Let's be clear from the outset that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with horse meat per se. Many countries eat horse, just a many countries eat sheep, pig, cow, goat, chicken, rabbit and guinea pig. The immediate problems are that (a) the British have this fetish about not eating horse — despite that many were glad to during WWII — and (b) the horse was being passed off as something it wasn't, ie. beef.
But let us look deeper, and ask what is the real root cause of the problem — because it is neither of the above.
The problem, my friends, is that the British are bone fucking idle. Josette Public doesn't cook. Indeed Josette Public probably doesn't know how to cook fresh food. Instead she relies on buying ready meals. And because she essentially doesn't care about her food she insists that what she buys is dirt cheap.
So we have some people now preparing ready meals, at knock-down prices. Once you do that, and the meals can be heavily chilled or frozen, they can be shipped across borders so production can happen anywhere. And because most of these meals are essentially made from minced meat, they can contain any old meat off-cut, from anywhere you like, as long as it is cheap. So we quickly establish "meat sans frontières" and a supply chain that spans the globe.
And once the supply chain is thus, it is easy for criminal activity to be perpetrated and for errors to go unnoticed. Unless I am going to do a lot of rigorous testing I have only my supplier's word that what he ships me is what he says it is — and so on ad infinitum. And am I going to do that testing? No of course not; I can't afford to as the supermarkets insist on the lowest possible price.
And all because the lady basally doesn't give a flying wombat — until she does, when she creates a stink not realising she is herself the underlying cause of the stink. She facilitated the whole mess.
If Josette Public bought fresh meat and cooked meals from scratch, she would (have to) take more interest; meat would need to be sourced from closer to home, and the shortened supply chain would make surveillance and quality assurance easier.
In this instance, as in many others, I'm afraid the British are their own worst enemies. And if you want the root cause if that? Once again I blame Harold Wilson.