Should This Danish Radio Host Have Killed A Rabbit On Air?

A presenter of Danish radio station Radio24syv horrified listeners when he killed a baby rabbit live on air. Asger Juhl bludgeoned the nine-week old creature with a bicycle pump and has shared photos of him cooking and eating the animal. It was featured in a segment designed to expose the hypocrisy of people that vouch for animal welfare but continue to eat unethically sourced meat. The intentions were probably noble but the stunt was ghastly. It was a useful PR tool for his show but has not truly raised awareness for the animal welfare crisis outside of the radio booth.

First of all, a confession. I am one of the people that he criticises. I spend a lot of time caring and worrying about the way we treat animals. Yet at the same time, I enjoy and regularly eat meat. At this very moment I am writing this blog post whilst preparing a meal. Outside my window, recently born rabbits are bounding about playfully and I cannot help by adore their cuteness. Asger Juhl and his producers have an important point to make. Many people are concerned about animal welfare, but not enough to overcome the pleasure they get from eating them. It is troubling to think that the few seconds of pleasure we get from consuming the flesh of a once living being is prioritised over the years of experience that animal could have enjoyed.

A big problem here is that we care about some animals more than others. This incident is particularly distressing because people adore rabbits, especially when they are named Allan and are only nine weeks old. They are seen as innocent and cute and have lost their association with food as diets have changed over time. Our domesticated animals like cats and dogs are taboo when it comes to food because we nurture them with meaningful relationships and encounter them regularly. Half of the bad reaction to the recent horsemeat scandal was because of concern over safety. But the other half was because we associate horses with loveable pets rather than slaughter for food.

The radio show has some merit in its blunt approach to the issue. We are far too removed from the processes of industrial food production. It allows us to be comfortable with our unstable hypocrisy by rarely having to confront the realities of our meals before they are neatly packaged for sale. For example, people often condemn halal slaughter (often in ignorant and Islamaphobic ways) but still are happy to eat meat. By forcing listeners to witness the horror themselves, many may have reconsidered their moral priorities.

However, this live sacrifice of an animal is deeply concerning. We must avoid using a spectacle and people's sick fascination to raise awareness of serious issues. The pornography of poverty is rife on our TV screens where sick children and mothers are shown dying of malnourishment in stark black and white images to draw out the guilt of privileged westerners. Killing an animal on live radio feels like a similarly uncomfortable spectacle. Indeed, if they really cared about the hypocrisy of animal welfare, then would they have eaten it after they had killed it? There are many ways they could have forced listeners to face the realities of the food industry without violating their own ethical principles in the process. This doesn't actually do much to raise awareness for the animals shut out in unnatural crowded warehouses or the grotesquely force fed caged geese used to make foie gras. Instead, it will be written off as the sadistic stunt of a radio presenter trying to shock his audience. The underlying questions about our own hypocrisy and the state of animal welfare need to take centre stage.
Should This Danish Radio Host Have Killed A Rabbit On Air? Should This Danish Radio Host Have Killed A Rabbit On Air? Reviewed by Ciaran McCormick on 18:21 Rating: 5

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