The dangers of dog in the manger democracy

There’s no sign anyone in Britain is desperate to eat spaniel — the proposed ban is frivolous and does nothing for animal welfare

Jonathan Meades

A dozen members of Parliament from the pro-Brexit, pro-gurning, pro-expenses, pro-moronic, pro-attention seeking, pro-cliché, pro-prolixity Shameless-In-Our-Compassion faction of the Conservative Party have come together behind the hereditary backbencher Bill Wiggin to support his Dog Meat (Consumption) (Offences) Bill 2017-19. The bill, which also enjoys garrulous cross-party endorsement, is not, despite its name, intended to prevent humans from stealing and eating meat intended for their pet dog. Such a bill will, however, undoubtedly be tabled in the near future as the store of mores and practices to be banned diminishes further. It will be a dark day for parliament when there is nothing left to proscribe, nothing that nodding dullards can deem “totally unacceptable”.

Backbencher Bill is already scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one. Its purpose is to prevent us from eating the flesh and innards of Kylie the Bedlington, Skip the Spaniel, Degsy the Schnauzer . . . Aaah, the poor diddumses, how could anyone be so heartless as to think of doing such a thing to them, these noble creatures, Man’s Best Friend (an honorific I dispute).

Does Backbencher Bill believe that Britain is about to witness an outbreak of cynophagy? How does he know? Maybe it’s already with us. Does the man have spies reporting on suspicious cuts of meat being gnawed in New Malden, Britain’s Little Korea beside the Kingston Bypass? “Popping down the A3” is probably aficionados’ code for going to have a dog dinner. Do these undercover operatives rifle through garbage searching for the collars of pooches gone to be daubes and salamis? Do they burst in on threesomes with their snouts in KFC buckets, the way private detectives did in Brighton long ago? Does the C on those delicious buckets stand not for chicken, but chihuahua? This sort of intelligence is far too parochial for our crack Dog Protection Unit, which aspires to a much grander programme — nothing less than cultural reformation. Its outreach is globally global, pan planetary — and delusional.

While Rome burns, Backbencher Bill — an obscure prefect from the obscure Marches of an obscure country off the northwest coast of an obscure continent — hopes to set an example by banning pooch sandwiches on the Malverns (western slopes only), a ban which he is willing to enforce personally: watch him headbutt a hiker suspected of enjoying retriever on rye (hold the Dijon). The Kennomeat Dozen is pretty damn certain that its example will be followed by China. Yes China! That’s the one — the most populous nation in the world, a model tyranny which imprisons without trial, which tortures and brainwashes, which forbids dissent, which censors with abandon.

It is also the nation that positively quakes when it hears that a delinquent chef in Bromyard who braised a puppy in cider has received a custodial sentence. China is forced to look deep into itself and its collective conscience when it learns of the obloquy heaped on a troop of cub scouts at Aymestrey who, mistaking it for a cat, roast a dachshund on a campfire beside the Lugg. They will never now be fully woggled scouts.

What the Winalots are undertaking is evidently a form of gastro-cultural colonialism or stock pot pedagogy.

A whiggish sense of geography is asserting itself: what we do and eat here is morally better than what you do and eat there.  We are superior people with a superior culture, superior tastes, superior restraints. This doesn’t hold. There are countless things to chastise China for. The gustatory habits of a minority of its agrarian peasants are not among them. They should be of no concern to the PALs.

Especially not to . . . well, let’s begin with Backbencher Bill himself. He represents a constituency called North Herefordshire. Has it not occurred to him that Hereford cattle, beasts of greater beauty and intelligence than scraggy pi-dogs, are reared for no reason other than to be slaughtered and consumed? It should have occurred to him because he is himself a breeder.

Shoot ’em, gas ’em. When he’s not slagging off the Hereford Times, claiming for a nonexistent mortgage, shooting pheasants or murdering cattle, Backbencher Bill supports killing badgers on scientifically dubious grounds. When they get wind of this man’s CV, Chinese dog butchers are not going to be fooled. They can spot dodgy relativism even if it’s on the other side of the globe. Badger-worshipping cults in Shanxi and Henan Provinces are doubtless already planning retaliatory measures against these Pedigree Chums who have too much time on their hands and who drink milk, the lactate of species other than their own, the devil’s potion, poisonous unless made into cheese.

Were they not so frivolous, the Pooch & Mutts might do something worthwhile for animal welfare on their own doorstep. But such actions could provoke the truly unthinkable, the loss of their seat.

A quarter of them represent Essex constituencies.

Here’s Andrew Rosindell (Romford). Backbencher Andrew is an admirer of Tommy Robinson. His late Staffordshire bull terrier “served the community”. He’s such a card that he used to takes the creature to the House of Commons. It’s a breed classified as a weapon rather than a pet.

David Amess (Southend) is the gullible ninny who fell for one of Chris Morris’s inspired “investigations” and was persuaded to ask questions in the Commons about the then nonexistent drug “cake”. Giles Watling (Clacton) is a resting actor and a pet lover who wears a Garrick Club tie, shorthand for Did I Ever Bore You With My Story About . . .

Now, if these elected representatives are wised up they will be aware that Essex has an interesting relationship with animals. It is where one of Howard Marks’s drug mules went to the mattresses only to discover that the people in the next door bungalow had a lion in the garden. More pertinently, Essex is the UK’s epicentre of dog fights. But to actually prohibit or even criticise this degrading spectacle would be electoral suicide, akin to proposing a ban on beer in Burton or on burkas in Bradford. Shivering in a toxic, rusting disused factory and  placing bets on which dangerous dog will hideously mutilate and maybe kill another such dog is the very birthright of Essex Man and Woman.

Far wiser, far safer for those wishing to hold their seat at the next election to sweep the whole business, bloody carcasses and all, under the pile of perishing tarpaulins in the corner there. Pretend it never happened. Far wiser, far safer to have a pop at a distant country, at an alien culture, at ethnic otherness. The Gravy Train dozen are negligible people, bumptious twits, abusing public money. They are symptoms of the disease which British politicians suffer: they are riddled with tertiary frivolity. They are damned with a lack of gravitas — a failing made blatantly evident by the contrast with European politicians whose behaviour and cast of mind are reproaches. The most peculiar of the dog lovers — and there is some competition — is Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham). Does the left part of his brain know what the right is up to? His enthusiasms are, evidently, dogs, along with his newfound homosexuality and Saudi Arabia. An awkward trio, to say the least.

What are we missing by not eating dog? Is it as foully emetic as whale — which I, a child of rationing, spat out at the age of four. Or is it delicious like, say, horse tartare and donkey salami? The clamour five years ago about the “adulteration” of beef and pork products by horse and donkey meat was preposterous. Dishonest labelling, sure. But an expression of speciesism as irrational as Levitical dietary stipulations.

Dog meat is a challenge for Western diplomats in south-east Asia and the Philippines. Not, however, as much of a challenge as fruit bat. That comparison is unlikely to satisfy the gastronomically curious.

Nor is the observation of a friend who ran over a fox, scraped it off the road, took it home and cooked it.

What was it like? I asked

Oh, rather like dog, he replied.

Paul Levy is more help. In his tirelessly unsqueamish gastronomic vademecum Out To Lunch he tenaciously scours the world for the taboo, the recherché, the unspeakable: insects, owls, pangolins, testicles, venomous snakes, durian, three penis wine, small birds and, of course, dog — which he eats in Macao. He describes its flavour: “Very strong, though not disagreeable . . . like mutton, venison or goat.”

Dog is probably preferable then to teats (nature’s Spam, prized in Buenos Aires), fermented trout (a Norwegian horror) and Limburger (a reeking cheese of Liegeois origin).

Here are some recipes.

First catch your dog. Or as they say in Foodworld, “source” it. In most instances “to source” means to buy it in a supermarket. The redundancy of the Bonio Bunch’s vapid posture is evidenced by the impossibility of finding this meat in Waitrose. Even Lidl and Morrisons don’t sell it. So dognapping it’ll have to be. The choice of breed is no doubt a matter of dispute among cynophages. Once it is skinned and jointed, a single former pet will, according to Paul Levy, yield four dishes: fillet, shredded and stir fried with bamboo shoots and lime leaves; a bouillon of nutritious scraps including penis and testicles; a braise of paws and muzzle; ribs steamed with black mushrooms. Enjoy.

Out To Lunch was published more than 30 years ago. Paul has been in hiding ever since. I’m off to join him.

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