Well at least — so far — no middle-class food has been found to contain large chunks of horsey. It’s all been in the junk they feed the chavs. It’s true that Waitrose withdrew some beefburgers for sale a week or two back, but this was only a ‘precautionary measure’ and later the burgers were found to contain ‘100 per cent beef’, from privately educated cows, according to the supermarket. Thank the lord, etc. Instead, it’s all in the Findus beef lasagne and some unspeakable frozen product from Tesco which masquerades as spaghetti bolognese. Or spaghetti bologneigghhhhhhhhhs, as I daresay the red tops will call it henceforth.
It seems highly likely that more supermarket chavproducts will be revealed to be equine-based over the next few days, bought by obese women in shellsuits who you will hear at the checkout screaming to one of her awful children: ‘Just shut it Jayden, you little slag,’ as she heaves the multipack of crisps and the pizzas and the dead-horse pasta onto the counter. Did you know, by the way, that the beef flavouring for crisps is made from Chinese people’s hair? It is, I think. I read it somewhere, ages ago. Anyway, Tesco ‘Everyday Value’ spag bol costs just 80p and is, according to the website, made only from ‘ingredients you’d find in your kitchen cupboard’. Bloody big cupboards these chavs must have, then.
As this scandal howls around and the government gets itself involved, the usual suspects are being lined up and named. First, it’s all the fault of foreigners, of course, as most things usually are. A processing factory in south-west France was fingered and then the Irish, with their superfluity of horses, were invoked. Better still, eventually the newspapers were able to identify the true culprit — Romania. This is the country du jour for every bad thing visited upon the UK, not least Romanians themselves, who are due to arrive at our immigration desks, munching horse-filled baps, next January.
So government ministers and the UK food industry immediately distanced themselves one stage from blame: it’s not Britain, with its rigorous food hygiene standards, democracy and proper drains — it’s the wogs, of course, beginning at Calais. And then they distanced themselves a second time by suggesting that not only was it foreigners, but ‘criminal’ foreigners. Gangs, mafioso and the like, some massive organised crime being perpetrated against the British people.
Swathed in this newfound righteousness, the food companies forgot the apologies they had made and began to announce that they would be seeking redress. Findus, for example, said it would be seeking to sue the French suppliers. And so suddenly the victim was not Mrs Morbidly Obese Chav and her offspring Jayden from Chatham, but the companies themselves. This is pushing it, frankly. Findus and Aldi and Tesco bought their meat from these companies because it was dirt cheap, the cheapest they could find — and while they may not have been aware that it was stuffed full of fetlock, they did not give a tinker’s cuss until they’d been rumbled. They packaged up whatever crap came their way and flogged it to the poor.
If anyone is allowed to look for legal redress, it should be, first and foremost, the consumer. When a fingernail, or a whole finger, is found in food sold by supermarkets, the customer is usually richly compensated — even when it takes a court to adjudicate on the matter. The business with the horsemeat is in principle no different at all; the supermarkets, and Findus, should be held primarily responsible for passing horsemeat off as beef, and the customers should be entitled to a bit of good hard cash. Take your till receipts back to the store and demand satisfaction. Picket their superstores. Abduct one of the halfwits who repositions the trolleys and don’t let him go until you have been given redress.
We could do without the assurances from the in-house experts that actually, you know, horsemeat is no worse for you than beef. It may be true that the bits of horse in a Findus lasagne are actually healthier than anything else in it, but that is not the point, is it? Their labels lied. The supermarket labels lied. And it was a lie rather than an unlucky misapprehension, because they took no steps at all to ensure that what they were telling us all was true. Instead of getting himself worked up about shadowy unnamed foreign criminals, the environment secretary Owen Paterson should be pointing the finger at the supermarkets and the food companies here. Otherwise we might begin to think that the government has not entirely got our interests at heart and is concerned only with saving the reputations, and thus future income, of the likes of Tesco.
In the same week as the horses-for-all-courses saga unfolded, the government was petitioning the European Union for an opt-out to allow British supermarkets to continue to sell utter crap to the public. This is the ‘desinewed beef’ scandal, about which you may not have read terribly much. In short, our government wishes to allow the supermarkets to continue labelling an amalgam of collagen and ligament and connective tissue ‘minced beef’, when the rest of the European Union thinks it disgusting to do so and insists we label it with a greater nod to honesty. You can tell, from this, exactly whose interests the government has at heart.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 16 February 2013