Oct. 6 WEEKENDER – Second Opinion: My beef about meat regulations in light of XL Foods recall

The government took away the rights of farmers to market meat locally but would there be a big recall if they were allowed to market?

I suppose that contempt is too strong a word to describe how political movers and shakers regard the Canadian public; perhaps disdain would be better.

The sad thing is that while individual citizens are apparently thought to be mindless creatures in need of being guided, managed, and condescended to by governments and corporations, those very corporate and government bodies that regard the public as unfortunate drones and saps, regard themselves as being practically clairvoyant and infallible.

Take the current tainted beef scandal for instance.

The federal government and its provincial counterparts have, through fiat and regulation, taken away the right of local farmers to market meat locally.

Citing fear of deadly disease and contamination, small meat processing operations have been legislated out of existence, requiring producers to ship animals long distances to only a few mega-processing plants.

The cost of complying with ever more rigid requirements was too much for small processing plants, let alone individual farmers.  The farm-gate sale of chickens, beef, even milk was deemed too dangerous; farmers and their customers too simple-minded to survive without regulation.

Of course, today, in one massive outbreak of E. coli in the nation’s second largest meat processing plant, one half of all the beef in B.C. and a third of all beef in Canada (the amount Global News reported as being supplied by the XL plant) is suspect and being recalled – 1,500 different products.

One wonders how many years it would take for smaller, locally-owned food processing operations and farmers to have contaminated that much meat and put at risk that many Canadians?

When asked in parliament and by the media to respond to the public’s concern over the largest food recall in history, the Harper Conservatives chose to do what powerful autocrats always do: never apologize, never explain.

Instead they responded with a non-sequitur, a statistic about the number of food inspectors that have been hired.

Human nature and the profit motive require government regulation to protect the public but when the regulation is put in place, not because individual human beings are thought to be greedy and ignorant, but because the rule makers want to centralize authority and save money and therefore their political jobs, or because the large corporate entity is believed more capable and intelligent than the small, local enterprise, then some rethinking is required.

P.S. After re-examining food regulation, perhaps building codes could be given a glance; it’s just a shed for goodness sake!

Jim Holtz is WEEKENDER columnist and former reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette