Monday, 18 February 2013

Was the horsemeat halal? The pig wasn't.

The scandal of "halal" beef containing pig DNA being served to Muslim prisoners repeats the mistakes of Britain's past.

Indian rebellion of 1857
by A. Tayyaba 

In the last few weeks the UK food industry has been hit hard by the on going horsemeat scandal. The daily twists and turns of the story began with the announcement on January 15th that frozen beef burgers and ready-made beef meals were found to be contaminated with pig DNA and horse DNA. Not just that, but 85% of the beef products tested contained pig DNA and 37% horse DNA. 

Initially the finger of blame pointed abroad to countries like Poland and then to Findus in France. Irish horsemeat seemed to have been imported from Poland making it seem the problem was at arms length. More recently meat distributors in the UK have taken centre stage in the scandal. Criminal investigations are underway to contain what essentially seems like a ‘recession’ led scam, with horsemeat several times cheaper than beef. Also under scrutiny are standards of food hygiene. What is worse is the news that government ministers were warned about horsemeat contamination almost two years ago.

For those people who love horses the horsemeat scandal must have been hard to bear. An animal of grace and beauty has too high a value for many to be served up under a layer of tomato sauce and betwixt a bun. But another facet to the scandal is that pig DNA has been found in halal meals being served to Muslim prisoners, who avoid eating meat from pigs as a matter of faith.

For those of us who trusted others to take our religious preferences seriously, the tale is a reminder that history could have taught us not just about the past, but made us wiser in the present. We only need to turn to the ‘Indian Rebellion of 1857’ also known as the ‘Indian Sepoy Rebellion of 1857’. Bengali soldiers fighting for the British Empire were issued with new rifles, the cartridges of which needed to be ripped open by their teeth but were also rumoured to have pig or beef fat on them, simultaneously offending both Muslims and Hindus, who belief cows to be sacred. A lot was learnt by the British from the resulting mutiny at the time and henceforth particular heed was paid to religious culture. Much has changed in the world since but as arrests are made over the current food scandal, it would have been more than serendipitous if the food industry had remembered British history. @TayyabaNoor02


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