Biggest news stories of 2013: The Horsemeat Scandal
NewsTuesday 17 December 2013
Here at Farming Ads we thought it would be a good idea to offer a complete rundown of some of the year’s biggest news stories. It has certainly been an eventful past 12 months for everyone involved in the farming industry with many hurdles popping up along the way.
There have also been a number of controversies throughout the last 12 months from the CAP reform to the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board. However, we are going to kick this feature off by going through what has quite possibly been the biggest story of the year... The Horsemeat Scandal.
For other farming news, click here now.
For other farming news, click here now.
The Horsemeat Scandal: How it all began
This story pretty much kicked off the year. In mid-January a food safety watchdog in Ireland announced that it had discovered traces of horse DNA in burger products that had made their way onto the shelves of major British and Irish supermarkets.
The evidence for the contamination was discovered in November of 2012, however, the scientists at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland took no action at the time as they were waiting for three positive tests.
As soon as the news broke, supermarkets around the UK began to clear these mislabelled products from their shelves. In fact, come the end of January, over 10 million burgers had been removed from shelves up and down the country.
Many samples only had small traces of the horse DNA, however, Tesco were forced to clear their shelves after a product was discovered that contained 29% horsemeat.
It was even reported that in the first week or so, Tesco lost over £300 million from its share value.
The FSAI went on to state that the burgers came from the Dalepak Hambleton plant in Yorkshire and two plants in Ireland – Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods.
The NFU stepped up
After the scandal broke - and boy did it break - the NFU then came out to encourage consumers to opt for British food if they wanted to be sure of where it had come from.
In fact the union coined the slogan ‘Make it British, Make it Local, Make it Happen’, in order to get the message across to consumers. They stressed that if you follow these steps then you are protected by extremely high welfare standards and rigorous traceability met by UK farmers.
They also emphasised that the scandal had nothing to do with the integrity of UK-farmed products.
NFU President Peter Kendall appeared on both the BBC outlets and Sky News on the 11th of February and was on the ITV Daybreak sofa the next day. He said that farmers need better policies that help them invest, to support the produce of British meat and reduce imports.
"What we want both retailers and processors to do is work with British farmers so they don't have to go all over the world." he said.
The Findus fiasco
After the initial low traces of horse DNA were discovered in some products, Findus then removed one of its products from the shelves of supermarkets as more DNA testing revealed that they contained horse meat. Some cases even saw this Findus product contain 100% horsemeat as opposed to beef. The government then commented on this stating that more revelations could emerge as the testing continued.
Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, spoke out saying: “There may well be more bad results coming through, that's the point of doing this random analysis."
NFU President Peter Kendall commented on this situation saying: “Our members are rightly angry and concerned with the recent developments relating to contaminated processed meat products. The contamination took place post farm gate which farmers have no control over.
“This has never been a farming issue but it is certainly an issue that farmers will be taking extremely seriously. The NFU is working with the industry to uphold the reputation of British farmers who are committed to producing world class raw ingredients into the supply chain.”
Here is a report that Channel 4 News carried out that mentioned the situation regarding Findus.
British farmers were ‘furious’
The NFU Conference rolled around at the end of February, and the union stated that British farmers were ‘furious’ over what happened in the horsemeat scandal. According to one report, many farmers believed that the crisis over mislabelled food had damaged consumer confidence in the supply chain.
Peter Kendall was speaking out again at the conference and said that British farmers have spent “many years working to ensure the British supply chain is fully traceable from farm to pack, and have upheld strong principles which are embodied in assurance schemes like Red Tractor”.
The NFU announced at their conference that they had carried out a poll that suggested over three quarters of people wanted supermarkets to stock more food from British farms. And, some 43% of the 1,000 people surveyed said they were more likely to buy food traceable from UK farms in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Mr Kendall continued: "Our research also demonstrates the strong demand for British-farmed products, and so retailers, processors and food service companies have a responsibility to ensure there is clear country of origin labelling on the products that consumers purchase."
Princess Anne got involved
The news story calmed down towards the end of the year. And by the end of the year, people were even advocating the use of horsemeat, with Princess Anne, calling for a debate on whether considering a horse’s meat value might encourage people to look after them better.
And World Horse Welfare supported the Princess with Roly Owers, the charity’s Chief Executive, stating: “Horses are seen here mostly as companions or pets, while elsewhere they can be seen as livestock or a food source.”
He went on to say that; “World Horse Welfare believes that eating horse meat is a personal choice influenced by culture and beliefs.”
“We are concerned with the welfare of the horse during its life up until death. What happens after death is not a welfare issue as the horse can no longer suffer.”
The second issue that Mr Owers raised, in relation to The Princess Royal’s statements, was the issue surrounding the concept of a horse being slaughtered and how many people feel uncomfortable with that.
However, he stated that World Horse Welfare does not oppose humane slaughter.
He continued: “The costs of euthanasia and carcase disposal mean that for some owners slaughter is the only viable option at the end of their horse’s life. If slaughter were not available, these horses could end up suffering neglect or abandonment.
“So long as slaughter is undertaken humanely, taking a horse to an abattoir is a legitimate option for horse owners if the animal is in poor health (but still fit to travel) or if it has nowhere to go.”
In the end...
A report was carried out by the Eating Better campaign that stated that a quarter of Brits have cut back on eating meat over the past year in the wake of the scandal. Their survey, which was published in November, saw that 25% of respondents had cut back on the amount of meat they have eaten over the past 12 months.
One third also went on to state that they are willing to consider eating less meat, with a mere 2% claiming they were now eating more.