Entry from September 14, 2010

The headline in today’s Guardian sounds like a joke — “Fish: the forgotten victims on our plate” — but, because it’s The Guardian, it isn’t. Good old Guardian! Good old Peter Singer, the philosopher, animal rights campaigner and misanthropist who is the author of the article to which the headline is attached! They must be linked together forever in the search for yet more and more “forgotten victims” — who then, of course, will not be forgotten any longer, at least not by Guardian-style progressives who pride themselves on their awareness of the latest, the most chic the most hip in victimhood.

But it’s kind of hard to see fish in that role, as Professor Singer himself is uneasily aware.

Why are fish the forgotten victims on our plate? Is it because they are cold- blooded and covered in scales? Is it because they cannot give voice to their pain? Whatever the explanation, the evidence is now accumulating that commercial fishing inflicts an unimaginable amount of pain and suffering. We need to learn how to capture and kill wild fish humanely — or, if that is not possible, to find less cruel and more sustainable alternatives to eating them.

Coming after his impassioned plea for compassion for fish, based on a book by Victoria Braithwaite called Do Fish Feel Pain? — which, of course, concludes that they do — this passage might almost pass before our eyes without our quite realizing that it is advocating that we continue to eat these poor, scaly, cold-blooded victims, only after killing them humanely first. Is there a bit of back-tracking here in the Professor’s quixotic advocacy of extending to animals the concept of “rights” hitherto limited to human beings?

As it happens, only last week The Guardian ran a piece by George Monbiot, who rivals Professor Singer for environmental correctness in all things, recanting his opinion, expressed in the same pages eight years ago, that veganism “is the only ethical response to what is arguably the world’s most urgent social justice issue.” Like Professor Singer, Mr Monbiot has not ceased feeling compassion for the brute creation — or for those in other parts of the world who he imagines are going hungry because we rich Westerners are eating animals — but he admits to having been persuaded by another book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie, that meat-eating itself is not the culprit. Inhumane and inefficient farming and feeding and slaughtering methods are. I have written critically of Mr Monbiot in the past, but I don’t mind saying that my hat is off to him now for (apparently) being open to argument, which so many on his side of the political divide seem not to be.

Or maybe it’s just that fashions are changing. Also in today’s Guardian we find a report that “Lady Gaga’s meat dress angers animal rights groups.” Even if she were not the mistress of publicity that we know her to be, Lady Gaga could not possibly have made the decision to wear a dress made out of raw meat to the MTV Video Music Awards show — in which she appears to have won most of the awards — without knowing that animal rights groups were going to be angered by it. Dare we suggest that that was the point of her doing so? It’s not so easy for a girl to be outrageous anymore, or not with bizarre fashions and indecent exposure alone, and someone like Lady Gaga for whom outrageousness is bread and butter — or meat and gravy — has obviously got to be constantly on the hunt for new ways to get attention.

As Alexandra Topping, the author of the article writes, “It is not the first time Gaga has displayed a penchant for meaty attire, having recently posed in a “beef bikini” for the cover of Japan”s Men”s Vogue magazine.” I don’t want to get into the squabble over Lady G. or her meat bikini, but love her or hate her, you’ve got to give her credit as a fashion “icon” to put the naked supermodels of PETA’s anti-fur campaign only a few years ago in the shade. Could her proud carnivorousness herald some kind of change in the Zeitgeist? The times, they are a-changin’, it seems, and even political correctness doesn’t always stay the same.


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