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Why We're All Eating Pigs That Eat Fish That Eat Hens That Eat Fish That Eat Pigs

If there's one thing that makes the British peerless among their European counterparts, it's their noble history of feeding industrially reared animals the reconstituted carcasses of their animal cousins.

by Nell Frizzell
Nov 25 2014, 3:00pm

Image ​via Flickr user rumpleteaser

This pork originally appeared in VICE UK

If Visit Northumberland don't bring out a range of postcards showing anemic, eggless eider ducks hunkering down over greasy packages of cold, gelatinous fish and chips, then fuck me, tourism is redundant.​

If the image of a ​police horse being forcibly fed ​Greggs ham roll doesn't make it on to the back of the new £1 coin then, frankly, we have failed as a nation.

If the Royal Mail don't release a set of seasonal stamps featuring powdery-cheeked Coronation Street fans feeding lethal tidbits of turkey, boozy fruit cake, and globules of mustard-'n'-custard garnish to their wheezing, diabetic pets, then we have lost all sight of the meaning of Christmas.

Because if there's one thing that makes this great country peerless among our European counterparts, it's our noble history of feeding shaking, industrially reared animals the reconstituted carcasses of their animal cousins. We lead the world in traceless mammalian products and unidentified protein feed. 

Britain rules the waves of interlocking food chains.

I should know. As a child, my grandmother fed me slate-gray plates of faggots smothered in silt-colored gravy before I could even pronounce  ​Creutzfeldt-Jakob. I ate pink slices of corned beef at nursery like a kleptomaniac let loose in duty-free. I danced along the winds of BSE before the first furnaces had even been lit. And I, for one, am glad to see that the tradition of allowing animals to eat other animals beats on like an engorged heart. 

An eider duck that may or may not have recently enjoyed a slap-up fish supper. Image ​via Ken Billington

Nature recordist Chris Watson recently told BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House that visitors to the Northumberland coast have been feeding Eider ducks fish and chips. Which may seem less depressing than a land-locked seagull choking down the deep-fried bones of their flightless chicken cousins, except fish and chips basically contains no calcium. Which means those eider ducks are producing eggs that are, I imagine, little more than drops of mayonnaise in a barely feathered nest.

What's more, according to the pet company  ​Forthglade Foods Ltd.—one of those names that, like the Creaking Willow Retirement Village, already hints at the horrors that lurk beneath—5.5 million dogs owners will put their pets at risk this Christmas by feeding them a toxic stocking filler of cooked turkey bones, stuffing, raisins and chocolate. As the mistletoe ripens on the limb we will be taking a running kick at our dogs' livers. 

All of which will take people like me back to the heady days of early 90s bestial cannibalism. Of Agriculture Minister John Gummer  ​pushing a beef burger into the unsuspecting fingers of his four-year-old daughter Cordelia and telling her to think not what her country can do for her, but what she can do for her country. Forget Blur, acid house, wonderbras, The Prodigy and omelette-eyed ravers gnawing on plastic dummies—this is the 90s revival we've all been waiting for. This is taking it proper old skool.

I was five years old when the Government finally banned beef offal from baby foods. I had just started primary school when the  ​EC banned the use of cow brains and spinal cords for human consumption. I had already started babysitting when we finally stopped using mechanically recovered meat for in our meals.

As the mistletoe ripens on the limb we will be taking a running kick at our dogs' livers.

But if you think the days of protein-sourced animal feed went out with the dying notes of 2 Unlimited and Robson and Jerome then you are sorely mistaken. 

"Pig and poultry can be fed to fish all round the world and other parts of Europe, as of last June," George Perrott, Head of Animal Feed at the  ​Agricultural Industries Confederation tells me over the phone. "Although it's not fed in the UK because of contractual agreements." Although, as someone who regularly dipped her finger into the salty, multicolored flakes of fish food intended for my friend Catherine's pets, I can tell you with some authority that those reconstituted pork and poultry carcasses are delicious.

In a perfect bit of carnivorous symmetry, pigs and poultry can also be fed on fishmeal. "The restrictions on feed came in after BSE. Fishmeal got caught up in it because you couldn't differentiate it from the other animal protein sources," says George. "There's nothing wrong with fishmeal—it was just difficult to demonstrate that it wasn't one of the meat or bonemeals you were looking for." 

Of course,  ​neither fish, pig, nor chicken can be fed to UK cattle or sheep. I mean come on, that would be revolting. "It comes from an ethical perspective because cattle are deemed herbivores," says George. "There would be political resistance, post-BSE, when it was frowned upon to feed carcasses to herbivores. Mind you, how they ethically account for pig and poultry I'm not entirely certain." 

The simple world of ground-up spines and tasty cow brains is, it seems, a messier, fishier place these days.

But then again, who are we to draw a line in the offal? To impose our moral relativism onto the foaming brains of our bovine companions? Who among us can honestly say they haven't secretly enjoyed the odd, salty morsel of a dog chocolate? Or pushed a clandestine handful of hamster yoghurt drops into our cheeks when we hope nobody's looking? Sometimes the line between human food and animal feed is fish flake-thin and just as muddled.

After all, it's like my old grandad always said: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Although, if you're a Glaswegian ex-con, you might be able to make it eat a ham roll.

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