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By Lucy P | February 11, 2013 2:07 AM PST

Horses waiting for slaughter (Reuters)

This is quite a good time to be one of the five million vegetarians in the UK as yet another crisis sweeps the meat-eating community.

This time it is horse turning up in the beefburgers and lasagnes of the nation rather than the nice reconstituted stuff which usually goes into them. Us non-meat eaters are feeling pretty smug these days and we can expect a few more coming over to our side of the fence over this, the nice side with celery and humus. 

Those of you not put off by previous BSE or foot and mouth scares are not going to be put off by a bit of horsemeat in your burger although I do wonder why people have no problem eating cows, sheep, chicken, pigs or even the mechanically harvested leftover meat scraps that goes into sausages and burgers but when it comes to chowing down on a bit of horse flesh everyone throws their hands up in outrage and the supermarkets are whisking them off the shelves.  

I understand the anger that if a burger is sold as 100% beef, it should be 100% beef and not bits of some other animal and it is the deception rather than the food itself most people object to. The Food Standards Agency is saying there are no health issues in eating horsemeat and I have heard the argument that horsemeat is actually better quality meat than beef. If it was lamb or chicken being put in and not horse, it wouldn't have created half as much outrage.

So who is to blame? The focus is on organised criminal gangs suspected of playing a major role in the horsemeat scandal who are running multimillion-pound scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production and pressuring vets and other officials working in abattoirs and food production plants into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse.

The government has responded by announcing plans to increase the amounts of tests on food which is a bit of a turnaround considering over the past two years the government has cut the budget of Trading Standards, leading to a 26 percent drop in the amount of inspections made by meat hygiene services officers. That was a point made by the union Unison which has said that if the government hadn't dropped investment in trading standards and meat hygiene services, the horsemeat burger scandal would have been picked up much earlier.

When it all calms down and the burgers and lasagnes are proven to contain only bits of the animal it states on the box, we may start to see horsemeat on sale in supermarkets like in other European countries but it's unlikely because where it is okay to see certain animals on the middle shelf of the nation's cookers, the British won't tolerate horses on their dinner plates.

As a vegetarian I have always taken the view that whether you eat meat or not is a personal choice and apart from the animal that involuntarily provided your meal, it hurts nobody so I leave it up to the individual to decide. But remember that old saying that you are what you eat. Enjoy that big, greasy pork chop won't you?

Horsemeat: The Joy of Horse Tartare

Lucy P writes commentary on news, politics and media on her blog Falling on a Bruise

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