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Saturday, 30 October, 1999, 16:02 GMT
Mad cows and Englishmen - the lighter side of beef wars



Grim warnings, bitter trade wars and blockades, gruesome mental images of pigs eating sewage, centuries' old enmities being stoked between EU allies.

But the row over beef has not been without a laugh or two.

The war goes back to the front
  • One-man trade war Agriculture Minister Nick Brown being followed round by a yellow pantomime cow. It was the Boddington's cow, who although a genuine cow with udders, is called Graham.

  • William Hague taunting Tony Blair: "Isn't it the case in this country that when you look at these ministers, it's not just the dead cows that have their spine taken out." (Simon Hoggart of the Guardian said: "A cheap shot? Of course. Did it miss the point? Sure. But was it, in parliamentary terms, the kind of blow that would leave anyone gasping against the ropes? Yup.")

    Graham the cow makes his point
  • The discovery that while Nick Brown has personally banned French meat, he still has Frère Jacques playing on his answering machine. "It's nice," he told reporters.

  • The revelation in the Financial Times that Northumbrian Water, which supplies Mr Brown's home in Newcastle, is owned by a French company. It is not clear if his boycott extends to water.

  • Noel Dinsdale, 55, of Dijon Avenue in York starting a campaign to change the name of his street to something more patriotic.

    Middle England gets riled
  • Farmers dumping two tonnes of manure outside the Commons. (Two pigs were photographed in flagrante delicto outside Parliament.)

  • The Daily Mail swearing on its front page headline. OK, it was in another language, ("MERDE!", it said) but would anything except les Francais inspire the voice of Middle England to such rage?

  • The sight of Tory MEPs being arrested on the Champs Elysee, revelling in all the trouble they were causing.

  • Food Row Fears
    Lib Dem MEP Liz Lynne taking her Union flag shopping bag through French customs with a note saying "BRITISH BEEF" stuck on the side. When asked what the beef was for, she said it was to cook Beef Wellington, the dish created to celebrate the Battle of Waterloo.

  • The headline in liberal French paper Liberation: "Tabloids Contre Froggies"

    Anna Friel and Greg Wise, Mad Cow stars
  • Lucky marketing coincidence of the week: the première of the film of Kathy Lette's book Mad Cows.

  • The Sun's French front page, being presented to the French member of the EU's scientific advisory committee.

  • And the comment of a 49-year-old Frenchman Cedric le Blanc, who the Sun reported as saying: "Your prime minister should be grateful to Le Sun for explaining simply to the French why you disagree with us. So far we have had a very one-side view of the dispute." You may not believe he actually said it, but he must have done - it says so in the paper.

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