The horse meat scandal has dominated the news for over a month, and follows numerous other food scandals in Europe. As more and more dirty details are being unveiled, consumers are fearing that it has probably not reached its peak.
Those with a stake in keeping the animal-exploiting industries in place, or who have suggested tinkering around the edges, are not providing satisfactory answers.
Horses are only part of the story
From a vegan perspective, it is interesting to watch the outrage from the public and from politicians; the cruelty and exploitation of millions of living beings are a daily occurrence, yet this does not elicit such a strong response.
The outrage seems to be based on people feeling misled about the origin of food, rather than the fact that countless other non-human animals suffer and are being killed on a daily basis to satisfy our taste buds. People thought they were eating meat from a cow, while in fact they were eating meat from a horse.
Asking the inevitable question
The question is not what is for dinner - or, to put it plainly, the type of ground-up flesh derived from once living beings, with an interest in continuing to live, that we have decided to eat. The question is: who is for dinner? As long as meat is seen as an inanimate product that has been manufactured, our outrage will remain a shallow concern.
Sir Paul McCartney's famous quote, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian", still rings true today. The connection has been broken between animals that live and feel, and animals that suffer. Why should our cows, sheep, and pigs end up on our plates, while our horses, dogs, and cats are treated with compassion? Slaughterhouses keep their practices hidden, which means that they are not questioned as much as they should be.
The answers are out there
The Vegan Society is deeply concerned about the mislabelling of food products, as well as the disrespectful attitudes of the food and retail sectors towards citizens' rights to make informed decisions about what they buy.
We believe the answer is veganism. A horse is an individual - as is a cow, a fish, and a mouse. As living, feeling beings, we all have a right to life and freedom: a right to avoid harm, danger, and death. By adopting a vegan diet and lifestyle, we can all break from the tradition that non-human animals can be exploited for our use - once and for all.
The true costs of meat
In the Netherlands, horse DNA has been found in baby food. Naturally, because people have been so outraged, they have demanded that food testing be carried out.
Companies rely on their suppliers for paperwork, who, in turn, rely on their suppliers, and so on. Sometimes ten or more links can be identified in the chain, thereby increasing the likelihood of individuals and companies absolving their responsibility.
The total cost of testing - by the FSA (the Food Standards Agency), retailers, and others - has rapidly exceeded millions of pounds in the UK alone. This is good news for laboratories and lab analysts, but not so great for the tax payer. New Scientist reported that DNA analysis cost £200-£500 per sample.
The true costs of meat are also becoming more obvious:
• Had the international and illegal trade not been allowed to blossom in the first place, this testing programme would not have been necessary.
• Had the relevant stakeholders complied as expected by society, the problem may not have escalated.
• Had these millions of pounds been invested in education on healthy eating and plant-based diets, many diseases could have been prevented.
In short, food safety testing is not the answer. It is part of the problem. And no wonder, since the more you test, the more deviations you will find. That follows simple statistical probability.
Most people are surprised to discover how easy it is to go vegan. Everyone eats vegan products every day: things like bread, rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds, are all vegan. Vegans just eat more of them. Well-planned, balanced, vegan diets provide all the nutrients anyone needs. It is a compassionate, life-affirming choice.