Horse meat: what if it had been dogs?

SHEA TOMKINS shea.tomkins@peoplenews.ie

Published 30/01/2013 | 14:12

Thursday: The young lad wanted to talk about religion today. The good woman was washing up in the kitchen while he was sketching at the table. Out of the blue he asked her to tell him about Jesus's father. 'Almighty God is his father,' she told him, 'and he lives in heaven.'

Having heard about different people going to heaven over the past while, his ears pricked up. 'I thought Joseph was his father,' he then said. She paused for a moment before adding that he was right, and Jesus had two fathers. She also told him that God was his father too.

He scratched his head and asked her, 'So I have two daddies, one in heaven and one that comes from South Korea (where this father once lived)?' It was then she decided to leave his religious education to the experts. Saturday: South Korea has actually been on my mind a lot this week. As the ' horse meat in beef burgers' controversy shows little sign of abating anytime soon, I relayed the following story to a group of friends this evening.

In the summer of 2002, I was living in a town called Jinju. If you were comparing a map of Ireland to a map of South Korea then, location-wise, Jinju sits in the similar spot to the south Tipperary/Kilkenny border.

One Saturday morning, a group of six ex-pats arrived at my door and asked if I would like to go try some Bo Shin Tan, or dog stew. I declined their invitation but listened with interest when they returned, comparing its taste to that of ' tough beef '. I was horrified at the thoughts of it – Lassie was never meant to be lunch.

Later that night, I took a stroll out an old country road which curved its way through the paddy fields. By coincidence, I passed a row of cages on the side of the road, with dozens of dogs trapped in them. Upon asking, it was explained to me that these were the dogs that were being farmed for eating.

To someone that had always been fond of canine companions, it was a sobering sight. There are people who will argue that if you eat cows, pigs and sheep, then you have no right to claim the moral high ground when it comes to eating dogs or horses. And while they have a point, carnivores make exceptions when it comes to pets.

With the latest scandal on these shores where traces of horse meat have been found in some beef burgers, I thought about my Asian experience and wondered what the outcry would be like if it were bits of dog meat, instead, that had been discovered.

A few weeks after that late-night incident, I sat on the plane that would take me back home and far from the Korean shores, consumed by a sense of regret.

Why I didn't open the cages and set those dogs free that night, I'll never quite understand. Sunday: The younger lad, who is two and three months, is learning his colours. It is proving more challenging that we first anticipated. We give him the following daily test. What colour is the sun? Yellow. What colour is Mammy's hair? Yellow. What colour is Daddy's hair? Yellow. What colour is the grass? Green (to which we clap like idiots and hail a breakthrough). What colour is the sky? Yellow. And so on until we conclude what his favourite colour is, however, getting him to recognise that yellow has a lot of friends might take some time.

A crash course in teaching tots how to put names to the various colours is next in the pipeline – any advice on the best way to approach it would be greatly appreciated.

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