After contaminated meat and bone meal fed to cows was found to be the cause of mad cow disease, the European Union ten years ago put a total ban on the use of meat meal in feed for animals bred for food production.
Today however, the Union is reconsidering this ban, as a huge amount of animal proteins is effectively lost.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, the risks are negligible. That said, the Parliament is requiring specific conditions such as keeping the bans on cannibalism (i.e. pigs eating the remainders of other pigs), ensuring that parts of animals that have been linked to transmissible diseases affecting the brain and nervous system (i.e. BSE among cows) will not be used for the production of meat and bone meal, and that animal remains are only fed to non-herbivores such as pigs and chicken.
Even so, as a vegetarian, it still appears unnatural for me – as does the fact that most of the candy, yoghurts, cakes, ice-creams etc. we eat contains animal remains in the form of gelatine, commonly known as E441, which is derived in most cases from pork skin.
Moreover, for people who follow a specific diet due to religious belief, confusion can also arise: after all, is a chicken which has been fed pork still Kosher or Hallal?
Hundreds of people died as a result of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of BSE. Millions of animals were put down due to infectious diseases, or even in the case of a suspicion of contamination.
People were shocked to find out that farmers had cannibalised their cattle. At a time when consumers are much more aware of what they eat and are more inquisitive than before, it will be interesting to see the public’s reaction to these plans.