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The unintended horses of consequence.

THE LAST TIME I was in Paris I was tempted by a horse burger in a small out-of-the-way cafe. I decided against it but next time I’m definitely having one. At least I’ll know it’s horse – won’t I?

This horse meat saga just keeps on growing. It’s an opportunity for everyone to get on their high horses, hobby horses and any other horses that aren’t metaphorical and edible, and ride the issue to death. Veggies and animal rights activists can lather us with guilt for slaughtering millions of gee-gees just for a few ready meals and burgers; the British horse and pet community can recoil in shock at filthy continentals tricking us into eating our pets; the media can blame the supermarkets; politicians can blame everyone but themselves and act as if they are able to do something (which they can’t because these matters are governed by the EU); various sections of the press can blame foreigners for being criminals, while another part of the press can accuse them of being racist for saying so; and the feeble-minded (ie Willy Hutton and his mates) can blame capitalism and globalisation for this and everything else that’s wrong in the world, including the fact that somehow we aren’t all living in the Middle Ages again, eating locally-sourced mud and straw pies and heating our huts with horse-gas.

The Romanians were upset because they thought we were picking on them after some of the horsemeat in our ready meals came from their slaughterhouses. And now they are back in the frame for having banned horses and carts from their roads a few years ago – leading to a surfeit of redundant nags – who found their way into our burgers.

Certain people have been blaming the EU for this. In 2008 Romania decided on the ban in order to bring the country into line with EU regulations on road safety aimed at reducing accidents, so, technically, you could argue the Union isn’t to blame – it didn’t make any laws forbidding horses and carts. That will come as a great relief to the Europhiliacs such as Monsieur Quatremer, who has been writing on his blog (Coulisses de Bruxelles – where not even the other colleagues can hear you scream) that the EU is utterly blameless.

Except it isn’t, really, when even the Romanian police “say they were under pressure from the EU to cut accident figures” and “started to enforce laws banning carts from the roads in order to bring Romania into line with European road safety legislation” (according to The Telegraph in 2008). This is a bit like the Hydra’s heads, if rather horse-shaped – one is no sooner cut off than another springs into being.

As is always the case with the EU and its manifold unintended consequences.

Burger with eyes.CHRISTOPHER BOOKER AND associates have already shown how EU bureaucrats, in their mania for creating paper trails at the expense of proper inspection, have made it more likely that criminals would exploit the meat supply system. Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has clearly indicated that the EU is at the heart of the scandal, not least because food regulation is entirely an EU “competence”. In lay terms that means the EU has total control over everything to do with food regulation, not national governments.

This fact has eluded the fog-bound brains of most Labour MPs and their accomplices in the media. Perhaps it’s the word “competence” that fools them.

The unintended consequence has been that as over-bureaucratised regulation has produced a pretty paper chain and reduced testing, so various criminals have found a way to exploit the system. That’s been boosted by the other unintended consequence – the extra supply of redundant horses from Romania.

All of this is too much for Simple Willy and his mates, who see it as another example of the wickedness of free markets (it’s not just the idea of markets they can’t stand, it’s also the idea of “free” – how they loathe anything they can’t strangle with their grubby statist fingers). The supply chain is too long, they whinge. Food is too cheap, they whine. That boils down to: someone’s making a profit, and working class people are getting fat. The outcome of their plans would be: no one’s making much of a profit and the working classes are starving – but at least they’re thin.

The source of this scandal is twofold: idiotic bureaucracy from the EU; and criminality. The latter is with us always, which is why we have the law. The former, unfortunately, will be with us for a few more years yet, as will the simpletons who can’t see how much trouble it causes, even as they demand more regulation. And that’s what we’ll get – more regulation and more unintended consequences.

Horses this time. What will it be next?

Michael Blackburn.

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