Martin Kirby Column; Horsing Around, Doomsday Again and Pot Luck
WHAT'S ON THE 'MANE' MENU?
When you buy this newspaper – or read it online, whichever is your choice - you know what you're getting. If it says 'The Citizen' on the front page, then it's The Citizen.
It's a simple enough concept but up to the time I'm writing this, many people in authority seem unable to get their heads around it. Earlier this week, the Environment Secretary announced he would hold another round of talks with the food industry to discuss the horsemeat problem. Owen Paterson has told MPs that it appears "criminal activity" is at the heart of the scandal that has spread across Europe. Appears?
It's so obvious it's smacking you in the gob, mate. The way the stuff is hauled half way around Europe before reaching its final destination is a big enough clue. Somebody somewhere has either been grossly negligent or taken part in a massive fraud – and there's no prize for guessing which. Horsemeat is much cheaper than beef, so if you can sell horsemeat labelled as beef, 'Luvly jubbly'!
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Earlier this week, the Food Standards Agency director of operations, Andrew Rhodes, assured us that 'no evidence of a food safety risk had been found so far'.
But it's not just about safety. If you pay for something that says beef on the box, you should be getting beef; otherwise, you're being ripped-off, no matter how bargain-basement the price may be.
Sadly, raids on premises in West Yorkshire, and Aberystwyth indicate that the problem may be uncomfortably closer to home than we first thought. But in any case, EU rules will not allow Britain to ban meat imports unless the meat is proved to be unsafe. I don't remember the French government worrying too much about the rules when it banned British beef a few years ago. Yet another benefit of our EU membership!
Who knows - if things aren't tightened-up, we could find ourselves with the scenario depicted in the 1973 Sci-Fi movie 'Soylent Green', which starred Charlton Heston. I won't go into the plot detail, but let's just say the state solved the problems of over-population and a food shortage, all in one go!
THE END IS NIGH – AGAIN
Reading that a group of survivalists wants to build a giant walled fortress in the woods of Idaho, USA, where residents would own weapons and defend the compound if society collapses, reminded me of the most recent 'end of the world'.
We were supposed to breathe our last on 21 December 2012 and many Americans sealed themselves in underground bunkers costing $100,000 (just over £64,000). Are they still down there, believing they are the only ones left? What will they do when they find out it was 100 grand wasted?
Doomsday predictions are a bit like political scandals – if you miss one, there'll be another along soon. Apparently the new date to watch out for is January 1, 2017, when 'The Sword of God Brotherhood' says the 'real' Apocalypse will strike.
However, if 2017 turns out to be a disappointment there are other doom-laden predictions. An author named Ian Gurney claims Judgement Day is due in 2023, but we may not have to wait that long. After the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, doom could be nearer than we thought. The Irish saint Malachy said in 1143 that there would be 112 more Popes before the world ends, and Benedict is number 111. Thanks a bunch, Your Holiness!
TELL US THE 'HOLE' TRUTH
We're all well aware that potholes caused by diabolical weather make driving and riding a misery. But no way can local councils or the government plead poverty when taxpayers ask for the holes to be repaired. Fuel duty and road tax raise well over £30 billion annually but only £13 billion of that is reinvested in roads or in environmental measures in any year.
Where does the rest of it go? Surely, taxing us to pay for upkeep of the roads and then spending the money on things other than roads, is a breach of our human rights.