I’ve come across bureaucratic nonsense many times over the few years I have been in Europe, fortunately seldom in my own case although, well, it’s bound to happen eventually. I still recall reading of the (in)famous Welsh Dragon case: a sausage company in Wales was informed by the local council that they could no longer call their famous sausages Dragon Meat because there was no dragon meat in them (they ran tests!), and it might confuse vegetarians into thinking that the sausages were meat free. The company was forced to include the word ‘pork’ in the title, and I am sure all Welsh vegetarians let out a massive sigh of relief.
Not to be outdone, although a decade has gone by, the German agriculture minister is now seeking revenge on behalf of the Welsh population, who love their dragon-free dragon meat, by telling producers of vegetarian and vegan products that they should no longer name their products after similar ones where meat is used, such as wurst – the German word for sausage. It would seem that by using the generic term wurst many meat eaters could be confused into buying a non-meat product, with all the dangers this involves.
Screenshot Source: Twitter / FAZ
Now, I can understand Christian Schmidt’s problem: he clearly has to save these poor souls from their own inability to see what it is they are purchasing. After all, it clearly says on the packaging of all of these products that they are either vegetarian or vegan and they are normally sold in a separate section of supermarkets and smaller stores, so confusion is almost guaranteed. Added to which, meat-free generally have pretty little signs and symbols on the packaging to confirm they are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, whereas meat products do not.
The word wurst however, like sausage, is a generic term: it refers to a type of product in a certain form and not to its contents. No one has demanded that pork sausages no longer be called sausages because beef sausages were there first, and customers could be confused. We, the general public, assume that the average person on the street, when making their daily or weekly purchases, has at least a minimal level of education and can see what they are buying, whether they can read the label or not. It is much the same as the example from Wales: pork is in the ingredients list, how can there be confusion? And what harm would it do a meat-eater to try a vegetarian sausage for once? Would they even be able to tell the difference (it’s all in the spices, I’m told) between animal and vegetable?
There are some vegetarian products which could well do with a name change – vegetarian chicken nuggets comes to mind – but sausages? I think the minister should settle down into his Christmas pudding and concentrate on other things where there is a need, rather than ending up with a bad stain on his name similar to that of Martin Bangemann twenty-five years ago.
- Viktoria Michaelis.