Is this simply some sort of twisted and unending nightmare? Have the last 48 hours in fact been incepted into our collective consciousness? Will we all eventually wake to discover that everything was in fact just the fantastical dream of some feeble-minded child, à la St. Elsewhere?
It's a question that seems to be on many a mind after the UN-based World Health Organization did the unspeakable this week and issued a report that categorized processed meats as a carcinogen along the lines of tobacco, arsenic, alcohol, and asbestos.
Alas, this is no dream, and the world, sadly, must learn to cope with this news—or face the grim repercussions.
But for some nations, and their endeavoring meat manufacturers, the problem seems to lie not in the report itself, but more in what is actually categorized as "processed meat." Take, for example, the proud and noble folk of Italy's Parma Ham Consortium, a five-decade-old organization that has tasked itself with the virtuous burden of safekeeping the age-old process of making traditional prosciutto.
The Consortium would like you to know that prosciutto is special. "Prosciutto di Parma isn't a processed meat or a sausage, but a product that is matured over a long period of time," explained a spokesperson of the Consortium to The Guardian. The people from Parma have a beef with the beef study, and it seems to largely lie in the fact that those not in the know might callously compare the king of cured meats to lowly commoners such as bacon or sausage.
They explain, "Without wanting to debate the merits of how this research defines 'processed meats', it is important to be clear on several aspects so to not create meaningless alarmism."
So, how would the Parma Ham Consortium like to deliver us from said "meaningless alarmism"? Well, it seems they would like us to know that Parma ham, a.k.a. prosciutto, is in fact a strictly regulated product with a designation of origin, like Champagne or Swedish Spettkaka. "It is controlled, genuine and completely natural. No additives or preservatives are used to prepare it. Its success is due to not just its taste, but the fact that it is part of a balanced and complete diet," they say.
But you'd be a fool to believe Italy and its Parma Ham Consortium are the only ones in the in the world that are none-too-pleased with the WHO's report.
In fact, the whole world is pissed.
Austria's Agriculture Minister, Andra Rupprechter, upon hearing of the report, called it a "farce." He claimed that Austrian sausages "are and remain the best." According to The Local, he further claimed that the WHO was spreading fear, and then quickly took matters into his own hands by tweeting a selfie where the minister is digging into a hearty plate of cold cuts.
Likewise, the Spaniards are royally enraged. "The European Meat Manufacturing Industry considers it inappropriate to attribute any single factor to an increased risk of cancer," said a statement given to The Local by Nieves Herranz García, from the Spanish meat sector. "There is extensive scientific evidence to prove the benefits of meat consumption within a healthy diet," the statement asserted.
The Argentines? A people whose cuisine is almost synonymous with beef? They're not happy either, to say the least. Fashion designer Marcela Duhalde told The Guardian, "Everything I like is unhealthy—steak, alcohol, drugs and other things. I'd rather die than give it all up. I don't have the energy to be happy without them."
And the French—as you may have already guessed—are having none of this. One Parisian woman said, "If it gives you cancer then so be it. I could never live without it." An 83-year-old veteran chimed in, "I survived World War II and that didn't kill me, so to hell with what they say." And a butcher—again, not surprisingly—said, "I'll stop drinking alcohol and smoking if needs be, but I could never give up meat as it's essential to my diet," he said.
Maybe we need to get D.A.R.E. and good old Daren the Lion to weigh in with a Reagan-era PSA on the ills of meat. Surely, the whole world can rally around Daren as he slays the Baconator—the most evil of villains, circa 2015.