.

I am sure that as humans evolve, we will shun foods that were once perfectly nutritious as we find them mentally unacceptable. Fast-forward to the future and the social outcasts and die-hards will be eating sushi, tripe, carpaccio and chicken wings, while the rest of us will be ordering tasteless multivitamin shakes and veggie burgers. I’ll still be secretly drooling at the smell of real food.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

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