This is not by me – I am much too angry with Hugh Fearnley Witless and Marco Pierre Twat to write anything like this – but by Victoria Coren. It is quite good.
“A long time ago, I had a cat called Graham. When I was working, he used to hop on to my desk, put his little paws on my shoulder and lick my ear. God, that was annoying. No wonder I ate him.
I didn’t really. I loved that cat very much. Of course I wouldn’t eat him; I know you were revolted by that idea. Shivering with horror, you think you would never consider eating cat of any kind. (Although, if your school lunches ever had “turkey fritters” on the menu, I’m afraid that ship has sailed, my friend.)
So perhaps you were among those who slammed the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for suggesting that puppies could be farmed for their meat.
“In principle,” Hugh F-W told the Radio Times, “I have no objection to a high-welfare organic puppy farm.”
I love Hugh for banging the welfare drum. He has always argued that we have a moral deal with the animals we eat: a good life in return for the meat. How much better a man he is than Marco Pierre White, who argued the case for battery farming with the amazing words: “I know you have these TV programmes where members of the public get shown around huge chicken farms and start crying. Probably because the film crew squirted onion juice in their eyes. Boohoo. Come on. Grow up.”
White says that poor people can’t afford to be namby-pamby about whether animals have been squashed into fetid, windowless barns and stuffed with antibiotics. Heaven forbid he’d recommend we just eat less meat. Not while he’s got an endorsement deal with Bernard Matthews Farms, anyway.
See if you can guess what it was in this quote, from an interview Marco Pierre White did last year, that made me realise he had an endorsement deal with Bernard Matthews Farms: “I hate food snobs. When people attack modern-day farming, they attack the consumers. Why attack the weekend tradition of the normal family sitting down to a turkey?”
Genius. Worth every penny they’re paying him. Oh, that old tradition. The good old weekly Sunday turkey. I hope you’re keeping it alive in your household. That and Britain’s long-time favourite breakfast: turkey porridge.
Frankly, we should prefer to eat an organic puppy than a battery chicken, for a variety of reasons, possibly not including “the taste”. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never eaten dog. There are some animals I absolutely will not eat. Unless they’re ground up and made into a Turkish sausage, in which case: Sagliginiza! (which is Turkish for “minimum 17% mechanically retrieved meat products”).
But we all know what the problem is with cooking a puppy for dinner. That’s right: it’s too small for two people, too big for one. The answer? Freeze the leftovers, do a curry.
Oh, stop making that letter bomb. The problem with eating puppies is that they’re playful, trusting, lovable and loyal.
But then again, so are pigs. Rabbits are lovely pets yet considered edible. Why should we eat a rabbit, but not a weasel? Perhaps you think a weasel simply doesn’t look like food. And a prawn does?
Hugh’s argument (although he did admit that he personally would eat a dog only if he were “on the point of starvation”) is that we ought to be able to see all animals equally and thus, if well treated, eat them all.
But the truer conclusion to his argument is that we should not eat any of them. The better logic is not: “If you eat a sheep, you could eat a puppy”, but: “If you couldn’t eat a puppy, you shouldn’t eat a sheep.”
Come on, we know we shouldn’t. It’s a bloodbath out there. When they read about our dietary habits 200 years from now, it’ll look like a holocaust. Millions of animals mistreated, slaughtered, sliced up and delivered to our plates in such a way as to look as unlike “a chunk of corpse” as possible. It’s cruel and it’s foul. Imagining it isn’t is part of a bizarre mass self-hypnosis.
You might say it’s “natural” because Primitive Man ate meat (albeit far more rarely than we do). I say: come back to me when you’re happy to shit in a cave.
I’m not a vegetarian, by the way. I used to be. I crumbled because I love the taste of meat. But the truth is, I feel just the same way about smoking. I smoke because I “enjoy it”, yet it’s imbued with a sense of shame and I wish I didn’t.
Perhaps, by the time you read this, I won’t. I’m planning to quit smoking this weekend. I was going to give up in July, but my summer plans went wrong. Time for a new way of thinking and an winter offensive. If I fail, I’ll try again.
What I do understand, and believe is now culturally ingrained on a wide scale, is that there’s nothing good about smoking: it brings nastiness and death and its only defence is a fleeting pleasure that may be illusory anyway.
What has failed yet to take hold, socially, is that the same applies to eating meat.
I’d hate it to be banned, but should we not find our enjoyment a little bit ruined by guilt, just like with cigarettes? That is the road to positive, voluntary rejection. I might start by imagining, every time I take a bite of steak, that it was once a terrier.
A bit joyless, I know. But we’re too old and wise to take thoughtless pleasure in what’s unhealthy and cruel. The world has plenty of other delights to offer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’ll always be mushrooms on toast and PG Wodehouse.”
Hope her Observer co-writers, the grim reapers Jay Rayner and Nigel Slater, read that. Those two are carnage incarnated.