Belfast Telegraph

Michelle, there's no doubt that this horse meat scandal will run and run

By Robert McNeill

The situation is as follows: bucks have been passed, folk have been standing over your meat, and farmers have been jumping through hoops.

Reading through a transcript from Stormont of the ministerial statement and subsequent questions on horse meat the other day – I've got my hobbies, you've got yours – one detected the usual twin ingredients of our ready-made democracy: minister called to account and political capital extracted.

They're the same thing under different guises. Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill was accused of passing the buck, but then the same charge has been levelled at everyone in the food chain, so to speak.

It's unfair to accuse Michelle of dancing round the issue, even if her critics aver that she has the ministerial mien of someone who likes nothing better than a shimmy round her handbag.

She it was who said farmers had been jumping through hoops so that they could put quality assurance logos on "a product that they can stand over". I'm not sure I like the sound of that.

Meat is a mucky business, and the fewer people that go near it, never mind standing over it, the better. Mind you, I suppose farmers have more of an excuse than most.

Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy said someone needed to take responsibility. But he's a vegetarian, what did he know?

Michelle said she didn't know about the buck being passed, but she knew where it stopped: with the Food Standards Agency.

Asked by another suspicious member why testing had taken place for equine drugs in Northern Irish meat, she said: "That is like saying that you should ignore a problem until it exists." Ah yes, horse meat: it's a chicken and egg situation.

Again, the minister said the FSA was in the saddle for this bucking bronco: "Throw your head up or choose to ignore it, but that is the reality." Head? Up? Throw? What could it all mean?

Michelle's point re the matter of cranial verticality related to other MLAs shaking their bonces doubtfully. But, while the horse meat scandal is making us all throw up (apart from the usual macho types who'd eat their own organs if the menu was otherwise veggie), you have to wonder how the authorities generally could let this sort of thing happen.

I don't mean in Northern Ireland, where the meat is pure and clean, and I'm not just referring to horse meat.

It's all the guff the capitalists put in our grub.

The high street butcher you can usually trust but, elsewhere, we don't know what we're eating any more.

Hydrogenated fat, e numbers, slaughterhouse sweepings. They'll bung anything in they can.

Then they'll use words to disguise it. They call salt "sodium". If there's profit to be made, there are capitalists out there who'll poison you for it.

All right, horse meat ain't poison. But it's not what peculiarly picky northern European gourmands pay for when they buy their packet lasagne.

Even when you make an effort to eat healthily, you get screwed. How many times have you picked up a product boasting that it's made from the latest superberry, only to find that said ingredient comprises one per cent of the total?

The other 99% is aspartame.

Someone must take charge of this whole ridiculous mess. Who's the Prime Minister? What's he doing?

Oh, he's throwing his head about?

Well, it's a start, I suppose.

Belfast Telegraph


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