The famous quip Let them eat cake by some oblique French aristocrat and once wrongly attributed to Marie Antoinette has taken on new meaning in the Federal Republic of Germany in 2013. Hartwig Fischer, a prominent member of the Christian Democratic Union has suggested that horsemeat, fraudulently labelled as beef should be fed to the poor. Fischer, seemingly oblivious to the plight of the poor and the unemployed thinks that the horsemeat scandal currently engulfing the European Union could be the sin qua non to finding a solution to Europe’s endless recession, massive unemployment and the growing disaffection and fragmentation from within its member states. Fischer’s ally in this radical, unworkable and stupid solution is Dirk Niebel; Germany’s development minister. He is quoted as saying “we cannot just throw away good food”. Yet, his country is among the top ten nations in the world who waste food on a daily basis-and don’t give any of it away free to the poor and needy.
It’s difficult to comprehend the stupidity in such a throwaway line as Let them eat horse coming from a supposedly educated man (although German Ministers have had a few problems of their own in this regard recently-with at least two having had to resign for plagiarising their Doctoral theses) who is charged with developing his country.
It is evident that Herr Niebel hasn’t read Tristram Stuart’s book Waste, which describes the staggering, and shocking wastage of food which occurs daily in the developed world, especially in Germany, the Unites States and United Kingdom. For example, Stuarts writes that: There are nearly one billion malnourished people in the world, but the approximately 40 million tonnes of food wasted by US households, retailers and food services each year would be enough to satisfy the hunger of every one of them…
The UK, US and Europe have nearly twice as much food as is required by the nutritional needs of their populations. Up to half the entire food supply is wasted between the farm and the fork. If crops wastefully fed to livestock are included, European countries have more than three times more food than they need, while the US has around four times more food than is needed, and up to three-quarters of the nutritional value is lost before it reaches people’s mouths. (Stuart, 2009)
Clearly Herr Niebel and Fischer, it just isn’t a matter of feeding horsemeat to the hungry. Notwithstanding the dignity of the poor and impoverished, who for all we know may count among their many millions in Germany and globally, vegetarians, vegans and just ordinary folk who would find it repugnant to eat a horse; it is simply an unworkable solution to Germany’s and the EU’s recession woes. It is also a suggestion which in its most base form is ignorant and shows a callous disregard for humanity and those who find themselves dispossessed of the right to a meaningful life and dignified employment.
But the naivety of the pronouncement from both Niebel and Fischer reveals a darker insidious message from within the crisis racked European Union. It suggests just how much the political power elite are out of touch with the suffering and plight of the poor and dispossessed who for the most part are still paying for the duplicitous actions and scams of the banking and financial sectors in Europe and the United States of America.
We live in a broken world. People are hungry and there’s plenty of food to feed them. People are homeless and there are plenty of empty buildings to house them. People are lonely and there are plenty of lonely people looking for companionship. People are poor and live in abject poverty and the wealth and riches of the world are held by a mere 1% of the total global population. “All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe” (Stuart, 2009), and my least favourite double standard, is China, one of the last remaining vestiges of an outdated and unworkable Marxist dialectic ranks second in the world for billionaires and is only outranked by the United States of America which has an equally, unworkable outdated democratic dialectic as well as the highest poverty rates in the developed world.
Stuart, T. (2009). Waste. London: Penguin.