Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why The Long Face?

I'm a vegetarian. In the interests of full disclosure, I thought I'd put that one out there before you read any further. Not going to be preachy about it. just saying.

Anyway, it turns out some UK supermarkets and fast food chains have been selling beef products from the same supplier that sold Tesco products containing up to 29% horse meat and other traces of horse DNA.

Leaving aside the argument about correct food labelling, hygiene etc. it does bring into focus the British view of animals, in particular which ones it's "acceptable" to eat.

If, for example, it had turned out that some beef products actually contained up to 29% pork, or lamb, or chicken, would there have been the same fuss made? Probably not. These are all animals we're used to eating and consider to be a food source. Labelling issues aside, most people would probably have shrugged and gone about their day.

We in Britain however, don't eat horses. The equine fraternity are designed to be ridden for pleasure, or for sport, or just to be looked after as pets. Certainly not slow braised in a nice red wine reduction and served with root vegetables. That kind of thing simply isn't on, and is something look down our noses for at our continental neighbours who do such things.

Then there's the South East Asian fondness for dogs. And no, not in a sponsor one in a home or a Joel Monaghan style either. More barbecued, really. Again, not something the British do to old Spot or Rover. Some people will happily breed them to fight to the death, but heaven forbid the loser ends up in a bap covered in ketchup.

So why is it we'll eat a chicken, or a duck, or a goose, but if you present us with a little roasted sparrow - beak and all - we'll pull a face and tell you it's disgusting?

I've a theory that this all goes back to children's literature. How many of the storybook classics we're read as children contain anthropomorphised version of animals given human characteristics, and how does this influence which one we consider acceptable to eat?

Take the Three Little Pigs for example. It is clear, despite their abilities (or otherwise) on the construction front, that the pigs are intended to be a food source. Pigs are that magical animal that produces pork, ham and bacon after all. No wonder the wolf is trying to eat them.

Jemima Puddle-Duck is predated on by the fox, who attempts to attract her back to his lair so he can roast her. Presumably with some lovely redcurrant jelly. Again, nothing unusual there. People eat ducks, so why shouldn't foxes find them delicious?

At no point in the Black Beauty books however, do you read about someone trying to get Beauty hung up to turn into burgers. Or Lassie being chased down the street with a cleaver by the Korean family from the next village. These are animals it is ingrained into us that are not for eating, but for treating like members of the family.

So if you want to know who is to blame for the British having this eccentric attitude towards animals and their eating, I suggest you look first at the likes of Enid Blyton, Anna Sewell and those who teach us at an early stage what's for eating and what's for petting.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Price Of Living

Imagine if you will, that I'm out of a job. Let's face it, when my work discover just how little I do on a daily basis it's only a matter of time.

I might be able to claim some benefits while I look for a job. That's how a welfare state works, it supports you in your time of need. It's what we pay our National Insurance contributions for, after all.

These benefits are set at a level that the state determines as the minimum I need to be able to exist. Not live, not to maintain my current standard of living, just to survive from day to day on the basic necessities. If I'm renting a house, I might get help with some or all of the cost of my rent so my unemployment doesn't render me homeless.

When I was working, if I thought I wasn't getting properly remunerated for the work I did or I needed more money to cover rising costs, I could go ask my boss for a raise or go look for another job elsewhere.

While I'm looking for work, my benefits will go up once a year. They used to go up in line with inflation. After all, if I'm on the very minimum I need to survive and the things I need to buy go up in price, benefits need to go up at the same rate or I won't be able to afford even basic necessities like food and heating.

At least that's the way it used to work. Now my benefits are going to be capped so they only go up by 1% per year. So when the gas company puts its prices up 5%, or the price of milk goes up by 5% I'm going to be left behind. The amount I get will no longer be enough to cover the cost of the things I need to survive.

As if that's not bad enough, my landlord tells me that the money I get paid towards my rent is going to go down as there is going to be a cap based on what size of property you live in. So I've either got to find some more money from my benefits to put towards it, or find somewhere else to live.

Course, because I'm on benefits I can't afford to put a bond together, or find a month's rent in advance for another place. Nobody is going to offer me a mortgage to buy somewhere The council won't consider me a priority case until I actually get made homeless, so I'm stuck in limbo.

I've applied for a load of jobs, but some of them pay so poorly that it will barely cover the extra rent and council tax I'll have to pay once my benefits stop. Either that, or they are short term contracts that will just mean I'm back where I started again in three months. Nobody seems to be offering "proper" jobs any more, ones that are likely to last and have some prospects to them.

According to the Government, I'm a "skiver" rather than a "striver". I'm what's wrong with the country. I'm the reason we're in this mess - together, apparently.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the reality of life for those in Britain on benefits. Demonised, belittled and now it seems, starved into submission by a coalition of the heartless. I hope you enjoy reaping what those of you who voted Tory and Lib Dem sowed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Read All About It...

Scholars working in the Middle East have found what they believe to be a previously unseen final book to The Bible, in which it predicts the state of a country believed to be Britain in 2013.

Extracts of the manuscripts have been translated into English, and I have managed to get hold of a few which are reproduced below. The accuracy in some cases is truly astonishing.

"And it came to pass that the leper was summoned to the wise pharisees of Atos, and they did find him fit for work despite his condition and withdrew his meagre income deaf to his pleas."

"Nick did descend from the mountain, and did bring with him a list of Ten Commitments to share with the people that they may view him favourably in the ballot.

The Commitments were scribed onto a slate with chalk, and on his descent it did rain so some of them may have got a bit smudged and difficult to tell exactly what they were meant to say."

"The Lamb shall lie down with the Lion, as the Lamb knows it has no other prospect of even sniffing the backside of power lest it does so.

Even though the Lion doth continually sodomise the Lamb and mock its core values, the Lamb shall take it and repeat its mantra about how much worse the Lion could be were the Lamb not there to protect the people.

And the Lion shall continue to go forth into the villages and pick off the weak, the sick and the elderly, not giving a shit about what the Lamb thinks."

"Dave did say to the money lenders, come thee in to the temple. Fear not as I will not regulate thee or require thee to behave with scruples. Thou shalt have first pick of the many new poor that I create so that thou might pick the flesh off their bones.

Should anyone attempt to shackle thee, I shall reward them with great riches and honours for turning the other blind eye."

"And Dave did hear about Plebgate and did say to the Sentinels of the Palace, I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy the Mitchell. And you will know my name is Dave when I lay my vengeance upon thy Federation."

Pretty shocking stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.