Rotary Club of Manila 2015 Newspaper of the Year

Selling rat meat as lamb?

A news story from Shanghai reports that the police have arrested several suspects, seized 20,000 tons of counterfeit meat, and busted a $1- million crime ring engaged in selling fox, mink and rat meat as lamb. It is the latest food-related scandal in China where, according to earlier reports, dead pigs and dogs have been fished out of the river by some to be sold as food. The counterfeit meat business has apparently become a regular source of livelihood for many. This year alone, some 900 suspects have been arrested for selling tainted or fake meat products, the report said. Although the Ministry of Public Security apparently zealously inspects food shops and food outlets to ensure the highest quality standards, nobody knows how much of the illegal products get past the police. Rat meat does not have the same texture as lamb. It is reportedly doused in gelatin and pigmented to mask it and make it look like lamb. That makes it difficult to tell the one from the other, so the police have to teach the public how to tell the difference. In fake lamb, the fat and the red meat easily come apart. In real lamb, it is not easy to separate the meat from the fat, the police are saying on the web. The story does not intimidate me as a vegetarian. But I have a couple of friends who seem to go nuts whenever they talk about the lamb kebabs on the sidewalks of Shanghai. They had once thought of enticing President B. S. Aquino III to try those kebabs, after they had seen him on You Tube wolf down an American hamburger at a Manhattan sidewalk on Sept. 22, 2010. After this latest newsbreak, I dont believe those guys would be having Shanghai kebabs again. They may even stop going to Shanghai altogether. So the rat meat story cant be good for Chinas tourism. Or even for international relations. Could you imagine a Chinese state guest refusing to touch the meat dish at a state dinner? President Xi Jinping would probably have to assure him that the meat is the best Chinese lamb from Yunnan or the best French lamb from Pauillac, not some lower life from Shanghai. To which the embarrassed State Guest would probably say, Deepest apologies, Excellency. My jet-lagged director of protocol failed to inform our hosts that I am vegan. Of course, the story might prove useful on certain occasions. For instance, the next time Chinese fishermen are caught poaching inside Philippine waters, they could probably tell the Philippine Navy they had strayed inside our waters because they were trying to help the food situation in China without having to sell rodents meat as mutton. But if you think China has a problem, what do you think we have here? Our police have not arrested 900 suspects nor carted away 20,000 tons of rat meat being sold as lamb. But in this oddest of all seasons, even Malacaang is trying to sell something worse than rat meatclowns, charlatans, courtesans, crooks, crazies, communistsall sorts of phonies and fraudsters who are being powdered, perfumed and stem-celled to look like honest, competent and electable public servants. In the past, outside of graft, mediocrity seemed to be the worst crime one could commit as a politician. Today it seems mediocrity is not enough; one has to be both inane and irrelevant in order to attract any attention as a potential elected official. Thus, re-electionist senators who never said anything honest or useful on any public issue during the last six years are suddenly overflowing with verbiage on every possible issue and non-issue under the sun. Their ideas are either false or borrowed, but even if you have stopped reading the tabloid-broadsheets that carry all their latest spin, the most determined of them manage to invade your inbox without your prior consent with all their offensive nonsense. Their inanities and irrelevancies are ably and zealously reinforced by the charlatans of the conscript media who behave as though they were the natural enemies of human intelligence. Thus you hear the most inane answers to the most inane questions on cable television: One, If elected senator, what are the first three bills that you will file, and what is the first privilege speech you will deliver? Two, As a member of a political dynasty, will you file a bill to implement the ban on political dynasties under the Constitution? I thought I had heard the worst until the other night I heard the latest being inflicted on the helpless cable TV audience: Whom will you support for president in 2016? Not even the overly ambitious Alan Peter Cayetano, who appears to have mobilized even the self-anointed fortune tellers to proclaim, with Mother Lily, that he is the next president of the Philippines, has been crass enough to openly declare in his own favor. But many could not help suspecting that either Cayetano himself or his backers have planted the question themselves to make it appear that he has already conned his way to the Senate all over again, despite the fact that his sister Pia is still sitting there, despite his highly questionable propaganda methods, and despite some very serious personal limitations.
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