We would rather be outraged by Catholics and horses than by state institutions

When I was in Sicily last month I made a point of eating all the local delicacies including polpette di cavallo – that is meatballs made out of horsemeat. I have eaten horsemeat in lots of other places too – in Puglia, in Piedmont, and in Switzerland. Lovely stuff.

Of course the British do not like horsemeat. They associate it with foreigners and foreign ways. Hence the current horsemeat scandal which dominates the media. It seems that this horsemeat being sold as beef has its origins in Romania. Nasty foreign meat is soiling our pure British beef.

But isn’t this the wrong scandal? There is nothing wrong with eating horse as such. Lots of people do it. This is not a horsemeat scandal, it is a labelling scandal: people have falsely labelled horse as beef. This leads one to ask: can we trust anything we read on a label? So let us leave the equine angle to one side, and concentrate on what really matters, namely that there has been a huge conspiracy of deception in the food industry, and that is simply not acceptable, especially given our belief, up to now at least, that all our foods were meticulously labelled.

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And there is another scandal too: so many of us in Britain are eating very cheap ready made meals. This points to a depressing fact. We are constantly being told that we must eat healthily, but judging by the volume of sales of such cheap ready made meals, many of us simply cannot afford to eat healthily. This brings back to us, surely, that the biggest problem contemporary Britain faces is still poverty. But that may be a scandal that Britain would rather not face.

It seems we are rather picky with regard to our scandals in Britain. Again and again in the last few days we have had an outpouring of hatred towards the Pope who is accused of complicity in child abuse, with no real hard evidence to justify this. There are clerics who have been complicit, but their names are now forgotten: the German Pope is the one who must bear the blame; after all, he was in the Hitler Youth. If a scandal has a foreign angle to it, that will play well with the xenophobic public. And of all foreigners, Germans are clearly the best for this purpose.

Yet consider the question of the BBC and the NHS, both of which made it possible for Jimmy Savile to abuse maybe hundreds of victims. But of that we now hear nothing.

And what about Stafford hospital? How many people have been sacked, let alone imprisoned, for the culpable neglect of hospital patients? But we had all rather talk about horsemeat. God forbid we should breathe a word of criticism of the NHS or the BBC.

The horsemeat obsession shows us the British media at its worst, dangerously out of touch with reality.

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