During a segment this week on the BBC’s Newsnight, Guardian journalist and environmentalist George Monbiot brought a squirrel with him and cooked it on the air in an effort to shed light on factory farming and the ethics of eating meat.
Monbiot was demonstrating the process by which he had eaten a squirrel he found as still-warm roadkill. Not surprisingly, his actions drew social media outrage as many viewers were unable to stomach the idea of roadkill as food.
Newsnight host James O’Brien was unapologetic, however, saying that although it was understood that the footage might be considered disturbing, “meat does come from animals, and yet many of us seem to forget that.”
Monbiot followed his television appearance with an editorial in The Guardian in which he attempted to make sense of the outrage.
“On one level, I think I can understand these comments,” Monbriot wrote. “We have become so far removed from the realities of meat production that anything which reminds us of where it comes from and how it is processed (let alone reared) is disturbing and dissonant. So it should be, given the realities of factory farming and slaughterhouses. But it seems to me that some people have confused what is customary with what is ethical.
“Familiarity can render any kind of horror invisible and the common modes of livestock production are no exception. It is the unfamiliar that attracts opprobrium, even if it inflicts no harm.”