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A haggis, made with a sheep's lungs, heart and liver, is sliced with a skean dhu at a traditional Burns Supper
Haggis being cut open with a Skean Dhu
Update by news editor   24-01-2012

Could haggis conquer America?

Call for ban on national dish to be lifted

Scottish people living in the USA may celebrate Burns night tomorrow but their supper tables will be missing our national dish.

Haggis has been banned in America for over 40 years because it contains sheep's lungs. People there are not  allowed to eat the lungs of any livestock animals because they are considered to be unhealthy.

Also, all red meat from Scotland and the rest of the European Union has been banned in the USA since the outbreak of mad cow disease in the 1980s.

But the Scottish government is trying to help haggis to conquer the States.

Officials have contacted the United States Department of Agriculture and argued that the dish is perfectly safe to eat and should be allowed to be imported, along with other Scottish red meat products.

Jo Macsween, the boss of Macsween, one of Scotland's leading haggis makers, said:

"In our experience, American visitors love our haggis when they taste it while in Scotland and it would be lovely if they could not only be permitted to take some home with them at the end of their stay here, but purchase it in America too."

Until the ban is lifted, people on the other side of the Atlantic will have to eat fake haggis, or a vegetarian version which has apparently become quite popular since it was featured on a chat show.

But a government spokeswoman said that these substitute haggis products were "not a patch" on the real thing.


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Could haggis conquer America?

What to recite at a Burns Supper when you can't address a haggis

Robert Burns's Address to a Haggis will be recited at suppers around the world tomorrow night, apart from in America where the dish is banned. "Address to a Vegetarian Substitute Haggis" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

But there are plenty of other poems that stateside Burns fans could choose instead for their celebrations of the national bard's birthday.

They could go for Tam o'Shanter, which was named the most popular Burns poem in a survey this week, taking nearly a quarter of the votes.

Or they could listen to the recommendations of some famous Scots who have described their favourite work by Robert Burns:

Nicola Benedetti, violinist: Second Epistle to Davie
The fiddle is one of the three national instruments of Scotland, so it is fitting that the violin is closely associated with our national poet. Burns was a capable fiddler himself and would often play when he frequented the Bachelors Club, which he founded, in Tarbolton, South Ayrshire. It was there that he met David Sillar, one year younger than him, and like, Burns the son of a small farmer. The two men became firm friends. Sillar was the recipient of two verse-epistles from Burns. "The Second Epistle to Davie" is a heartfelt testament to their close friendship in which Burns pays tribute to Sillar's talents as a fiddle player and poet. In truth, although he published a set of poems in 1789, he was no great poet but, by all accounts, Sillar was a better fiddler than Burns! From the end of 1783 Davie Sillar lived in Irvine, north Ayrshire, where I myself was born earning his living first as a grocer and then as a schoolmaster. He was an Irvine Councillor and eventually a Baillie and died in Irvine - much respected - in 1830.

Gerard Burns, artist: Tam o'Shanter
"It's amazing how literature is opened up to you if somebody points you in the right direction. How many Scots would know what a 'cutty sark' is? Most people would think of the ship but in Tam o'Shanter it means a short skirt. He is referring to Meg, the witch, who is dancing round Tam with a short skirt on. After I found that out I heard Karen Dunbar reading it and all of a sudden it jumped to life for me. It's about a guy basically who is following his baser instincts. The more I learn about his poems the more I believe that he is an absolute force. His poetry is amazing but we need to be taught it in the same way that we are taught Shakespeare because the language is so foreign to us and we can miss a lot of the subtlety."

Karen Dunbar, comedian: Willie Wassle
One of my favourite rabbie works is the poem 'Willie Wassle', a take of a poor wee man who lives on the river Tweed and has a harridan of a wife and a mother-in-law to match!

The narrator describes every ugly ailment of the woman and ends each verse with his relief at not having a wife like that! As much as it wouldn't be very PC these days it makes me laugh. Colourful descriptions like 'her nose and chin, they threaten ither' like they're so close they're about to do battle and 'her wally neeves like midden creels' (big lumbering hands hanging like lobster baskets) are so humorous and paint a picture of a most - uncomely wench! Mind you, we never hear if Willie is a good looking bloke do we? Maybe that information is conspicuous by its absence.

Graeme Obree, cyclist: To A Mouse
I'm a huge Burns fan, and my ultimate favourite is To A Mouse. It shows Burns' tolerance and his innate humanity. I tend to call upon the sentiment and message behind this quote more often that I ought to, I think it's a good way of looking at situations that go wrong. It shows that even though you think you have a good thing, it might not always work out like that and positives can quickly change to negatives, but to understand that that's ok. I have lost count of how many times I have said "The best laid schemes" throughout my life and work. Despite what may go wrong in life, it makes me thankful that I have a house to live in and food to eat and everything that I have. In this day and age a bit of positivity doesn't go a miss - we need to take it where we can get it.

Eddi Reader, singer: A Man's A Man for a' that
One Christmas eve, I met a man in George Square, he wanted to say hello. He told me he worked on the Shipyards with my Dad Danny Reader, during their apprenticeships in the early 1950's. I told him I was doing well but my dad had passed away. He told me he noticed that I was interested in Robert Burns and had heard some music I had recorded using Burns. I told him the world was a stranger place without my dad in it and I moaned about the music world, how Burns would deal with music and poetry today, would he see style dominating over substance and would he comment on it through poetry. He took my cold hand in his tough, older, but warmer, one and recited the above verse. When he got to the last line of that verse: 'the man o independent mind -" He leaned in closer and emphasised: "- He looks and laughs at a' that!". It made me smile and reminded me of who I am. With our cheerios I felt I had just heard the best version of a Robert Burns poem ever recited. I felt proud to come from such a culture that throws up the likes of Robert Burns, my dad and his pal.


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adapted from article by Robbie Dunwoodie
read original story here

Experiences & Outcomes

  • I can investigate a Scottish historical theme to discover how past events or the actions of individuals or groups have shaped Scottish society. SOC 2-03a
  • I can discuss why people and events from a particular time in the past were important, placing them within a historical sequence. SOC 2-06a
  • I regularly select and read, listen to or watch texts which I enjoy and find interesting, and I can explain why I prefer certain texts and authors. LIT 2-11a