Friday 24 November 2017

Game for a showdown

Rachel Allen has killed again. Okay, she's only killed pheasants, but this nonetheless caused a stir after she posted a picture of her victims online. As a nation we can get quite upset about the things we have and haven't got a right to kill.

On Newstalk's Lunchtime, Laura Broxson, of the National Animal Rights Association, likened hunting to murder. "Are you equating pheasants with people?" asked presenter Jonathan Healey.

"Yes I am," said Broxson, who is a vegan. "All life is equal." (Don't be surprised if the coalition uses a similar argument to make pheasants pay the household tax.)

Des Crofton, of the National Association of Regional Games Councils, rejected such thinking. Clad in elk skin (probably) and chewing on wild-boar (probably) he made an impassioned case for our predatory nature. "You have incisors," he said.

"You are a predator. Your eyes are set at the front of your head. Your ears are set to the side of your head like any other predator."


If this was a chat-up line, it sort of worked. Broxson responded with a saucy description of the human digestive tract (this, apparently, demonstrated that we were in fact omnivores).

A Wicklow-based farmer called Susan Philips was also taking part in the debate. Earlier, she bombarded Broxson with questions she felt undermined her position.

"Do you ever wear leather shoes? Have you ever owned a leather handbag?" she asked, clearly expecting that Broxson did both these things.

"Do you not wear a necklace made of bunny skulls or a set of squirrel-corpse earrings?" she might as well have said.

"I think you don't understand what a vegan is," said Broxson, hitting the nail on the head (but in an ethical way that didn't hurt the nail at all).

Neither side was particularly representative of the punter-on-the-street. Broxson would probably give badgers the vote if she could. Philips, though pro-hunting, said she never personally hunts duck after seeing them in flight while flying her plane.

Later on The Last Word, John Carmody, of animal rights organisation Aran, quoted Ghandi, while the Countryside Society's David Scallan argued for the environmental benefits of hunting. The conversation was a bit more grounded than the earlier one (Scallan at least knows what a vegan is) but they still couldn't see eye-to-eye.

"What I'd like Rachel Allen to do is to put down the gun and call a ceasefire on the wildlife she's shot," concluded Carmody, as though Allen was out there still, on the run, engaged in a deranged killing spree.

"My advice to John Carmody is to go and have a ham sandwich and calm down about this," said Scallan.

Matt Cooper reprimanded Scallan for such flippancy, but closed with a revealing announcement: "If I was a vegan I'd be starving!" This conjured up an image of a broadcaster who during ad-breaks dives head first into joints of meats and has pockets filled with emergency mince and rashers. This makes sense. Anyone who has heard Cooper interviewing politicians knows he's a carnivore.

That morning an item about new septic tank inspections and charges for rural households was a great opportunity to hear bold words repeatedly uttered on Today with Pat Kenny.

"It's all sh*t they're talking about and 'tis all sh*t they're talkin'," said one angry punter to roving reporter Valerie Cox.

Back in the studio, Pat Kenny carefully deployed the word "effluent" while an expert made an environmental argument for the new measure.

Mattie McGrath pooh-poohed such notions: "It's literally a sh*te tax!" he declared, and as a former member of Fianna Fail he knows sh*te when he sees it.


It was Fianna Fail who black-listed Irish army deserters who fought Nazism in World War II. In a heart-breaking edition of Radio 4's Face The Facts, surviving veterans recalled being officially ostracised and unable to find work. Some of their children ended up in brutal industrial schools. One man, in his 90s, is still afraid of prosecution. They never received a State pardon.

They should. As Patrick Farrington, grandson of one veteran, noted, "They didn't run away for a holiday. They were not making a fortune and gallivanting around Europe. They were running towards guns."

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