Brussels moves on from its crusade against the curved banana to take on the other great nemesis facing the European taxpayer: the vegan steak, writes Brendan Chilton, Chief Executive of the Independent Business Network.

In the midst of the biggest crisis since the end of the Second World War you would have thought that the European Parliament would be debating the effectiveness of the Commission's response to Covid-19 when MEPs met this week. With a second wave now sweeping the continent, and with cases rising in many member states, it would be an expectation that member states' capacity to respond through their respective health services would be the key issue up for discussion. Oh no! This week the big issue for bureaucrats in Brussels was deciding what in fact constitutes something as being a burger.

You couldn't make it up. This in a nutshell summaries why the British people in their wisdom voted to leave the European Union. Businesses are going under, unemployment is rising, public health is in crisis and governments are struggling to manage the crisis, yet Brussels' eyes are focused on the definition of a burger. It is precisely this sort of unnecessary meddling and interference that has infuriated the British people for years. The debate and vote on the issue in the European Parliament was one of the most intense and controversial in years with hundreds of MEPs expressing their views on the matter. The lobbying effort being undertaken by agricultural and meat producer's has been ferocious and similar efforts have been made by the non-meat substitutes industry.

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Here in the UK, people will fondly remember the infamous episode of "Yes Minister" where the despairing Minister for Administrative Affairs, Rt Hon. Jim Hacker MP was forced to push through a new directive from the EEC standardising the definition of a sausage. Under plans the British sausage would be redesignated as a "the emulsified high fat offal tube," as it did not contain enough meat to comply with EEC regulations on what in fact constitutes a sausage. While audiences here laughed, in the corridors of power an administrator got an idea. Thirty years later, officials in Brussels are actually poking their snouts (or meat free sniffing device) into the issue once again. Such things are of course integral to the functioning of the European Union.

This time the argument has moved on somewhat. No longer concerned with the quantity of meat, MEP's have been forced to digest hours of debate on whether or not vegan foods can in fact use terms such as, "sausage", "burger" or "steak" on labels if they do not contain any meat. As vegan alternatives become more readily available and more popular, officials are concerned that consumers need to be fully informed on this issue. Vegan diets are particularly popular among young people. Of course, most normal people have known that "Veggie Burgers" have existed for years and most people are quite capable of telling the difference between an ordinary burger and a vegetarian burger without any Bureaucratic Bonaparte's in Brussels advising them otherwise.

As a carnivore myself I have some sympathy with defending the notion that meat based products should indeed contain meat. But anyone can tell the difference between a proper juicy burger and some soya concoction stuffed with pulses and god knows what else. We do not need some pen pusher to tell us what the difference is and I am confident that the citizens of the European Union don't need such guidance either. The advance of the vegetarians is relentless. Their crusade against the delicious is never ending and while we should take steps to ensure that meat, as a rich source of protein, remains on the diet for now and evermore, politicians in Europe should be focusing on more pressing issues, namely the economic recovery of the continent.

Britain voted to leave the European Union after forty years of these sorts of intrusions into every day life. Thankfully, the endless stream of regulations, directives, rules and administration emanating from Brussels will no longer apply to us here in the UK, (that is, of course, unless the government accommodates regulatory alignment in any deal). For now we can look on and be grateful that we as Brits can enjoy our emulsified high fat offal tubes and chips in an independent country, free from the jurisdiction of all that red tape.

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