Even so, it's somewhat ironic that the “scandalous” revelation that Findus has been selling horse-meat as beef in its lasagnes has dominated the French news agenda for the last few days. In France, of course, horsemeat is not only consumed by many French people each day, but it's also a celebrated and traditional dish.
You only have to take a glimpse at French news websites and social networks to get a sense of their bafflement.
“I eat horsemeat!” said one reader on the website of French daily Le Figaro. “They [the British] are making a fuss. Horsemeat is absolutely delicious, especially a well-seasoned steak tartare with capers, mustard, salt and pepper.”
Moreover, she added: “Horses don’t get mad cow disease!” (The French are unlikely ever to forget that mad cow disease originated in Britain.)
Another reader of the right-leaning Le Figaro appeared to think that the illegal substitution of horsemeat for beef was the best practical joke he had ever heard: “Get the English to guzzle horsemeat? Excellent. Next time, they should add some frogs and snails, too.”
Meanwhile, on Twitter, @PrincetamimPSG suggested that consumers would actually benefit from being made to eat horse: “I don’t understand the scandal of horsemeat in Findus lasagnes. Horsemeat for less than €5 is a great deal.”
Another tweeter, @Labnogart, agreed: “Beef or horse, it’s still meat. Consumers can be so fussy!”
Of course, French tweeters – just like the British – saw it as the perfect opportunity to engage in a good old-fashioned jeu de mots.
Findus: consommateurs rassurez-vous il y a zero risque. Pour éliminer la viande de cheval il suffit d'aller à la selle.
— j.daniel Flaysakier (@jdflaysakier) February 9, 2013
Translation: “Findus: Consumers, be assured that's there’s zero risk. To get rid of horse meat, you just need to take a dump.” As you may be aware, “selle” is also French for “saddle.”
#Findus n'est vraiment pas à cheval sur ses produits!
— Marion Nous (@Psylosophe) February 10, 2013
Translation: “#Findus really isn’t strict about its products!” – the double entendre of course being “À cheval” which also means “on horseback”.
Other French tweeters seized an opportunity to criticize the ready-meal culture which is so widespread in the UK. “Ready meals with too much fat, salt and sugar somehow seem much less serious than the fact that there is horsemeat in them,” tweeted @AlexisBraud.
Only a few people expressed sympathy towards their cousins across the channel. “I can understand why the English think it’s a scandal. I would take it very badly if I unknowingly ate horse meat,” commented Yuka on the Le Figaro website.
François, a 66-year-old pensioner from Paris agreed, telling The Local: “Both horsemeat and beef are good, but when you buy beef it’s natural to expect beef.”
Quentin Parrinello, a 22-year-old Parisian student believes that the French public's keen interest in the horse meat scandal owes much to recent events. He told the Local: “To be honest, French people have recently been looking for just about any reason to criticize British people – especially since the last EU summit. The British have become the new Germans.”