The displays of meat that are too near the bone

Was it 'townie values' or squeamishness that brought an end to a 100-year-old tradition of butchers displaying animal carcasses? Vegetarian Natalie Haynes offers her thoughts

A shift was observed by the World Health Organisation back in 2010. One hundred years ago, just two-tenths of the world's population lived in urban areas. Now, for the first time in history, more people live in cities than in the countryside. And perhaps that begins to explain how city values are being exported to the country.

At least, that's the reason given for a vitriolic campaign against a butcher's shop in Sudbury, in Suffolk. JBS Butchers received anonymous hate mail, provoked by its extravagant window displays. Which, to be fair, look pretty grim to me: a parade of birds hanging beak down, punctuated with clammy-looking pigs' heads.

But they would look grim to me, because I became vegetarian 26 years ago. And at least part of the reason for that was the fact I found it impossible to cope with the image of rabbits kept by my rural, Belgian great-grandmother, and fed by me all summer before the rabbit-man came. He would kill them, skin them, and hang their glistening red corpses around the kitchen. My great-grandmother would laugh at my horror: the rabbits weren't pets, they were food. But back home in Birmingham, I had a pet rabbit, and I couldn't see the difference. Still can't.

So, I've spent years crossing the road to avoid butcher's shops and fishmongers, while I wait for the rest of you to decide that lentils are, in fact, delicious, and join me. It's never occurred to me to write in and complain, because I've always assumed you knew what you were doing. I couldn't wring a chicken's neck, so I don't eat 'em. You may well be made of sterner stuff, so you do. And until someone makes me Queen of the World, butchers won't be outlawed.

But the citizens of Sudbury are sick of the sight of a dead pig walking. And not just pigs. One complainer said, "They even had a line of squirrels across a bar. Who eats squirrel?" Aside from the obvious answer (Elvis), I guess I don't know. But a squirrel isn't very different from a rabbit, in terms of size and cuteness, and plenty of people eat those.

The National Federation of Meat and Food Traders has laid the blame squarely at the door of townies, who moved to the countryside for a better way of life, only to find that way of life staring back at them with glassy eyes through the butcher's window. Now the window display has been taken down, and the Lord of the Flies pig heads replaced with cuts of meat wrapped in cellophane. It doesn't look any less vile to me, but I'm not their target audience.

All of which makes me wonder if it's simple squeamishness, rather than townie values, that are at stake (sorry about the pun. Please don't write in). Plenty of townies will eat offal, after all. It isn't very long ago that people were shocked to discover horsemeat lurking in their lasagne. One thing you can say for an upside-down goose, still covered in feathers in the butcher's window, is that you can definitely see what it is. There are no surreptitious bits of dobbin hiding amid the feathers.

And that seems to be the problem: people still want to eat meat, but some of those people don't want to think about what's involved in that process. Sausages and burgers look so clean, it's easy to imagine they were grown that shape in a lab. But if you don't like the sight of dead animals, come over to the vegetarian camp. I promise that the eye of a potato will never follow you round the room.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little