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Tony Grist

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Chicken Out [Jan. 11th, 2008|10:28 am]
Tony Grist
This is the week for being nice to chickens. I've watched celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's three films about how he tried to turn his home town of Axminster into a free-range paradise and tonight his pal- fellow celebrity chef Jaimie Oliver- has a related programme in which he's going to be killing chickens on stage and cooking chicken nuggets and similar atrocities in front of a live audience in order to sicken us to our stomachs.

It's spilling out into the real world too. Jaimie said something that angered Sainsburys- for whom he makes all those lovely blokey ads- and has been forced to issue an apology. And now the word is that Sainsbury's is going to be writing to all of us who own one of their in-store nectar cards to explain how tenderly they love their chickens.

Ever felt you were being got at? Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a very nice chap but if I found him loitering by the chiller cabinet in my local Tesco's and he tried to browbeat me into buying the more expensive cuts (as he did in the film- and I'm amazed Tesco allowed him to do it) I'd get pretty annoyed. A lot of people in Axminster got pretty annoyed too and wrote nasty things about him in the papers- like he was only doing it to big up his own (very expensive) farm shop. Poor Hugh, how he suffered. A prophet is not without honour save in his own country and among his own people.

So? Well I'm a natural contraian but I don't suppose I'm the only viewer who started off supporting Hugh and ended the week wanting to shout, "fuck off, posh boy".  Because, see, I'm  on Hayley's side. Hayley is the magnificently assertive, single mum who participated in all Hugh's little projects and publicity stunts and was last seen popping into Tesco's for her two factory-farmed birds for a fiver. And she didn't do it sneakily either. All along she stood up to Hugh's blandishments and bullying.  Yes, she kept saying (in so many words) it's very sad about the chickens but they are only chickens and free range is for those who an afford it, not me.

(A couple of people on a discussion site Ailz frequents said, "Well look at her, she's fat. She could afford real meat if she laid off the cakes"- which made me really, really cross. Nice one, Hugh, you've set up someone much poorer than you as a national hate figure. Someone poorer and braver.)

But here's the rub- the Devil's equation.  Animal cruelty means Hayley's kids can eat meat. Take the cheap chickens off the shelves in Tesco's and the poor can't afford roast dinners. Hugh's had no answer for Hayley except  to go all shruggy and teary-eyed and self-pitying. He's a rich man and his pal Jaimie's a rich man and for all their down with the real people blather I just don't think they get it. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-01-11 01:17 pm (UTC)
"if she laid off the cakes"...
Well unfortunately it is true that the price of food seems to be inversely proportional to its calorific content. It is easy for people on a budget to load up with salt and fat and sugar. A little bit of better quality meat a couple of times a week would probably be healthy for all of us.

I agree with you to the extent that people with an enlarged sense of ethics do tend to bully other people to feel the same way, c.f. animal rights and anti-nuclear protestors. But I think Hugh and Jamie are right that people do need to be aware of how their food is grown, killed and p[repared. We have lost that link with the land.

I know people who will eat fish, unless it looks like a fish. Their food needs to be disguised so they forget it used to be a living animal. No head, no tail, no bones, no fins, no skin. On one of Hugh's past programmes, there were people who would only eat chicken if it was made into kievs or nuggets, not if it looked like a leg or a breast. I despise that attitude. If they are that squeamish, they don't deserve animals to be killed for their pleasure and nourishment. Let them eat vegetables.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-01-11 01:25 pm (UTC)
I started off cheering Hugh on. I've been a vegetarian and now I'm a stickler for ethical meat; I just didn't think he addressed Hayley's concerns.

We need to go deeper. This isn't just about animal cruelty; it's about education and poverty and class. It's about all the things our Labour government should be hotly pursuing and isn't because it's gone over to the other side.

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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-01-11 01:42 pm (UTC)
Maybe it all went wrong when we dropped Domestic Science from the school curriculum (although I learned more constructive cookery from my mother and Delia Smith). There are fewer more important lessons in life than how to feed yourself.
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[User Picture]From: shullie
2008-01-11 02:23 pm (UTC)
exactly.... !!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-01-11 06:40 pm (UTC)
I agree.

Domestic Science should be taught in schools- and not only to girls.
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