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Puzzles in the Meat Trade - 01/07/2014
 
Slaughter of animals has a special signficance for orthodox Jews in the dietary prescriptions for those producing foods
 
The rules were influenced by meat inspections which would have been affected by observations of typical infections by the pork tapeworm Taenia solium (cysticercosis), an insidious parasite which has a particularly complicated cycle with 6 or 7 stages. In those days, they could not make reliable connections, lacking microscopes and other apparatus needed for parasitology and failing to understand the importance of zoonotic diseases not visible through orthodox means. To some extent these conditions still exist, for instance, cysticercosis is recognised in many meat foods. There is also a beef tapeworm, Taenia saginata, which informs certain religious faiths such as Hinduism. 
 
The objections to pig meat by Jews represent a combination of farming difficulties and infestation with parasites. The reasons are that pigs (swine, boars, barrows and hogs) are subject to infestations with many causes, involving the physiological and anatomical conditions of the animals, as well as the difficulty of managing domesticated pigs in intensive systems. Associated problems are boar taint and a shitty-like smell.
 
The trade in meat and associated products has involved reliance on the export trade. However, the dangers of cysticercosis have reappeared and although it has been claimed by British inspectors that its absence is complete in this country and does not need checking up, most other countries in the EU require inspections to be made and this raise the cost of pig meat and derivatives such as spam, bacon and even ham butties.
 
Some of these problems have been solved, for example, pigs have 12 or more teats and they can produce in intensive conditions litters of a dozen or so piglets of which one might die. By little genetic manipulation, perhaps they can give 14 teats, compared with cows and goats which normally only have four and two teats. Therefore on fecundity and fertility, pigs can claim advantages that suit them for intensive rearing and profit gain, without the genetic changes to be achieved with 2- and 4-teat animals.
 
Objections to production of ‘measly meat’ and meat which is pale, soft and exudative (PSE) or dark, firm and dry (DFD) are signs of continuing ills in the meat industry and the economic effects of this. The description of pigs as ‘unclean’ and the economic and environmental doubts, for instance over BSE, disturb politicians. Such would include Sir Stafford Cripps (Chancellor of the Exchequer during the partition of India and Pakistan), and various political figures in English-speaking countries. George Bernard Shaw, a founder of the London School of Economics was a keen advocate of land reform and what would today be regarded as organic farming. He was prescient in recognising that it was not necessary to kill animals to produce wholesome food. Cripps and Bernard Shaw were both vegetarian. In modern times, ex-President Clinton has declared himself vegan.
 
Meat has been acceptable as suitable for general consumption and in beef, the resistance to it as a result of tapeworms is less strong. However, it is considered in other countries, for example, India and particularly where proscriptions are based on humane grounds and Gandhian principles that obtain to all meat products amongst Hindus, Jains, some Buddhists and some Jews and Muslims with Indian connections.
 
Furthermore, the persistence of zoonotic diseases has the recognition of many influential people and many in the meat industry. There is also the appearance of diseases like Tropical Sprue and unobserved infections and infestations of fish such as Diphyllobothrium latum (broad fish tapeworm) which is native to Scandinavia, western Russia, and the Baltics, though it is now also present in North America, especially the Pacific Northwest, having Pacific salmon as its second intermediate host. It infects the whole of the northern hemisphere and humans consuming infected fish suffer deficiencies of vitamin B12 and folic acid.
 
Dr Alan Long
 
 
 

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