What is it about this time of year when our thoughts on one hand are turning to green shoots, rebirth and celebration of life in general but on the other hand there is the inevitable bit of wanton cruelty and sacrificial killing. Don’t get me wrong, a bit of memento mori is always a good thing but not when this involves the goading or slaughter of some poor unfortunate animal. Now, as far as we in the UK were concerned this was always quite straightforward as it was always ‘those filthy foreigners’ who had a penchant for publicly torturing a donkey or pushing a goat off a tower. Oh yes, we Brits could sit back quite smugly and tut tut at the latest red-top headline presenting single cases of animal cruelty for our prurient pleasure whilst dismissing the whole area of fox-hunting and field sports as ‘something for the toffs’. But where would we Brits be without our staggering sense of hypocrisy?
Which brings me to the Grand National – the annual gore-fest masquerading as a cute and cuddly national treasure whereby ‘ordinary people’ are encouraged to have a flutter. Actually most people in this country have seen sense and have no interest in it, so it’s been left to the ‘I’m-worth-it’ brigade: women teetering on Jimmy Choo copies, with Asda fascinators, sipping prosecco; the blokes tanking up on over-priced lager and moronically betting on anything that moves. A little bit of the toffs’ lifestyle packaged up in digestible chunks for the working classes. Because that’s what it’s all about, eh? The ‘lifestyle’ as presented by the media.
But who would want to promote this tawdry and increasingly unpopular spectacle? Step forward Channel 4, giving themselves a break from showing programmes about diseased body parts with titles that would have been rejected by the Sunday Sport. My god, I didn’t think they could sink any further but they certainly have with their incessant and tasteless-in-extreme trailers for not only the event itself but a series of ‘specials’ that make the Carry On films look like Ibsen! And what glittering roster of talent do they have on these ‘special’ programmes? Well, it looks like a round-up of the current usual suspects hoping to showcase their latest book/TV show/contents of their handkerchief… Most bizarrely of those – or maybe not – is ‘vegetarian and Buddhist Russell Brand’. Hmmm… well it’s not for nothing that they say Buddhism is the perfect pick ‘n’ mix religion for showbiz folks… It’s like when they hastily erect a screen round the latest equine casualty and the focus shifts to another part of the ‘grand day out’ as a distraction – but do Channel 4 really think this shoddy piece of tinsel is enough to take our minds off a cruel event that if it played out on the streets of an Italian town would have our own tabloid hacks going into xenophobic overdrive instead of offering a free bet? Tell them to stuff it and support the anti-National petition or support Animal Aid in their campaign.