What's the beef?

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The Independent Online

Schadenfreude - pleasure in the pains of others - comes all too easily when we contemplate the furore in France over BSE in their cattle. Since last month, when some beef had to be recalled from a leading chain of supermarkets because of fears of BSE in the herd from which the meat had come, there has been a consumer panic in the country that refused to follow an EU veterinary directive that British beef exports were now safe to eat.

Schadenfreude - pleasure in the pains of others - comes all too easily when we contemplate the furore in France over BSE in their cattle. Since last month, when some beef had to be recalled from a leading chain of supermarkets because of fears of BSE in the herd from which the meat had come, there has been a consumer panic in the country that refused to follow an EU veterinary directive that British beef exports were now safe to eat.

When France refused to import British beef, its government cited the "precautionary principle"; now it turns out that the French failed to implement a number of obvious precautionary measures. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin will announce today that France will follow the UK in imposing a ban on feeding cattle remains to all animals, but Mr Jospin's government has yet to agree a ban on slaughtering cows for market that are more than 30 months old.

Despite such double-standards, we in Britain would be well advised not to gloat. After all, BSE started here, and when the British feed industry was banned from selling its contaminated product in the UK, it exported it to France. They may have been hypocritical; but we were only too happy to exploit their foolishness cynically.

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