Should dogs be allowed to snowboard? Can a python have HRT on the NHS? If you break a donkey's legs, are you responsible? Why are swans?
All these and more fascinating animal ethics questions were being raised as the Green Party fired an opening shot in the London Mayoral elections with its brand new Animal Manifesto. The Greens are so far the only party to bother with a sub-section of policy based solely around animals. That is because the other parties hate animals, and peel minks like clementines just for the hell of it. It's three pages long, and full of ideas like:
“Produce comprehensive information on vegetarian and vegan diets for all boroughs and authorities so that all London's schools, hospitals and prisons offer healthy vegetarian and vegan options.”
“Lobby boroughs, the Royal Parks and other landowners to ban animal circuses.”
Policies as likely to give Boris and Ken sleepless nights as a glass of Ovaltine, a hot bath, a bottle of Evening Primrose Oil and a copy of Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. Yet the Greens had one magic weapon in their arsenal to attract an eager mob of hacks to cover them. It was hairy. It enjoyed standing on the roof of Buckingham Palace. It wrote "Driven By You". It was Brian May.
Real-life Brian May. Having his hair sniffed by an artificial dog.
This is the 'Brown Dog Statue' – erected in 1906 by anti-vivisection campaigners. And then de-erected by a lot of pro-vivisection campaigners four years later. Then re-erected in the 1980s. To this day, it is a potent beacon of hope to dismantled statues everywhere.
Brian May fucking loves animals. He has his own animal charity in Berkshire. He regularly pops up on TV to say that foxhunters are shit and badgers should be free to give TB to whomever they like. While people were interviewing him, he kept saying that he was "not political": that he'd "support anyone who respected animals". But the Green Party people were nuzzling him for all it was worth: their PR man kept humbly addressing him as "Doctor May" (the only people who don't know Brian has a doctorate in astronomy live in space).
No wonder the lad looks unhappy: the sad, hidden truth is that most of these little boys are fattened in pens, then transported hundreds of miles just to be bought and sold for photo-opps.
Wait a minute, Brian, how did you get over there all of a sudden? Oh. Sorry, looks like this is actually the Greens' mayoral candidate, Jenny Jones. If only there were some easy way of distinguishing from behind which is the veteran environmental campaigner and which is the guy who wrote the solo on "Fat Bottomed Girls". Perhaps it would have helped if Brian had brought his distinctive Red Special electric guitar with him.
Pretty soon, the hitmaker was being interviewed by real journalists like this man. “So… are you still going to be doing music?” said the man, who clearly hadn't been sent many press releases about Adam Lambert recently.
“Actually I have a number two single at the moment,” said Brian.
“Oh,” said the man. “…Did you see that thing on horses on the TV last night?”
“The real War Horse?” said Brian. “No.” Brian is probably so rich that he has enough PVRs to record all channels simultaneously and watch whichever, whenever. Real-time television is as meaningless to him as imaginary numbers.
“Do you have any animals yourself?”
“I don't talk about my private life,” Dr May said. “With good reason.”
And so the endless softballing of Dr May went on. Paxman would've wept with fury, as journalists paddled up to the man to tell him he was lovely. I resolved to hit him with an uppercut of real Woodward and Bernstein.
“What's your favourite animal?” we began.
“Well,” said Dr May, “I don't really have one. I like all animals equally. I mean, it's hard to say…”
“What's your least-favourite animal?”
Dr May sized us up a bit. We threw him a couple more: “Do you think the median London voter is actually going to care about any of this?" and: “Is there much in this manifesto that's going to be properly enforceable?” Dr May answered each at length. But by now he seemed less sure of our intent. Someone else threw him a question. He compared the battle over animal rights to the emancipation of the slaves, then pointed at me by way of illustration: “Of course, he probably doesn't believe any of this. You don't, do you?” I shrugged.
“It's like the emancipation of women,” said the sycophant, hitting his second wind.
“Precisely!” continued Dr May. “It's just going to take time for people to catch on.” He shot me another disapproving glance, and I was instantly teleported back to the tween bedroom in which I had spent many hours in idolatry, pretending to be Dr May with a red plastic child's guitar and a head full of the "Friends Will Be Friends" video. I realised that I had now poisoned every last well of innocent memories I had left, and resolved to shoot myself later in the day.
The press drifted off. Brian departed. I stared at a single beer can discarded amongst the dead leaves. “That beer can is just like how life is," I thought. “Empty. Dirty. Heavily taxed. Marketed by Lemmy from Motorhead…” I wished I were the heifer awaiting the bolt gun. The sweet thrum of numbing electricity to the temples, the hot gush of fading lifeblood, trickling down the steel sluices. Over. Finally all over.
Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes