Sunday, December 06, 2009

I'm an arthropod ... get me out of here

And so another year's worth of freak shows - Strictly Come Dancing, X Factor, I'm a Celebrity ... etc. - reach their sorry end. And I find myself wondering if Lord Reith is spinning so fast in his grave that we could hook him up to the national grid and use him as a dynamo.

Yet again, some J-List 'celeb' will have their flagging career boosted by being a slightly less-worse dancer than their peers (providing they're not in custody that is). Once again, Simon 'Scrooge' Cowell will deny us a decent Christmas Number One by fielding some undoubtedly talented but otherwise forgettable R&B balladeer (Steve Brookstein - where are you?). Come on Simon! Why don't you at least get them to sing a Christmas song? That way we'd have something festive at the top of the charts. This week bookies have accused Cowell of ruining Christmas and claim that they may not take bets on next year’s charts. Since The X Factor started producing singles each December, no other artist stands a chance of scooping the top spot of the year. Rupert Adams, a William Hill spokesman, told The Telegraph: 'The Christmas number one has been the most popular festive flutter for 30 years but we will probably not bet on it next year as it is an X Factor benefit.' It has become such a hot issue that some people feel driven to do something about it. An internet campaign has started on Facebook (see here) to get metal heads Rage against the Machine to Number One instead. Sadly, it is probably doomed to failure but what a lovely thought. Meanwhile, you can do your part by not downloading whatever damned pap Uncle Simon lobs at you.

But my biggest and smelliest dollop of ire this year goes to I'm a celebrity... get me out of here, which has now sunk to levels so low that centipedes could scuttle over it. News reaches us that the new 'King of the Jungle', Italian chef Gino D'Acampo and actor Stewart Manning (who?) are being prosecuted for killing and eating a rat on the show. While there is normally no problem with such an action - rats, like rabbits and other wild animals, are perfectly acceptable game animals - their actions contravene the rules about what is acceptable broadcasting for that time of day. 'The killing of a rat for a performance is not acceptable. The concern is this was done purely for the cameras,' said David O'Shannessy from the New South Wales RSPCA. I couldn't agree more. But why stop at mammals?

I've blogged before about 'species-ism' so I won't engage in an extended rant. But I must again make the central point that many people make value judgements about living creatures based upon how close they are to us on the family tree of life. Hence, we baulk at stabbing a panda but will happily stick a hook through a fish's jaw, boil a lobster alive and drown slugs in beer. Pretty = good. Ugly = bad. But why should any form of life be considered more valid than any other? I have no issue with killing animals for a purpose, such as food. But I'm a great advocate of humane dispatch and I cannot abide cruelty, which is why I cannot understand how TV allows celebrities to eat worms and bugs while they're still alive. Yes, it's how animal predators eat and, yes, if I had to do it to survive I would have no hesitation whatsoever. But this, remember, is done solely for our amusement. And that, I'm afraid, turns my stomach more than any amount of kangaroo anus biltong or monkey spunk milkshakes ever could.

We call ourselves a nation of animal lovers and yet we allow this kind of cruelty to be shown in the name of entertainment. Let's not pull any punches here; it is the televised killing of living creatures for no other reason than the pleasure of those watching. Is there really any difference, morally, between this and bullfighting? Or dog fights? I am pleased to report that TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham agrees with me. He recently accused the show's producers of plugging up spiders' fangs, needlessly killing insects and tying crocodiles' mouths' shut. 'And who wants to be in a tank full of water with Jordan writhing around you?' he told The Sun. 'If Jordan wants to go back in the tank they should take the ties off their mouths.'

And let's not forget the celebrities who endure this kind of humiliation - we laugh at them too, just as we laugh at the obviously mentally ill and horribly delusional who make up a goodly percentage of the wannabes that caterwaul their way through the X Factor auditions. After three decades of enlightenment regarding sexism, racism, ageism, ableism and every other kind of -ism, isn't it shameful that we seem to have reverted to the jeering hordes who once poked fun at the circus freaks or who paid to visit the inmates at Bedlam? Shame on us. We're better than that.

I've just had a delicious thought ... wouldn't it be grand if the invertebrates of the world had their own version of I'm a celebrity ... where insects, spiders and other assorted arthropods were forced to endure being stuck in a tank with almost-celebrities?

It would be hosted, naturally, by an Ant and Decapod.


Winifred said...

Mmmm. Not sure I'd call I'm a Celebrity and X Factor entertainment. Think that contravenes the Trades Description Act!

At least with Strictly Come Dancing, there are nice frocks to look at!

Karen Redman said...

Oh YES! Couldn't agree more with you if I tried about this genre of programme. Can't watch - WON'T watch.