Belfast Telegraph

Why we're hypocrites to get in a stew about our taste for meat

By Lindy McDowell

Writer Jeanette Winterson fairly put the cat among the bunnies this week after she caught, gutted and gently simmered in cider and thyme, a wild rabbit which had attacked her vegetable patch.

Outrage erupted (as it tends to) on Twitter when she subsequently posted pictures of her rabbit stewed, her cat tucking into its entrails and, on the chopping board, the leftover head and fur which she noted (a tad insensitively, granted) would make a great glove puppet.

Her pics were captioned with the explanation: "Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit."

The Twitterati went loco.

"Before I unfollow you, you make me sick. I will never again read a word you write," posted one former follower. "Rest in peace little rabbit."

Peta, the animal rights charity, lashed into Winterson calling her "arrogant, ignorant and cruel".

But, and I speak here as a vegetarian, the woman does have a point, doesn't she, when she highlights the fairly obvious – that if you eat animals, they first have to be killed.

"They aren't made of fairy dust. They don't just drop out of the sky."

There appears to be an odd, and growing consensus that "meat" comes from a strange animal which has no blood or fur but is born in ready-cut fillets covered in a skin of cellophane packaging. That no animal was harmed in the making of this burger.

What do they think goes into shepherd's pie? The shepherd?

People who will declare themselves revolted by Winterson's "cruel" comment about fashioning her bunny leftover into a puppet, will pull on their own leather gloves and think nothing of it.

Partly this may have much to do with the fact that the bunny, even the feral of the species, is a cute, cuddly looking wee thing. It has big, soft eyes. Nothing like, say, the beady, spacey eyes of a chicken which engenders comparatively little angst when featured in Twitter pics captioned, "Yum! #sundayroast". The cow, like the rabbit, does have gentle, doleful eyes. But again provokes less outcry when photographed in fillet form. Perhaps sympathy is limited here because it's a great lumbering beast. Not something that is ever likely to be represented in Easter chocolate with a dinky wee bell around its neck.

As for Winterson, her real crime would seem to be that she had the temerity to admit to killing a creature herself, however swiftly and humanely.

For our ultimate taboo is talking about where meat actually comes from. And tweeting pictures of reasonably graphic evidence of the same.

Critics who recoil at the sight of a cat tearing into rabbit entrails appear to assume that entirely vegetarian produce is the cat's Whiskas.

Oh, and that when Tinkerbell herself is out for an evening root around the garden she is never ever going to hunt down, disembowel and gobble up any small, passing mammal.

The difference between the rabbit in the stew bubbling on Winterson's Aga and the farm-produced rabbit you can order in the posh restaurants or upmarket supermarkets is the knowledge that before it's appointment with thyme and Magners, the former did have a genuinely free-range existence.

If people are going to get outraged about how animals are readied for the pot, the place to start is in their own shopping trolley.

Go into any supermarket and survey the rows and rows of chicken all weighing precisely the same down to the exact gram. Ask yourself, how did the producers manage that?

The reality behind the life and despatch of factory-farmed, mass-produced nuggets, goujons, burgers, chops, mince, sirloin etc is a whole lot more stomach-churning than Jeanette Winterson's honest pic of rabbit casserole, entrails and fur.

But nobody's tweeting pictures of that.

Showing mobsters who's real Godfather

In an unusual display of God versus the godfathers, the Pope this week opened up on the Mob.

During a visit to Calabria, Pope Francis hit out at local gangsters, the Ndrangheta, describing them as an example of "the adoration of evil".

"Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated."

No mincing of the words there. Join the Mob and get eternal damnation for free. How's that for an offer you can't refuse?

Would that we had such clear, clerical condemnation in these parts ...

What chance of our local mainstream churches speaking out so clearly, boldly against our various homegrown Ndrangheta? No pope here?

I name this vessel ... something short

Congratulations to all concerned with the clipper Derry-Londonderry-Doire which won the home leg of the Round the World Race. A famous victory and a great boost for the city. But can it ever be replicated?

I just worry the way things are going that, in future maritime contests, it won't be a yacht we'll be needing, but a cruise liner big enough to cater for the name plate running along the side. Derry-Londonderry-Doire-Legenderry-Maiden City-Walled City-City of Culture-Foyleside-North West-low carb-fully inclusive ...

Well done indeed to the clipper. I just think they went a bit overboard with the name.

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