Lebanese Cause Du Jour: Rotten Meat

It happens every now and then that a case of mass hysteria spreads around Lebanon following an event that makes headlines. It happened in January when the Achrafieh building collapsed. The cause du jour at the time was our infrastructure. Does anyone remember the Achrafieh building and its victims today? No. Is anyone still concerned with the upheaval of our rent law? No. Is anyone still worried about the state of their building in Beirut? No.

It’s not really a “Lebanese” thing as it is a human thing. We have a short attention span to events and get carried away with hype. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But when it comes to the rotten food situation in Lebanon, I have to ask: why the melodrama?

We are all entitled to worry about our health. If we didn’t, who would? But when it comes to the food incident, we are not the first country where such a thing happened and we won’t be the last. Besides, this wasn’t the first time that rotten food was found in Lebanon and it won’t be the last. Or doesn’t anyone remember when your mother panicked for a day or two about the chicken nuggets she was buying following a Kalem El Nes episode which was repeated a while later for extra emphasis?

The melodrama cannot but be heightened by the way our media handles such incidences. To many people, it seemed that all restaurants were in on it – buying cheap rotten meat and putting it in their burgers. TV shows discussing the incidence not only showed one side of the story: the rotten side, but they completely disregarded the fact that most Lebanese restaurants have high standards when it comes to handling their meat. I am not a journalist but shouldn’t someone who has studied journalism expose both sides of a story and not seek out a story just because of the ratings entailed? It happened before with Tony Khalife and his Lel Nashr show. Simply put: you know you’re overreacting when you go to a place like Roadster’s and are worried about the meat they have.

To put things into perspective, our consumption of meat yearly is about 400,000 tons. The rotten meat confiscated by the authorities was 185 tons. That’s less than half a percent. Maybe the problem is more widespread than just those 185 tons. But it remains that most of the meat we eat is not rotten. Most of the restaurants we go to are not filthy.

Perhaps the more interesting question to ask in the case of this rotten meat debacle is how this meat got detoured from Israel to Lebanon and who’s truly responsible, instead of putting all the blame on restaurants whose only fault was not to open a butcher shop in their premises to procure their meat.

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