Can religion make animals disappear?

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Honestly, who’d be a pig these days?

It was bad enough in the 70s and 80s when you were associated with the police force (George Orwell’s doing?). Now, your very existence is regularly said to offend both Jews and Muslims.

The latest example of this is an attempt (ultimately futile, but why let that get in the way of a good rant?) in Yorkshire to make a school play featuring the Three Little Pigs change the said porcine characters into canines, on the grounds that it would offend Muslims.

This is of course palpable nonsense. Not only are living pigs not offensive to Muslims (it is the smoke-cured variety that causes them difficulty), but living dogs very much are. Actually, let me be clearer, it isn’t forbidden to own a dog in Islam, but there are certain restrictions on what you do with it regarding purity laws. As with many religions though, cultural practice is often assumed, by practitioners and outsiders alike, as being religious decree. I’ve known Muslims who had a problem with dogs, either regarding them with utter contempt, or having an irrational fear of them. Indeed, the dislike of dogs has been cited as part of a rejection of Zoroastrianism, which highly valued dogs. The rise of Islam in Persia went hand in hand with a persecution of Zoroastrianism and cultural norms about not liking dogs may have started then.

Yet, because the most that the average brainless local government bureaucrat knows about Islam is that his Friday night kebab doesn’t have any pork in it, the rise of the pig as the ultimate in pariah animals has been inexorable. A friend of mine who used to work in educational publishing once told me that she had got a furious complaint, from a teacher who made it clear that she was not herself Muslim, because they had published an alphabet wall chart with “p” for “pig” on it. Last week I mentioned the ludicrousness of the Ham and High of all newspapers claiming that Labour was anti-semitic for portraying Michael Howard as a flying pig.

In turn, I have no doubt that this will become mutually reinforcing. Anxious Jews and Muslims, reaching out to find new examples of how they are being persecuted, are bound to lap all this up. Soon, people will be calling for Charlotte’s Web to be banned (Wilbur is an innocent being manipulated by the sinister, spidery Charlotte whose actions are driven by the Zionist Protocols); I can guarantee that the loony fringe of the Jewish lobby will start asserting that Animal Farm is anti-semitic (after all, Nelson=Marx, and Marx was a Jew). The lunacy can only continue. The only logical outcome of all this is to ban the pig, not merely the animal, but the concept itself. Only then can we guarantee that Jews and Muslims, and people claiming to be speaking for Jews and Muslims, will not be traumatised by their existence.

All of which suggests that Heather Mills is perhaps not thinking things through in her latest attempt to get the public on her side by convincing them she is Linda McCartney protesting at how pigs are treated on farms. She might just as well start doodling pictures of Mohammed.

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