The Class-Led Subtext of Animal Slaughter

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I used to like Lily Cooper (formerly Lily Allen). Creating a career as a loud-mouthed renegade, she attacked her exes with witty mirth that Taylor Swift is still trying to cultivate, and made it to the top of my university’s “Feminist track of the week” list. And then she started selling off pigs to slaughter—for charity.

Making the beefiest of carnivores shudder, Cooper decided that an old tour outfit or a signed copy of her latest CD might be a bit passé, and went for the next big thing—a pig churned out into sausages named lovingly after its killer.

“Donate and I’ll name my pig after you, send you pictures and then bacon and sausages,” the singer offered. Using hashtags #SAVETHEPIG or #DONTSAVETHEPIG, the songstress used the twittersphere to determine the pig’s livelihood with Pontius Pilate-esque fervour, painstakingly close to Easter.

“Look, I never said I was a vegitarian,” the singer said, with a big fat SIC, failing to understand that she had insulted pretty much every strand of the animal-loving population.

But we cannot lay the blame solely at Lily Cooper’s feet. This is a stance widely accepted by society, as deeply rooted in our archaic class prejudice as any.

The Brits have always shared an odd relationship with animals. As a mark of gentrified pursuit, the lords of the manor would chase foxes with other animals for a bit of a lark. Birds would be shot to impress the ladies. Boastful feasts full of hearty game would be laid across the table in a declaration of wealth and dominance. Unfortunately, these archaic suppositions are still filtering through British society, resulting in the likes of Lily still pumping the animal underclass sentiment through our system. Ranked as “pests”, the likes of foxes, badgers and their irritating counterparts are deemed to be worthless creatures of no merit for human enjoyment. Attacked with ardent malice for their more nuisance-creating traits, these animals are bereft of support, attacked in such barbaric ways that they are akin to a sociopath’s wet dream. All hail the ASBO pest, a group of unrepresented creatures that have created a feral underclass. In a world where we are losing control over the unruly, targeting ASBO animals seems to be the next answer. Is the targeting of un-PC animals becoming a metaphor for wider discontentment in Britain?

Swapping pigs for badgers, the latest cull proposal vies for these class pursuits in a cuttingly violent style. At the forefront of the badger cull lies Owen Paterson. In order to protect our finest dairy makers, Owen has argued that cows need to be protected to prevent the further spread of bovine TB. To do this badgers should be stopped in their tracks—100,000, to be precise.

The multi-million pound “experiment” will rid Gloucestershire and Somerset of 70% of their badger population, a third of the UK’s badger population in total, in an attempt to eradicate the spread of the disease which affected 26,000 cattle last year. If the operation is said to “work”, badger culling will come into action across the country. Undoubtedly a drastic measure, the cull seems to flout public opinion, human decency, and science. Professor Sir John Beddington, the current government’s chief scientist, has refused to back the cull, despite declaring that he has supplied the government with uncertainties and evidence gaps.

Sir Bill Oddie and Brian May have even taken to the pew, declaring the proposed shootings “a truly horrific situation”. Despite an 185,000 strong protest against the murder swipe, the cull is still set to take place this summer. Although vaccinations against the disease and alternative measures are in process, Owen and his DEFRA troops are preparing, seemingly willing to place their right-wing barbarism above and beyond the cause of successfully handling the badger population.

Although we have not yet coined a delightful “-cide” ending word to accurately describe the plight of the badgers, the word vulpicide is ready and waiting for Boris Johnson. In light of a fox entering a London home and severing off the digit of a baby, Boris went into full throttle, demanding a cull of London’s fox population despite warnings from the RSPCA that the event was a rare and horrific one from foxkind.

“They may appear to be cuddly and romantic, but they are a pest and a menace,” said Boris when he proposed the cull.

Undoubtedly, the growing urbanisation of foxes should be taken as seriously as the growing number of diseased cattle. But yet again, culling foxes does not offer a permanent solution. As the fox population becomes increasingly daring in its city movements, a consistent, ethical approach needs to be formulated. Boris’ method speaks of a demand for an instantaneous solution, which when animals are concerned, cannot be achieved overnight.

Horse meat, anyone? Who could ignore the scandal that has set aflame the ethical clauses of British supermarkets? The upper classes have shared a close bond with horses for centuries. Riding schools are littered across the UK, with tots, teenagers and jockeys all clamouring to ride their prized pony. The upper classes’ social calendar revolves around must-see equestrian events, with Princess Anne and Zara Philips as ambassadors. When Britain’s prize animal made a run in supermarket beef supplies, however, the UK was set ablaze. Discovering that the British meat supply chains’ forays in Cyprus, Albania, France and Switzerland have resulted in a multi-animal burger, an international enquiry has been made, with several supermarkets issuing apologies in regards to their horsey produce. The Old Etonian led government have vouched for a thorough investigation in this case; whereas for the badgers and foxes, slaughter is declared to be the only viable solution, their rights overlooked. If anything, these unfavoured animals bring out the beast in us.

In our ability to slaughter animals for food, we need to recognise our responsibility towards our fellow earth-dwellers. Working towards a mutual coexistence is an act of humankind, and our capacity to rationalise at a level no other animal can, should lead us towards more humanitarian, sustainable options. To treat our animals with the class system that we are subject to epitomises how deeply rooted our social caste prejudices are. We fail to remember that these acts of barbarism are things animals cannot understand. Creating an inclusive, sustainable agenda for the animal kingdom takes time, patience, and understanding. It’s time that we treated the ASBO animals with some humanity. After all, the clue is in the word. If anything, these un-PC animals bring out the beast in us. Right now, the only animal protest we are willing to hear is a defunct yelp as yet another trap goes off.