As I am sure you`ve heard of, as it`s kind of unavoidable: Europe, as of late, has been in a state of scandal because of the discovery of horsemeat in beef products. “Big deal,” I can hear the world sigh. Well, actually, yes. It is a big deal.
I personally don`t mind eating horse. It`s not that I don`t like horses. In fact, I used to go horseriding (one of my favourite sports at that), and I love the animals. But I just don`t mind eating their meat. As long as I know what it is I`m eating.
I do get what the scandal is about though. It`s more than just “we ate the pwetty horses”, even if that`s what the news tends to make of it. “It`s a scandal because in some countries it`s not customary to eat horsemeat.” Well, there is that, but there is much more to it.
It`s the sheer size of it all, the amount of supposedly 100% beef meat that turns out to have horse in it. More and more companies are pulling back their products, with now even IKEA being one of them. And there`s good reason to pull the products back. Several good reasons.
Let`s put it like this: if, for example, you are allergic to cucumber. And you always bought these “100% broccoli!” foods. You`d buy them, right? Because you`d trust the manufacturer that, indeed, there`s 100% broccoli in there and no cucumber, because they`re legally obliged to put it on the ingredients list if there`s cucumber in there. Plus they wouldn`t be allowed to put the “100% broccoli!” exclamation anymore. At least here in the Netherlands, you`re not allowed to put false claims on the packaging of your product.
But it goes further than that. Much, much further.
For starters, this can cause real damage to the trustworthiness of companies, unrelated to horse. Who`s to say there aren`t strange ingredients in other products? How are we to believe that even ingredients lists on packages are still correct, if manufacturers don`t even know what they get delivered? How can we still trust the manufacturers? How can we trust any label, if there might still be ingredients in there that we don`t want to eat or are even allergic to, but it`s not written anywhere?
A trust issue like that, can be a huge blow to a company, and can kill off even the biggest companies around. Look at Toyota with their failing-brakes scandal. Toyota was a pretty darn big company, but they had a huge blow because of one part in a line of cars failing. I do realise that people died in this instance, but the principle is the same: people bought something, expecting quality, expecting to know what it is they bought, and they got something less for it. Even just marketing-wise, it only takes one scandal to destroy a company`s credibility, but it takes years and years of careful phrasing, good marketing, good communication, good everything, to slowly gain back that confidence. Some companies never recover. And with a huge market like this? I dread to think of the consequences in the long run.
On top of that, there`s the part where relations between countries are involved. Everyone is denying that they`re the source of the problem, instead pointing their fingers at the other countries. The U.K. points at Ireland, Ireland points at France, they point at the Netherlands, we point to, oh, I don`t even know anymore. And they turn it back to Ireland, and the whole story begins again. No one wants to claim responsibility. And I can understand that. It`s a lot of responsibility. And maybe it`s not just one company or one country that has to. But someone still does have to claim responsibility, so we can finally go and get this all worked out and fix it.
But as long as countries can still blame each other? We will do that. It`s what Europe has always done. We have a long history of blaming each other for everything, even if we obviously had a part to play in it ourselves.
History is written by those who win, but we`ll just have to wait and see who wins this round.
The way I see it though, this is a pretty darn good time to be vegetarian. And maybe to grow your own food. Time to learn how to make cheese, anyone?