Last week the food critic AA Gill became a trending topic on Twitter because he shot a baboon for pleasure and wrote about it in a restaurant review. The internet went into ‘moral indignation’ mode, and the guy was burned at the steak, [sic, sick, and excuse the puns], for his honesty and blood lust. I was curious about the outrage, because it seems to me that killing a baboon (and bear in mind this wasn’t the endangered sort, and is considered a pest) for blood lust isn’t any less noble than killing a wild deer for the pleasure of an incredible (and entirelyÂ unnecessary) Michelin-starred loin of venison.
In the West at least, we don’t need to eat meat, we have many options for protein including tofu. We certainly don’t get any health benefits from a Big Mac, and yet are happy that someone killed a cow for us to have the pleasure of the burger. Meat is indeed sustenance, but optional for most of us, and personally I eat meat purely for the pleasure – indeed I am a fan of foie gras, veal, and many other ‘delicacies’ considered to be cruel. So I’m not going to condemn AA Gill for admitting he just wanted to kill something, when I’m perfectly happy for someone else to kill something because I just wanted to taste its delicious flesh. If AA Gill had eaten the baboon afterwards, it would have been less of an issue, it seems, although of course the real issue is that he was daft/brave/desperate/weird enough to publish the story in the first place.
However, what came out of my debates on Twitter about this was a very interesting side-debate about what animals its ‘OK’ to eat – culturally, many of us have emotional ties to certain animals (e.g. those we’ve domesticated, those we consider intelligent or ‘like humans’, those which are endangered), but the lines are personal,Â arbitrary, and blurry. For example, I used to refuse to eat shark because “sharks are cool”. No other justification, I just liked sharks a lot and wanted to leave them alone. I make no pretence of rationality, I made an emotional decision, which is perfectly fine. I would eat dog, but not someone’s abducted pet cause that’s not very nice, but I wouldn’t eat insects because they are spindly and creepy. I suspect most people wouldn’t eat kitten casserole, but may well eat rabbit casserole.
So what I’m asking is this: What’s your edible animal line? Which animals are you OK with eating, which not, and why do you make the distinction?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET (except Fridays when Tracy can’t figure out the timezones and just posts it at noon BST).