Magazine article The Spectator

Why Isn't Eating Meat as Bad as Be Stiality?

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Isn't Eating Meat as Bad as Be Stiality?

Article excerpt

So what I've found myself wondering over the festive period, again and again, is whether it would ever be OK to have sex with a sheep.

I mean, jeez, don't take this the wrong way. I am not thinking of a particular sheep.

There is not one in my shed right now, emitting worried, stricken bleats. Nor indeed am I thinking - that way - of any sheep at all. I'd be lying if I said sheep never crossed my mind at all, in the small hours of a cold and lonely night, but when they do I can only swear it is in a manner both chaste and numerological.

And yet this - sex with sheep - is where my thoughts repeatedly have ended up. Because it's not OK, is it? Not, really, ever. And yet eating them is. And what I cannot figure out, try as I might, is why one should be so permissible as to be unremarkable, and the other not permissible at all.

It doesn't have to be sheep. By the time you read this, many, many animals will have been festively and delightfully consumed.

Here and across the world, and many of them by me. From the annual American Thanksgiving turkey genocide (45 million, they say, each November) to the endless rollcall of cows, pigs, chickens and everything else slaughtered thereafter. Gutted, stuffed, dressed, roasted, gnawed, binned.

Imagine them all, rising up now, as a farmyard zombie horde, dragging themselves limblessly, or at least meatlessly, out of landfill. Reforming themselves like Ted Hughes's Iron Man, perhaps, out of a thousand discarded sandwiches. And imagine their bleats, gobbles and moos could coalesce into intelligible noise. What would they be saying? 'Aaat leeeast you didn't shaaag me instead. . .' No.

I focus on sheep, though, because out of all the commercially farmed consumable animals, ethically speaking, they're probably the least complex. Chickens live lives too grim even to contemplate, pigs have their own grubby, petulant muck and misery, and cows have really bleak winters. Whereas sheep, at least until the bitter end, don't do that badly out of us. Yet while this might make you feel a bit better about people eating them, it somehow probably wouldn't make you feel much better about people having sex with them.

I am not suggesting, please note, that we ought to swap our world in which eating animals is fine and shagging them isn't for one in which the opposite is true. Little point, really. There's a notable lack of clamour for animal sex, after all, even from people who don't otherwise seem to be that fussy. …

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