MUCH OF the press has flown into a French bashing frenzy. The pretext is the refusal of the French government to accept assurances that British beef is safe and free from the BSE 'mad cow' disease. The foreigner bashing tabloids have seized on the revelations that some French farmers have illegally been using sewage based animal feed for their cows and pigs.
Now we have a full scale campaign, led by the Tories and the newspapers that back them, demanding a ban on all French meat, or even all French products. New Labour has whipped it up too. Agriculture minister Nick Brown gave tacit backing to the media frenzy by declaring he personally will be boycotting French goods.
All this is the utmost hypocrisy. The anti-French camp is headed by people who made Britain the European centre of poison food, BSE, E coli and salmonella. It was the Tories and their press backers who cheered on the deregulation of business and the worship of profit and the market which lay behind all these food scandals.
It was the beef barons who now demand action against France who fed ground up bits of dead animals to cattle in a cost cutting drive, and so caused the BSE crisis. These same people oppose all extra curbs on business and cheer on privatisation that puts profit before safety.
There are still vastly more cases of BSE occurring in Britain than anywhere else in the world - 650 times more cases than in France. This year alone there have still been 2,461 reported cases of BSE in Britain. The government's own Scottish public health director, David Carter, warned earlier this year that, despite all the measures taken, 'BSE case are not falling as rapidly as we expected.'
Of course feeding sewage to animals is disgusting and should be stopped. But that is not the motive behind the anti-French campaign. The government and the media should be fighting to eradicate BSE. Instead they are whipping up anti-French sentiment to distract attention from their failures and are demanding the right to sell possibly poison meat freely across Europe.