As I've said before on this blog, I am not morally or politically opposed to eating meat. I have been a part time, on-and-off vegetarian over the last three years or so. I do feel strongly that western countries seriously need to reduce their consumption of meat. I believe that meat should be at most just one component of ones diet, not the central focus of it. I am uncomfortable with those who make a fetish of meat and glorify the killing of animals. And I abhor modern factory farming and other needlessly cruel methods of raising and slaughtering of animals for food.
Which is why I am bothered by the popularity of Canadian chef Martin Picard. I had never heard of chef Picard until I saw an article today about his new cookbook, Sugar Shack Au Pied de Cochon. He recently was the center of a controversy when he withdrew from a food festival in Ottawa rather than give in to activists who objected to the inclusion of foie gras on his menu. The new cookbook includes two recipes, "confederation beaver" and "squirrel sushi," that I and, I hope, almost any reasonable person will find disturbing.
What bothers me is not so much that these animals are used for food--after all, why should eating a beaver or a squirrel be any more upsetting than eating a cow or a pig?--but the mocking and gratuitously grizzly manner in which the animals are prepared and presented. The squirrel recipe, which is probably the most disturbing, is served accompanied by the tail, the paws, and the head, which are not to be eaten but are simply arranged on the plate to mimic the appearance of the living animal. The recipes are accompanied by graphic photographs.
The beaver recipe is presented in a similarly grotesque manner. I find it incomprehensible that any sane diner would react with anything but horror upon being presented with this pathetic dish. In fact, if I had seen this photograph outside of the context of the article, I would have assumed that it was a joke.
I can not help but think that these recipes are not to be taken seriously, but are in fact Martin Picard's revenge on the animal welfare advocates who brought about his withdrawal from the Ottawa Food Festival. Chef Picard makes two claims that are quoted in the article that I find laughable. The first is that he is "not political." And the second is that he is "very respectful of animals." Respectful? I can't comprehend how anybody could look at the photo above and think that chef Picard has one milligram of respect for the squirrel that he butchered to create that dish.