The sickness of virtue-signalling is not confined to the woke Left, but has taken hold of our body politic as a whole
Momentous political events have been witnessed in the House of Commons over the last two months — developments which may well shape British politics for a generation to come. But let us turn to political events which may at first seem extremely trivial. Backed by 11 other Conservative MPs, mostly on the Brexiteering ERG right of the party, Bill Wiggin used the Ten Minute Rule Procedure to introduce the Dog Meat (Consumption) Offences Bill. This would make it a criminal offence to consume dog meat or to transport, possess or donate dog meat for the purpose of consumption.
Why should a Private Members’ Bill with close to zero chance of becoming law concern us? Because it very neatly illustrates what is wrong with political discussion, and wider public discourse, in the United Kingdom, indeed in the Western world. We make no apologies for unleashing Jonathan Meades to take issue with this affront to all sense so symptomatic of what is wrong with contemporary debate.
Wiggin admitted in his Commons speech introducing the bill that “there is no evidence that dogs are eaten in the UK”, but that — noting that the United States, Germany, Austria, South Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong have already banned the consumption of dog meat — he would “like our country to join in setting an example”. Note that while Wiggin states that 30 million dogs are eaten worldwide each year — 10 million of them in China — there is no evidence that any dogs at all are eaten in the first four jurisdictions which have banned its consumption. In other words, what we are talking about is legislation as virtue-signalling and feelgood statement.
Wiggin argues that the production of dog meat is often cruel. Not many would dispute that battery chickens don’t exactly have a peachy life, but no one other than the most extreme proselytisers of veganism proposes that the consumption of chicken should be prohibited. My own preferred cruel meats are foie gras and white veal. The Chinese and Koreans do not want to deny us our wiener schnitzels and tournedos rossini — it is Michael Gove who wants to prohibit that delight. Why should we then deny East Asians their dog stew?
Wiggin’s proposal makes dog meat more taboo than heroin — it would make its consumption an offence. The consumption of Class A controlled drugs is not an offence; it is their possession, distribution and supply that are criminal matters. (Admittedly, arguing that someone had consumed heroin or cocaine without possessing it would be an impressive feat of fallacious dexterity.)
Rather than putting wholly unnecessary laws on our statute books, it would be better if Wiggin and his supporters could just read Wendy Cope’s poem “Kindness to Animals” to each other:
And at least I can truthfully say
I have never, ever eaten a barn owl,
So perhaps I am OK.
While Wiggin’s current attempt will fail, a ban on dog consumption — probably via an amendment to a suitable government bill which no one is brave enough to oppose despite its obvious absurdity — will surely be soon upon us. The mostly right-wing proposers of this piffle would hate to be told that they are singing from the same hymn sheet as the social justice warriors they abhor. As Toby Young shows (page 26), for today’s SJWs, people who express the “wrong” opinions should not be defeated in debate but anathematised for simply expressing opinions outside the framework of what is deemed acceptable opinion.
We are living in a climate where legislation is too often passed — and indeed wider societal action taken — not because it is effective, but as a statement about what good, caring people we are. Taking down statues of colonial heroes will not improve the lives of a single person in the formerly colonised countries, yet it makes student activists feel better about themselves. The same superficial impulses are driving our dog meat banners. The sickness of virtue-signalling is not confined to the woke Left, but has taken hold of our body politic as a whole. It is one of the roles of Standpoint to point out virtue-signalling nonsense, regardless of where on the political spectrum it comes from. Squeamishness is no excuse for not tackling tough issues.
Vegan feminists have adopted “Eat Rice Have Faith in Women” as a slogan — it was popularised by the seminal text in that genre, Carol J. Adams’s 1980 treatise, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. Adams concludes that “Eating rice is faith in women.” Those of us who are fed up with the moronification of our politics and our wider public debate should perhaps adopt “Eat Dog and Stand Up for Sanity” as our slogan. It may be a tough, distasteful job — but someone has to do it.