Horse meat: what if it had been dogs?

Bray People - - THE NOTEBOOK - SHEA TOMKINS

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.

shea.tomkins@peo­ple­news.ie

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