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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. 

From: msjann65
2008-01-11 02:56 pm (UTC)
Question: (from a former vegetable gardener) -- If organically grown vegetables and berries cost less to produce (they do, chemicals are costly) then WHY do they cost so much more in the supermarket? Also, free range chicken and grass fed beef or lamb -- why so expensive with the lower feed bills?
Me? I do my best with available funds, find that I can eat well on the non-organics, non free range stuff, while I can always be more than a bit hungry on the other foods. So the choice is clear.
I agree with you, my friend - we need a series dealing with how you can eat ethically on a crippling budget. When my kids were small it certainly would have been un-ethical to let them go hungry because I felt sorry for the animals who fed us.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2008-01-11 09:12 pm (UTC)
In Super size me Spurlock mentions lobbies which mean that kids do not get proper meals but are fed on junk food. I am sure there are lots of special interest lobbies and things that dont get publicised but then I am an anticapitalist crank.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-01-12 11:04 am (UTC)
I don't really understand the economics. When it comes to meat I believe one factor is space. A field of grass will support fewer beasts than a factory building in which the feed comes through on a conyeyor belt.

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