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Continental journalists have felt the need to explain the context of the Anglo-Irish scandal to readers. An article in said the horse meat discovery had caused a “psychological shock for British consumers, who are no fans of horse meat butchers.” France’s Le Figaro newspaper explained that the Irish “are known for their respect of this animal … and are not in the habit of eating its meat.”

Animal-rights campaigners including actress Brigitte Bardot have made little headway against the horse meat trade, though concerns have arisen over animal welfare. In Belgium, the supermarket chain Lidl stopped selling horse meat in 2011 after concerns about the treatment of animals by its Latin American suppliers.

Some of the horse meat eaten in Europe comes from Britain, whose love of horses doesn’t stop it from sending thousands of horses a year abroad to be killed for meat.

The healthy alternative?

Fans of horse meat say it is extremely healthy: low in cholesterol and fat, high in protein and omega-3 acids.

“I think it’s delicious,” said Caroline Roddis, a freelance writer who organizes Flogging a Dead Horse, a series of dining events at which horse meat is served. “It is slightly sweeter than beef and it has got such a good depth of flavor it is hard not to like it.”

Ms. Roddis reports a healthy interest in her London events, which draw as many as 50 British and foreign diners a night to sample the delights of horseflesh.

She hopes the “horseburger” scandal will make people think more about what they eat.

Officials say the source of the contamination may be a powdered beef-protein additive imported from Spain and the Netherlands to pad out the cheapest burgers, which typically contain between 60 percent and 70 percent meat alongside flour, water and other fillers.

“We don’t really think (about) what we are putting in our mouths,” Ms. Roddis said. “You go to the supermarket and you buy something that looks pinkish and has a label and you don’t really think about where it comes from. I think we’ve really lost touch.”

Changing tastes?

The handful of hardy entrepreneurs who sell horse meat in Britain say the scandal has — paradoxically — been good for business, raising the profile of a meat few had considered.

“We’ve been very busy the last couple of days,” said Paul Webb, director of Exotic Meats, a company in the English Midlands that sells horse burgers, sausages and steaks alongside cuts of crocodile, kangaroo and impala.

He says typical horse meat buyers are “middle-aged, middle-class people who want to try something different.”

“We’ve done some radio phone-ins, and 90 percent of the comments were ‘I’d try it,’” Mr. Webb said.

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