Saturday, January 07, 2006

This is what it has come to…

By coincidence, following my piece yesterday on the increasing bureaucracy in food safety, brought about by ever more rigorous and inane EU laws, Ireland online is running a piece this morning headed: "Cattle farmers slam new EU food hygiene regulations".

The Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association, it seems, has slammed strict new EU regulations "designed to improve food hygiene standards". The rules, which came into force on January 1, require slaughterhouses to immediately destroy any animals with physical irregularities or whose tests are out of date.

The ICSA is claimed the law would see perfectly healthy cattle with tiny imperfections being dumped for no good reason. It said this was ludicrous given that South American cattle were accepted without any traceability requirements.

I do not doubt the ICSA claims for one minute. As a student learning meat inspection, my instructors told me that any fool can condemn meat, but it takes skill and judgement to save it. Nowadays, the meat inspectorates, empowered by laws which have long since departed from reality, seem to delight in finding ever-more excuses to condemn perfectly sound meat, to the point that running a slaughterhouse has become a bureaucratic nightmare.

I could fill a book with the stupidity of these inspectors but one short story will suffice. Under the laws brought in to control BSE, slaughterhouses were required to stain sheeps' heads with a bright blue dye, to prevent them being sold for human consumption after they had been collected by the offal merchants.

In one midlands slaughterhouse, however, the owner had purchased an extremely expensive incinerator to destroy the heads, to save on offal collection charges – massively increased since the inception of EU law. The unit was positioned not five feet from the exit to the offal room, from which the heads came, and the operator, finding that the heads doused in the water-based dye were putting out the furnace, decided not to spray them with the dye.

This was spotted by the ever-vigilant inspectors and reported for prosecution, which cost the slaughterhouse owner £15,000 in fines, plus costs. Shortly afterwards, he sold the unit for development and left the industry. These morons will not stop until they have completely destroyed the industry - and farming with it.

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