Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Open-Minded Westerner

The horse meat scandal that continues to unfold over in the UK (and seems destined to trigger a WTO conflict over what kind of import restrictions countries can implement) has also provided an interesting insight into the progression of Western thought.

Fifty years ago, if something like this had happened, we would have been up in arms. With one voice, we would have called out those in the countries passing this meat off as beef as savages. I don't mean something specifically like this, but a similar case of something that is socially acceptable in one culture coming into conflict with the mores of our culture.

The horse meat scandal has been met with two responses: people angry that they don't know what is in their meat; and people who seem to be entirely open to the prospect of eating horse nonetheless.

While the first response is probably the most important -- our global food system is a train wreck and this only serves to highlight that problem -- it is the second response that makes me smile. I have read dozens of articles online talking about eating horse meat as healthy, the ways to eat horse meat, what cultures do it regularly, and why we grew to not eat horse meat in America.

But what I have seen nary a mention of is how appalling it is to be eating horses. Imagine if people found that the burgers were 20% bug meat. Still harmless. Still meat. But people would be vomiting. That was the response that I was more-or-less expecting.

I think it a testament to general cultural progress when, after discovering that we are eating horses, that we respond with a general shrug. We're still angry, no doubt about that, but not because of the specific thing we were eating. We are angry because yet again, giant corporations are lying to us.1

It may seem odd to focus on this, but it makes me happy. It reminds me that we are progressing. It reminds me that deeply held culture dogmas can simply fade away, to be replaced with perspective and understanding.


1: I know that this is more complex than that, since the corporations were also lied to. But when a company is trying to sell crappy beef at super-cheap prices, color me not surprised when their supply chain management breaks down. Also color me not compassionate to their plight when the end result, horse meat, is only a single, salient element of a gigantic, broken system that they themselves perpetuate and defend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As long as they don't feed my the superglue part of the horse, I'm all good :)