Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall advocating vegetarianism? I knew it was too good to be true. When I saw his initial article on the subject a few weeks ago, my first thought was to double check that I hadn't somehow gone into a coma and woken up on April 1 (in a fit state to go out and buy a newspaper). This is, after all, 'Hugh Fearlessly-EatsItAll', known for butchering wildlife on TV and advocating the 'nose-to-tail' style of eating animals. Carnism with integrity, certainly, but not a natural ally for anyone who might object to eating animals at all.
The upshot is, he isn't going fully vegetarian - at least not permanently, he seems now to have done so for the sake of his new show - but he is drastically cutting his meat consumption and advocating that others do the same. My feelings on that subject are similar (i.e. mixed) to my response to Meat-Free Mondays a while back - great if it encourages people to think about the issues involved and possibly go further than eating a bit less meat, but a bit crap if it is pushed too heavily as an end goal.
His latest foray into the world of the thinking carnist is to make a point that many - vegetarians, vegans and omnis - have made before: the arbitrary nature of the distinction between those animals we see as our adored companions and those 'we' (in the loosest possible sense) regard as food.
This is far from a new point. One of my earliest memories of the Vegetarian Society involves a picture of a puppy sitting on a plate, and the legend 'you eat other animals don't you?' More recently animal rights campaigners set up fake 'dog meat' stalls at farmers' markets to highlight the hypocrisy of eating some animals rather than others. In between, there was a mild shitstorm when Nigel Slater printed a dog recipe in the Observer food magazine. (In his 'apology' he again referred to the disjuncture of eating some species but recoiling at the idea of eating others, and also iirc said the recipe would work just as well with a 'nice fluffy bunny'. Charmer.)
Part of me is utterly delighted that this point is being made in a way that nets it the widest possible audience. Another part, however, worries that carnists will get ideas from HFW's words, and investigate the possibilities for dog-eating in the Western world. (They'd have trouble getting it too far, purely because the UK at least has more stringent animal welfare regulations for dogs than for pigs...) Although I agree that there is no difference, I can't see that adding more species to the butchers' counter can be in any way a good plan.
I am, however, curious to see how some of Hugh's more hardcore fans - the ones who are attracted to the ferretting, butchery and nose-to-tail - will take to a series that seemingly requires him to renounce meat for several months...