We like to know what we are eating. And we are entitled to believe what it says on the packet clearly and precisely reflects what is inside it.
That much is clear and the Government must act decisively to make sure it happens that way. But there is something more profound about our outcry over horsemeat in prepared meals. There’s a sort of deep-seated English uneasiness about it all.
Children are eating horses, and over-protected foxes are eating children. Summat queer here surely?
Why do we have a licensed horsemeat trade in the UK at all? My own preference would be for all abattoir slaughter of horses, all trading in horsemeat in the UK, to be ended. After all, there are only about 8,000 or so low value horses killed in abattoirs each year.
That compares with probably up to 100,000 humanely destroyed by vets or hunt kennels. Their bodies are cremated, just as happens to our pet cats and dogs.
Now some would argue that there is a welfare problem here – low-value hill ponies, injured race horses, abandoned horses (of which there are an increasing number) might suffer if they were not sold for meat. Yet I suspect that if there were no abattoirs for them to go to, then we as a horse-loving nation would find plenty of charitable ways of ending their suffering.
There are dozens of outstanding horse welfare and sanctuary charities. The great British public would support them well if they were to set about the task of national horse euthanasia rather than the abattoirs who currently carry out that task.
There would be not a single horse killed for human food here, or for export; there is no live export of horsemeat allowed anyhow.
So there would be no possibility of any kind of horsemeat (or of horse medicines) from British horses entering the food chain.
The cumbersome and ineffective horse passport system could be abolished; andpolice and trading standards officers would be freed to concentrate on fraud and criminality in the food chain. The only alternative to that would be the complex and burdensome implementation of the horse passport and registration system.
We have recently concluded that we cannot do so for human beings in the UK – how much more difficult would it be to keep an accurate and up-to-date list of all horses. Let’s keep British horses for riding and companionship.