The Null Device

Matthew Herbert vs. PETA

Conceptual electronic musician Matthew Herbert's most recent project is titled One Pig. In it, he followed a pig, from its birth to its death and butchery, recording the sounds of its life. (Well, mostly; the death part was somewhat hampered by him not having been able to find a slaughterhouse willing to let him record the pig being slaughtered.) The recorded sounds would be turned into an album of electronic music, hopefully to make the listener reflect on the relationship between us and the animals we farm and eat. However, this was not a good enough justification for the animal-rights fundamentalists at PETA, who issued a fatwa, condemning Herbert and his project:
No one with any true talent or creativity hurts animals to attract attention … Pigs are inquisitive, highly intelligent, sentient animals who become frightened when they are sent to slaughterhouses, where they kick and scream and try to escape the knife. They are far more worthy of respect than Matthew Herbert or anyone else who thinks cruelty is entertainment.
Herbert's response to the condemnation is here; it reads as thoughtful and measured when contrasted to PETA's Talibanic zeal.
I eat meat. as I get older, I feel less proud of that fact. however, since I do eat meat, I think that I have a responsibility to understand the implications of that decision. as much as I didn't relish the prospect of witnessing the death of a pig I had seen being born and raised, I felt it an important reality to face. it seems utterly absurd to me that PETA's knee jerk reaction is to chastise me in public about the integrity of that process of enquiry without even bothering to ask me about the motivation or history of the project. in an otherwise distant and anonymous food chain, this one pig's life has been clearly and respectfully acknowledged.
I thought art and music was, in part, supposed to endorse the idea of challenge. isn't part of its core purpose to struggle in public with the compromises and frictions of its time? the implication of this statement is that PETA would rather artists and musicians stood quietly to one side whilst such a poisonous and corrupt system cheerfully multiplied, unseen, unchallenged, unheard.

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