“This is the state of the beast… to eat and be eaten.”
I’ve always been squeamish about food. When I was little my Mam used to cut up meat and give voice to the morsels of meat. “Don’t eat me!” the meat would say as it was aeroplaned towards my mouth. As I result I didn’t want to eat the meat. Who was I to inflict terror on hapless forkfulls of chicken?
In the same way I’m very uncertain about the direct link some adverts seem to make between a living animal and the very dead animal on a plate. I’m a meat-eater, but the various ethical ramifications of mechanised farming trouble me. The last thing I want on my mind as I eat a steak is the mental image of the cow whose life was brought to an end by a Tesco-franchised slaughterhouse.
In the past we had pork advertised by a pig actually slicing its own guts up with a jolly look on its face. Nowadays we have, what? The Laughing Cow. No wonder the cow’s laughing. It only gets milked for its delicious dairy product (although it also seems to eat them, which is a disturbing idea). Any other associations between meat and animals are strictly in the ‘roaming around the countryside’ variety that sets our minds at ease.
“Oh, look, they’re in a field. I feel better about buying that cheap water-injected supermarket chicken now. Yum yum!” We think not of the middle bit – the unpleasant bit – between farm and plate. Thus is our guilt assuaged. Why, then, make that dead animal link explicit again? To turn a cow into gravy requires a process not beneficial to the cow – and not really a process that bears thinking about to be honest.
Gravy is cow juice. It is the bits of a cow that you don’t or can’t eat ground up and boiled with water. Sure it’s tasty, but I don’t really want to dwell on exactly where instant gravy comes from. Think of a sausages, known colloquially for donkey’s years as ‘lips and arseholes’, because they were the bits that went into making them. There’s a very good reason Walls declines to refer to them as ‘Pork Lips and Arseholes’. Why Turkey Twizzlers aren’t referred to as ‘Turkey Tongues and Twats’. Or why burgers aren’t called ‘Fuck Me You Wouldn’t Believe The Shit That Goes Into These’.
All of which makes Colman’s new gravy advert pretty frickin’ odd indeed. If you haven’t seen it, it consists of an animated gravy cow jumping out of a gravy boat and dancing around to that awful “I like the way you move” song. I expect it’s shortened to “I like the way you moo” here. It all reminds me a little bit of a Clive Barker short story where a turkey comes to life and starts attacking the inhabitants of a house on Christmas Day. It’s like Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo, only it’s made of gravy.
When I am eating a meal I don’t want to imagine the various death screams of those animals that went to their deaths so that I could eat a £15.99 mixed grill in a Harvester. I don’t want to think of them screaming “don’t eat me!” as I chow down on a pork chop. And I don’t want a dead cow sliding around my dinner table in a hideous parody of the life it relinquished before going down with a metal bolt in its brain, just so that I could cover my yorkshire puds in dead cow juice.
If may if I were psychotic – or so blithely ignorant of the dubious associations of modern farming that I didn’t care. But I’m not, I’m one of the legions of people who would rather not be reminded of the cold-light-of-day realities of such things.
As it is, this seems rather like having an animated pile advertising Anusol; a walking, bloody tampon shilling Always. Or, even better, a walking, talking, dancing, singing corpse marketing the Co-op’s funeral services. Now that I would pay to see.