The horse meat thing – NOT just a joke

Well, in the UK, the whole Tesco horse meat in burgers scandal has caused a virtual avalanche of jokes of course (check out #horsemeat on Twitter if you missed any of these or if you just love puns). For those who have been hiding under the duvet or just don’t live in the UK, horse meat was found in a number of shops’ burgers – and one Tecso burger was reported to contain 29% horse meat. There have been practical jokes too – the lady in jodphurs and riding hat asking to see the Tesco manager and complaining that she’d left her horse tied up outside, the two lads in a pantomime horse outfit trotting round Tesco’s howling “Murderers! Where’s my mummy?” – while being pursued by security.

Notoriously, the French are blasé abtrigger2smallout eating horse meat and fail to see the problem but in England horses tend to have a higher status and rightly so. There is a scary precedent –  Roy Rogers’ fabulously beautiful Trigger – star of over 80 films (mostly in the 1950s) – ended up being eaten in burgers. The law-breaking butcher in that case, a John L Jones, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Apart from the scandal of reducing an animal as beautiful and clever as Trigger to something you eat, isn’t there a serious health point here too?

Before Tesco and co fob us off with assurances of “there’s no danger” and apologies, let’s remember that the point of those horse passports and all their rules (tedious as they sometimes are) is to ensure that all those medicines some horses have (the lucky and the unlucky, depending which way you look at it) do NOT enter the human food chain. And that was due to concerns about such horses entering the human food chain indirectly, that is, humans eating the meat of some animal that had eaten horsemeat. Yes some excellent jokes about – but mad cows were funny once, before hundreds of people actually died of BSE. So the big question is, what EXACTLY did those burgers contain???