Bill Buford asks is it possible that meat is now openly enjoying a renaissance—that it’s finally cool to be a carnivore? He reviews The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
It has a coherent ideology, evident in the opening pages, "an eleven-photograph sequence that shows the author taking two cows to slaughter. The pictures are not sensational, but they are unflinching. The first is of the animals boarding a trailer, the floor covered with hay, backed up against a corral (a dirt road, a wooden gate, early-summer foliage, a green-diffused light, Fearnley-Whittingstall, in his familiar Wellies, coaxing them along). Then: a captive bolt gun pressed against the top of an animal’s head. Then: the animal on its side on a concrete floor, collapsed, blood starting to pool. It is raised by its hind legs and hung upside down to drain blood. It is skinned, a thick white fat being peeled off the body in a single rug piece. This is followed by a tug-of-war removal of the unwieldy, instantly expanding intestines, like a white plastic trash bag filled to bursting, and the sawing of the carcass in half, the moment when conventional butchering begins. There is little accompanying text, apart from a rhetorical aside:Why is it considered entertainment when a predator kills another animal in a wild-life film, Fearnley-Whittingstall wonders, “whereas the final moments of human predation of our farmed livestock are considered too disturbing and shameful to be made available even for information.” The reader understands the point. Meat comes from an animal—a banal connection that has been obscured by the way supermarkets prepare and present our food—and the animal has to be killed. If you fear the sight of a carcass, you shouldn't be eating from it."