A Very British Bovine
When I was growing up in England in the 1970s, there was a TV advertisement that showed various British "types"—the Pythonesque Pepperpot
, the starchy proper English gentleman, the working class tough, etc., the Benny Hill
cheeky chappie, and George Formby
naif—all extolling the virtues of British beef. The idea was that the land of John Bull
was a land of beefeaters
. Gandhi had assumed that meat-eating
gave the British their strength, and the advertisement's tagline ("What about a bit of British beef?") left you in no doubt that the Mahatma was right. Beef was what put the Great in Britain. It was ever thus and so.
I was reminded of this ad by Catherine Clyne's editorial
in the most recent, and most excellent, issue of Satya
. In the editorial, Cat records the efforts of the British journalist Janet Street-Porter
to promote "rosy" veal, because it is more "humane" than "white" veal. This effort has apparently caused an upsurge in the consumption of such veal in the U.K. Well, being of the "British persuasion" (as the newly minted Anglophile Woody Allen
might put it), I can tell you that there's a whole load of subtext beneath this campaign that complicates the already thorny terrain of "humane meat" (the subject of this and the previous issue of Satya
) even more.
First off, there's Janet Street-Porter herself. For decades, this strange combination of Rita Skeeter
, Hedda Hopper
, Germaine Greer
, and Zandra Rhodes
has showboated and stormed her way through British journalism. Talented, toothy, and cultivatedly outrageous, this media savvy maven is unafraid to make a fool of herself. She's a born contrarian, who loves complaining of victimization when she's called to account. In her bloody-minded tomfoolery she's also, indisputably, unutterably, and impossibly British.
As, of course, is the "rosy" veal campaign. For we Brits all know where "white" veal is most consumed. It's the incontinent continent of Europe: where the Frogs eat frogs' legs and snails and other disgusting things, and where funny foreigners with silly accents do barbaric things to donkeys
. If the French are going to mock our cuisine
then we "Rosbifs
," are bloody well going to take pride in our meat.
And there's the rub. Even the live exports campaign that galvanized England a few years ago was shot through with nativism. It still is
. And the U.S. is not immune to it: the recent HSUS campaign to stop American wild horses
from being shipped to France to be eaten is about gastronomic preference and the American ideal of freedom.
In short, we animal advocates need to be more sophisticated in discerning the issue of nationality and cultural nativism in the issue of how each country views its animals. I'd bet that JSP is a lot more interested in sticking it to the French than she is in the welfare of calves—whether they moo with an English or a French accent. And don't let's even think about class issues! Oy!