Tally Ho

On Sunday afternoon when the skinned rabbit with its head complete with furry ears on the side appeared on my Twittter timeline I just thought oh Jeanette Winterson is having lunch.

Then unfortunately I read the tweet itself – Rabbit ate my parsley I am eating the rabbit – and a reply in the thread by the author herself – The skin which includes the head makes a great glove puppet – so I decided to unfollow Winterson in order to prevent more proud declarations of being part of the dominant species appearing on my timeline.

Good riddance, she rarely tweets anyway, and when she does it’s rants about Clarkson. To be honest, I was just waiting for a reason to unfollow her. I appreaciate her tremenduously as an author and she may one day tweet something interesting, but I never recovered from the I hate science fiction incident. You proclaim that you hate science fiction but still you write it. You’re just afraid of being mistaken for a genre author, aren’t you?

Anyway, what saddens me is that Winterson just meant to be funny and celebrate herself as the tough countryside woman, in Countryside Alliace style. I don’t think she was deliberately trying to be provocative with a bullying attitude, she was just very pleased with herself.

But the first rule of being funny is that you should never make fun of the victim. Any victim. You have a wide range of targets for your mockery, yourself, your peers, power, but never the victim. Making fun of the victim is called in fact being cruel.

Winterson later explained, on Twitter as well as Radio 4, that the rabbit was trapped and killed humanely and that her goal was to teach people, by means of some visual and verbal provocation, that they are too alienated from their food and they should understand that hunted meat is better that farmed meat, especially better than intensively farmed meat.

This bewilders me a little because it is true that people are alienated from their food, and anything is better than intensively farmed meat anyway, but there is really no hunted-meat vs farmed-meat dicotomy in human society nowadays, no matter how much you like hunting). If you become a hunter the life of farmed animals remains exactly the same, unless we all become either hunters roaming the countryside in search for food or level 5 vegans like Lisa’s boyfriend in the Simpsons, which is simply impossible for a number of extremely obvious reasons. The only way to change intensive farming is changing intensive farming, advocating stricter regulations to improve animal welfare.

If you become a hunter you just kill wildlife, that’s basically what you do, a lot of wildlife, because you kill what you kill, plus you starve the litter if it was a lactating female or a male involved in rearing, plus you kill their predators (raptors are routinely culled, more or less legally, to allow hunted species to prosper), plus you kill their preys (when you hunt foxes, rabbits become too abundant so they need to be culled), plus you kill a number of other species due to loss of habitat (if you want a lot of deers, you end up with overgrazed land) and ultimately this all leads to more farming (most of the pheasants shot for sports are intensively farmed pheasants released for the hunting season).

So it sounds like Winterson is suggesting you leave horrendous farmed meat to the ignorant commoners and, in order to solve your alienation from your food, you develop an interest bloodsports, or acquire a game estate, or maybe you could go shooting with Prince Philip in the Highlands, or at least please buy a cottage in the Cotswold and trap some rabbits in the garden. Honestly, do we really need to tell Jeanette Winterson, champion of the poors and the oppressed minorities, that she should check her own privileges?

She clearly just enjoyed killing a rabbit and felt like telling us, it’s a bit creepy but it’s somehow embedded in our evolution, some people hugely enjoy killing animals while others not so much and some not at all (and their genes still made it to the present times… somehow). That’s why some people are pro-hunting (and Winterson has been pro-hunting for years now), they simply enjoy it very much, probably because of their genes.

Playing with the carcass, though, and making jokes about it, is undeniably childish. It’s something kids used to do in my village with dead sparrows, shot down by their fathers.

Also the whole bragging about being a though countryside woman is simply ridiculous. Winterson owns a cottage in the Cotswold. That’s having a lovely holiday, not being a farmer under WWWII bombs. Except maybe vegans, everyone handles dead animals in their own kitchen, and everyone can learn how to grow herbs in the backyard. A child in kindergaten can grow herbs in the backyard. And anyway, I believe we all know everything about how to properly skin a rabbit from the third season of Game of Thrones.

What amuses me greatly is that the papers totally got the ridiculous side of the whole thing.

Local paper keeping to the facts:
Accrington author kills rabbit who ate her parsley

Herald Scotland commenting on Winterson’s idea of revenge:
The revenge of Jeanette Winterson: Rabbit ate my parsley…I am eating the rabbit

Non sequitur:
Lesbian author Jeanette Winterson faces backlash for Twitter photos of rabbit she killed and cooked

I also found a few interesting comments here and there, especially some suggesting she should really put up some nets to protect her produce (while most comments are proud declations of being part of the dominant species, of course).

– That’s all nice except the way she unfolded the whole thing and presented it is really creepy and has a substantial potential of inspiring some really troubled individuals to do some similar things to other animals near by, providing them with a handy excuse.

– Clearly, this woman has never seen Fatal Attraction

– Let’s hope the cat does not disappoint her next week

Rabbits? Aren’t those the adorable little critters we infected with a disease designed to keep the numbers down that made them so deformed no-one would eat them?

I don’t think the problem was (or at least it shouldn’t be) that she was eating a rabbit she caught.  My problem is posting the pic like that.  We cull & butcher our own meat & will be raising rabbits & chickens for food…so I’m not shying away from that.  My issue is staging the rabbit like that seems to be making fun of the animal…taking away the respect and dignity one should honor when taking the life of an animal.  Just my thoughts.  Rabbits are sustainable, small ‘footprint’ (yes, intended), low fat and better for the planet than beef farming.  We should all be a wabbit huntin’.

Thanks for utterly missing the point Winterson waded into an emotionally charged subject waving a knife. She killed and ate a rabbit, not because she was hungry but for revenge and then took glee in boasting about it. This isn’t striking a blow for truth and pointing out the hypocrisy of those who sympathies with and eat animals. This is someone killing an animal for zero reason and then bragging about it: if her cat dug up my roses and I cut its throat before serving it to my family it would be just as unnecessary and just as provocative. If she was really opposed to the hypocrisy of people causing suffering whilst getting all gooey over something cute, maybe she should help them understand that the rational response is to end the suffering, not attempt to normalise unfeeling violence toward sentient creatures.

I am fine with people eating rabbit. I am concerned about the link between a rabbit eating parsley and its punishment. Rabbits have no concept of property rights and therefore cannot be held to account for such transgressions. Only participating humans can. If this is meant to be a joke then it is very bad one, and sets a very bad example. Some major governments have adopted a very similar approach. A minor sleight provokes a disproportionate response, largely because the aggressor believes that there will be no comeback. Such aggressors are beginning to feel the effects of their over reactions through that undervalued tool, the economic and informational boycott. If this is the message that Ms Winterton wants to get across, she needs to be clear, and not confuse the gullible public.

As a vegan, I understand that humans will probably never cease dining on carcass, and so, if they feel they must, this person is just doing what farmers do. Though for her to boast about it is a little sickening and perhaps even meant to be antagonizing, and it’s certainly not the kind of energy I’d want my kid around, however, it’s her right … it’s only sad that animals have none.

haven’t got a problem with her killing and eating a rabbit, but when in the same article it mentions her feeding the entrails to an animal which is an ecological and social pest, and no-one bats and eyelid, I despair. The double standard, that it is ok to do to, and speak about one naturalised animal, in such a derisory way, whilst feeding it’s innards to a domestic pet, tells us everything about the intelligence of JW and the author of this article.

These debates always go the same way. But one thing I find odd is that very often animal rights supporters get accused of being sentimental and anthropomorphising animals. Invariably someone will write something mocking like “poor ickle bunny wabbit” as if this somehow settles the argument. But people who celebrate the killing of animals – for meat or otherwise – often have strangely anthropomorphic ideas themselves. I once saw Clarissa Dickson Wright on television tutting in horror at those nasty foxes who would kill chickens “for fun”. As if foxes are undertaking a deliberately genocidal act, like Pol Pot. Or there’s Jeanette Winterson – taking revenge on her rabbit that supposedly ate “her” vegetables, as if the rabbit could be expected to have any concept that the vegetables “belonged” to someone else, when all it was doing was what all animals do, ie finding food to eat. Reading that actually made me wonder whether Winterson is slightly unhinged.

(next one is excellent)
–  I’ve always admired Jeanette Winterson’s writing and had respect for her plucky attitude. She actually comes from the town next to where I live. I also have no problem with her catching and eating a rabbit or rabbits. I would far rather people ate rabbits, rather than gassing them or giving them the dreadful myxy.

However, I was not impressed with this episode because I thought it was deliberately provocative, and she was using cheap intellectual tricks to make cliched and stereotypical comments about those who would object to this. It was a set-up. It appears that the idea was to wind-up some vegetarians with a provocative picture, then to come back at them with a tired old cliched argument about them not understanding life or death, or where food comes from. It was a cheap trick because many who don’t eat meat are not naive, and she was simply cherrypicking a few predictable responses and was then attempting to tar all vegetarians with this crude stereotype. This is what most irked me, and surprised me, that she was in fact engaging in crude stereotyping.

The reason I objected is because this whole shallow nonsense complete distorts the whole issue. She claims to be interested in food matters etc, but there was no real insight. For instance she claimed she had planted the roses for bees. Yet they appeared to be the wrong sort for bees as they were the multi-petalled bred type, that make it difficult for pollinators to enter the flower. If she wanted to benefit bees she could have planted much better.

So we’ve ended up with this completely false argument where opinionated meat eaters are bellowing their superiority over a crude stereotype of naive vegetarians and vegans. Whilst those more sensitive decried her heartlessness. What was completely lost were informed comments and the facts, in a sea of opinionated nonsense.

My interest is the natural world, environmental matters etc. The single biggest problem in this arena, is that it attracts lots of uninformed commenting and strong opinions. Unfortunately this is a topic on which there is much strong opinion, and very little knowledge. So you end up with this heated argument and controversy, where often those shouting the loudest don’t have anything useful to say. It is very unhelpful. People have become completely disconnected from the natural environment, and most of what they think they know about the whole matter is often mistaken. In other words strongly opinionated and ill-informed heated debates caused by minor celebs are the last thing we need.

If she wanted to say something about this, why not just write an article? I’m sure she wouldn’t have a problem getting it published given her reputation as a writer. But then she doesn’t appear to have much useful or original to say on the matter, and it would have barely registered. However by starting the whole thing on Twittersphere she’s ended up in all the media, not because she had anything useful to say on the matter, but because it involved controversy and a name a lot of people have heard of. It really is unhelpful. Nothing useful has come out of this and it is simply re-inforcing shallow, ill-informed and mistaken opinions about this whole issue.

– I guess it’s ironic for some people knowing how her work tells how difficult life is for people and how we must respect difference and all the rest and then she’s really just as insensitive as anyone else.

This last comment impressed me greatly because it points out how naive I have been in my general dislike of Winterson since the science fiction incident. Such an amazing author, such a complex person who had to go through all kinds of problems in life, and still she’s like everyone else.

But of course she’s like everyone else. We all are like everyone else sooner or later, it’s just that I expect too much from literary authors.

For example, since I started the Melrose novels, I’ve been thinking wonders of Edward St. Aubyn. But one day, Edward St. Aubyn may say or write something that will disappoint me (by the way, masterful writin about animals so far). The same applies to Douglas Coupland. What if one day he tweets something I find distasteful? I’ve been following him for years now and it never happened and he tweets a lot, but who knows. Oh darn, in that case I will unfollow them and find myself something else to read and that would be it.

Edit. I’ll be adding interesting comments I keep on finding in the papers