by Jan Baughman
(Swans - March 11, 2013) The publication of Raju Peddada's article on the debate between vegetarianism and carnivorism, and the gory reality of the latter, comes at an appropriate time, as Europe is reeling over the discovery of horse meat that made its way from Romania to France, where it ended up in processed foods sold throughout Europe and labeled as containing beef. Where the mislabeling of the horse as beef occurred is still a matter of conjecture and accusations. Suffice it to say that while horse meat is considered a delicacy in Mexico and parts of Europe and Asia, the British and Irish were horrified, while the Germans suggested the equine-containing prepared foods be given to the poor, rather than being discarded. In the U.S., the notion of eating horse meat is about as appetizing as eating one's canine companion, while dog meat is consumed in China and Vietnam, all proving the point that one man's pet is another man's protein.
French president François Hollande, among others, immediately called for labeling of European meat, but without actual DNA testing, how can the typical consumer in our industrialized food era be assured that the ground beef in the frozen lasagna is not ground horse? Case in point, the big fish tale recently revealed by the environmental group Oceana, which did DNA testing on fish samples from markets and restaurants between 2010 and 2012, demonstrating that a third were mislabeled. The worst offenses occurred in Northern California, in restaurants, and in particular, sushi bars with mislabeling noted in 38%, 58%, and 76% respectively. One can only conclude that restaurants are boosting their profits by selling low-priced fish such as rockfish dressed up and garnished as more-expensive snapper. Not only are we not getting the fish we wish for and pay for, such widespread practice does not allow the consumer to confidently and reliably chose "safer" fish that contain lower mercury levels, or to select wild fish over farm-raised.
Even vegetarians aren't safe anymore. Though it would be hard to pass off an inexpensive lima bean for a more luxurious and desirable (in this author's opinion) cannellini, foods containing genetically-engineered (GE) ingredients are becoming ubiquitous and efforts to label them as such face much opposition -- the typical arguments being that it would be too hard to trace the source of all the ingredients, which would increase the cost of food. Anyway, Monsanto says GE foods are safe... By the way, of interest to you piscivores is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is likely to approve the first genetically-engineered fish this year, the AquAdvantage salmon, engineered with two new genes to make it grow twice as fast -- one from the Pacific salmon and one from an eel. Be sure to ask for it by name. And speaking of Monsanto, who's long touted the revolutionary impact that GE crops would have on solving world hunger and decreasing pesticide use, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "...overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant 'superweeds,' which will lead to even more herbicide use." Oops.
The moral of the story is that if you don't always get what you pay for, and if you didn't grow it and kill it yourself, or if you don't have a close relationship with a local farmer or butcher, you can't necessarily know what you're eating. As for killing a protein source yourself, that alone was enough to make Raju Peddada a vegetarian -- perhaps we should all be required to try it. That might put horses, cows, and dogs back on a level playing field and lead more of us to a plant-based diet. And always show respect for the law of unintended consequences -- as the "experiment" with GE crops has taught us, it tends to prevail.
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