Eating horse meat is a question of taste. What’s disturbing is what the horse meat scandal tells us about the integrity of the food chain
This morning’s Farming Today on Radio 4 reports on a criminal conspiracy to forge horse passports in Ireland. With just a basic printing kit and a 12p microchip, fraudsters can rewrite a horse’s health record, allowing animals unfit for human consumption to enter the food chain.
For three years the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Northern Ireland’s version of the RSPCA) has tracked an illegal trade that could have involved up to 70,000 Irish horses.
Unfit animals can be contaminated with chemicals, such as Phenylbutazone (or ‘bute’: see this video from last Friday’s The Guardian), that are harmful to human health. But the illegal trade is also associated with inhumane treatment of horses.
One question still to be answered: what role has Ireland’s readymade criminal infrastructure played in the contamination of the food chain, and the damage to Ireland’s reputation as a producer and exporter of high quality food? Dissident Republican groups see it as their patriotic duty to smuggle all kinds of everything across Ireland’s porous border. What role might they have played in smuggling contaminated horse meat into our hamburgers and ready meals?