Carnivores, Vegetarians and Corporate Dishonesty

So the news this morning is full of scandal that a major supermarket chain has been selling beefburgers that contain non-beef meats. One frozen burger was found to consist of 29% horse meat. 10 of the 27 tested contained meat from pigs. The media aren’t forthcoming about what else was in there – they just comment on the ingredients that are likely to upset people.

Now I’m a carnivore – I do eat meat, although I prefer to be sure it’s been treated humanely throughout its life. That’s my choice and I don’t try to force it on other people. I respect the fact that many people are vegetarians, or pescetarians or avoid certain meats on religious grounds. That’s their choice as long as they don’t try to impose it on others. But if I buy beefburgers, I don’t expect them to contain other meats.

There are laws in the UK and many other countries regarding ingredient lists on food products and I’m quite certain the supermarkets don’t list “horse meat” as one of these. As someone who has food allergies, I have a problem with manufacturers who list ingredients as shellfish or spices as if we don’t have a right to know which ones are present, but at least they’re being honest. If they claimed it was scallops and my allergens reacted to the prawns they’d put in, I’d have a right to sue. I don’t think you’d get very far claiming compensation for being fed horse meat when you thought it was beef, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a lie!

It’s not common to eat horse meat in the UK, or guinea pigs or jellyfish. They’re all perfectly edible, but we either think the animal is too cute, or somehow disgusting. In other parts of the world, each of these would be acceptable table-fodder. As the human population grows, meat-eaters may need to broaden their horizons. The issue here shouldn’t be about what animals we should or shouldn’t eat – it’s about honesty. If we’re lied to, we no longer have a choice.

Supermarket chains have been criticised in the past for all kinds of rule-breaking. I don’t think a company that regularly builds stores that are significantly larger than they’ve got planning permission for will be worried about customers complaining they’ve been fed meat from the wrong animals. If it isn’t something they can be taken to court over, they aren’t going to worry. The publicity won’t hurt them in the long run and they’ve been making a good profit from their dishonesty for however long this has been going on.

Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Flogging a Dead Horse,” doesn’t it?