Why do so many weep over dy­ing baby pen­guins but howl with laugh­ter as celebri­ties gag on body parts of dead an­i­mals?

With typ­i­cal pas­sion, our colum­nist ac­cuses mil­lions of us of hypocrisy...

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By LIZ JONES

THEY’RE the na­tion’s sweet­hearts. Holly Wil­loughby, with her flaxen hair, Twiglet limbs, smile as sunny as Aus­tralia’s Gold Coast. And De­clan Don­nelly, as cud­dly as a koala. The ban­ter they trade host­ing I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, ITV’s top-rated show (11 mil­lion tuned in for the first episode), have made them a modern-day More­cambe and Wise. Safe. Nice. Loved.

Ex­cept, dur­ing a bush tucker trial on Wed­nes­day night, some­thing snapped, and the syn­thetic wool was pulled from my eyes. What I wit­nessed made me won­der whether we have re­turned to an age when it was thought ac­cept­able to watch bear­bait­ing, hare-cours­ing and cock-fight­ing.

The trial, to win meals for the ‘starv­ing’ celebri­ties back in camp (I’ve been to So­ma­lia; trust me, they’re not starv­ing), en­tailed the pre­dictable con­sump­tion of all things re­volt­ing. In­sects, some­times still alive. Meal worms. Witch­etty grubs. So far, so dis­gust­ing.

What en­raged me most was Holly and Dec dou­bled up, con­vuls­ing with laugh­ter as an­i­mals’ pri­vate parts – sheep tes­ti­cles, anuses and penises, as well as pig snouts and fish eyes – were con­sumed in the name of en­ter­tain­ment. Oh ho, bloody ho.

They were watch­ing on, barely con­tain­ing their mirth, as two ‘stars’ – Corona­tion Street’s Sair Khan and Malique Thomp­son-Dwyer from Hol­lyoaks – were sniff­ing, chew­ing and gag­ging on what were once parts of live, sen­tient crea­tures.

The gross­est morsel on of­fer was the hoof of a camel, which Khan tucked into, barely turn­ing a glossy hair. Surely camels, the horses of the East, the builder of Em­pires, the bravest in wartime, do not de­serve such a sorry, undig­ni­fied end.

As well as ad­mon­ish­ing the pre­sen­ters, I want to heap shame on these two young ac­tors who are so un-self-aware they’re happy to con­done pain in­flicted upon oth­ers. Shame, too, on fel­low con­tes­tant Fleur East, who aban­doned her ve­gan­ism – as short-lived as a male chick on an egg farm – in or­der to col­lect her cheque. Asked by a tabloid if she’d eat a kan­ga­roo’s ‘bits’, she replied: ‘Yeah, I could make room for those.’

Shame, too, on John Bar­row­man, cham­pion of gay rights, but who, on Thurs­day night, called a mud crab ‘You son of a bitch.’ A mud crab.

Celebrity MasterChef and its ilk are up­set­ting enough to me, as a ve­gan, but at least the chefs on these pro­grammes give the poor crea­tures forced to give up their lives some re­spect. They’re not cack­ling. They talk, al­ways, of us­ing ‘ev­ery part of the an­i­mal’. But on I’m A Celeb, one pig snout is con­sumed, the oth­ers tossed in a bin. Waste­ful, yes. Callous, cer­tainly.

Should I sim­ply lighten up? Re­mem­ber how ‘hu­mour­less’ we ve­g­ans were ac­cused of be­ing for per­suad­ing Waitrose to sack its mag­a­zine ed­i­tor Wil­liam Sitwell for say­ing, in an email, we should be killed, ‘one by one’?

Yes, OK, I ad­mit we’re pretty mirth­less, as I’m sure Suf­fragettes were. But there isn’t a great deal to laugh about in the fact that last month alone, 2.5 mil­lion sheep, pigs and cat­tle were slaugh­tered in the UK??.

What I find even more per­verse than Holly’s gig­gles is that, over on BBC1, the na­tion is ad­dicted (6.8 mil­lion view­ers) to Dy­nas­ties, a se­ries where David At­ten­bor­ough, crouched in a hedge, tells us mov­ing sto­ries about an­i­mal fam­i­lies.

Af­ter a pro­gramme fea­tur­ing em­peror pen­guins was broad­cast, there was a storm of Twit­ter tears, with head­lines along the lines of: ‘What makes grown men cry? The baby pen­guins on Dy­nas­ties.’

There was fur­ther grief (‘I’m ab­so­lutely sob­bing!’ tweeted one viewer) when the episode about a pride of lions in Kenya was broad­cast. Two young lions, Si­enna and Alan, were seen in agony, hav­ing been poi­soned by farm­ers.

The BBC crew – who must have surely seen it all – were moved to in­ter­vene, sum­mon­ing a vet. Many view­ers re­ported feel­ing ‘bleak’.

All of which makes me won­der, were a Mar­tian to land to­mor­row, and switch on the TV, what he would make of two al­most equally pop­u­lar prime time TV pro­grammes, and their wildly op­pos­ing treat­ment of an­i­mals.

Why the lions are given names, and revered, and mourned, when the sheep have the in­dig­nity of their penises be­ing shoved into the mouths of soap stars? Given the huge num­bers of view­ers, there must be mil­lions who watch both, surely? How do they pos­si­bly square the two?

I email the philoso­pher Pe­ter Singer, Pro­fes­sor of Bioethics at Prince­ton, Lau­re­ate Pro­fes­sor at Mel­bourne, au­thor of the sem­i­nal An­i­mal Lib­er­a­tion, and the man who pop­u­larised the term ‘speciesism’ in the mid-1970s, be­liev­ing it akin to racism. I ask him why peo­ple laugh at the idea of eat­ing do­mes­tic an­i­mals, but care deeply about lions and pen­guins.

He ex­plains: ‘Partly be­cause lion cubs and pen­guins are cute, they ap­peal to us, and adult sheep, pigs and camels don’t. And they did not see the whole an­i­mal. But I was told that when a Pol­ish su­per­mar­ket chain started sell­ing whole vac­uum-packed piglets, there was such a neg­a­tive re­sponse from con­sumers they had to take them off the shelves. We are re­act­ing with our emo­tions, not with our heads.’

I call In­grid Newkirk, founder of Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals (Peta), and ask why there was so much laugh­ter on I’m A Celeb over some­thing so dis­taste­ful. ‘It’s child­ish, a fail­ure to un­der­stand that the ob­ject of their gig­gling died a bad death,’ she says, blam­ing the pro­duc­ers more than the stars for ‘scrap­ing the bot­tom of the bar­rel’ to boost rat­ings. I agree with both pil­lars of the an­i­mal rights move­ment, but I also feel we cry over lion cubs not pigs be­cause we fetishise the rare, which is in­sane: it’s not a pig’s fault she’s ‘com­mon’. It’s this cult of the en­dan­gered that means Prince Wil­liam can on the one hand plead the case of the African ele­phant, and blast pheas­ant and grouse to obliv­ion with the other. Which is my­opic, to say the least, be­cause the plight of farm an­i­mals is far worse than the plight of any wild crea­ture.

At least the lion or pen­guin had free­dom, how­ever short-lived. And in fact the suf­fer­ing of a chicken is worse, be­cause it is mul­ti­plied mil­lions of times over. If you were to drive the length of Peru, as I have, and smelled the chicken farms that stretch for hun­dreds of miles, im­pris­on­ing poor crea­tures who never see the light of day, I doubt you’d ever eat chicken, or laugh, again. I’d also ar­gue that farm

an­i­mals are as cute as a cub or a baby pen­guin; you only have to look at the face of a shocked lamb be­ing shorn in an ex­posé by Peta to see how beau­ti­ful they are and to know they feel pain and fear.

Pigs are as in­tel­li­gent as dogs and cer­tainly more in­tel­li­gent than most ITV pre­sen­ters.

But I agree with Prof Singer that the prob­lem lies in the fact that we don’t see the an­i­mals on I’m A Celeb… as ‘whole’. Which makes me wish, as well as the ‘af­ter’ pro­gramme on ITV2, they had the courage to screen the ‘be­fore’: the wild crocs and snakes be­ing trapped and placed in tanks to be ter­ri­fied in the pres­ence of flail­ing hu­mans; the sheep and pigs and camels lin­ing up to be slaugh­tered be­fore go­ing on air. How about ask­ing At­ten­bor­ough to co-host along­side Scar­lett Mof­fatt from the depths of a typ­i­cal su­per-farm, both crouched in ex­cre­ment, which is how most of these an­i­mals are kept.

The fact I’m a Celeb… is on prime­time TV is a na­tional dis­grace, and I won­der why Aus­tralia, which pro­tects its wildlife so ve­he­mently it bans tourists from even pick­ing up shells in its na­tional parks, al­lows it­self to be por­trayed as a play­ground, its pris­tine jun­gle de­based, and gig­gled at.

I don’t ex­pect mil­lions of peo­ple to give up eat­ing meat and dairy overnight – UK ve­g­ans may have quadru­pled since 2014, but the num­ber still only hov­ers around 600,000 – but the least we could do is boy­cott this TV show, as we boy­cott the hu­mil­i­a­tion of or­cas in theme parks, mean­ing it would soon go the way of The Black And White Min­strels.

In a sup­pos­edly new age when we’re learn­ing to re­spect each other, surely we need to re­spect the an­i­mals we share this planet with, too. And who knows? Maybe Holly and Dec will have to find an­other way to line their pock­ets with mil­lions. And be laugh­ing on the other side of their smug faces.

TEAR-JERKERS: Pen­guins in Dy­nas­ties

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.