Blogs Culture House Daily

Jeanette Winterson is not the only artist to have enjoyed killing animals

19 June 2014

It seems as if the author Jeanette Winterson might have a bit of a pest control problem. ‘Rabbit ate my parsley’, she tweeted, ‘I am eating the rabbit.’ Accompanied, of course, by step-by-step photos of said rabbit, from skinning to Aga. Fair enough, many might say. At least she was sensible enough to eat the rabbit that she killed (and she even gave the cat the innards. So in the process, she saved on one supermarket chicken, and one tin of Whiskas. Pretty good going, I’d say.)

But she’s far from the only artist who has demonstrated a fondness for either killing animals, or for using them as artistic props. Hemingway is probably the most famous of the lot, having written extensively about his love of big game hunting in Africa, deep-sea fishing and bullfighting, most famously in The Old Man and the Sea. As he wrote to his friend F.Scott Fitzgerald:

‘To me heaven would be a big bull ring with me holding two barrera seats and a trout stream outside that no one else was allowed to fish in and two lovely houses in the town; one where I would have my wife and children and be monogamous and love them truly and well and the other where I would have my nine beautiful mistresses on nine different floors.’

Hunting in all its forms has proved a good source of material, for painters such as Snaffles, Lionel Edwards and Munnings (who were fox hunters themselves), and writers like Siegfried Sassoon, Jilly Cooper, and even Roald Dahl. That’s not to say that all of them agreed with hunting; Dahl’s The Magic Finger shows quite clearly that he disapproved of the sport. ‘It doesn’t seem right to me that men and boys should kill animals just for the fun they get out of it,’ he wrote.

Claim your gift

In more recent years, Damien Hirst has, of course, made huge amounts of money through the taxidermy and preserving of a huge variety of animals, from sheep to sharks. Although he is said to ensure that his dead animals are ‘sourced ethically’, one of his installations, In and Out of Love, was criticised in 2012, as more than 9,000 butterflies died over the 23 weeks that the work was on display.

It isn’t always the animals that end up the worse off, though. The documentary Grizzly Man (watch it in full above) follows the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, who lived with grizzly bears for 13 summers, and was eventually killed and eaten by one. And although it was almost inevitable that Steve ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin would meet his end at the hands of one animal or another, that it was a sting ray was surprising.

Finally, though he may not exactly have been an artist in his own right, the late Chalky, a Jack Russell who belonged to the celebrity chef Rick Stein, caused an almighty ruckus when he killed the broadcaster Judith Hann’s rabbit.

I highly doubt that Winterson is even remotely bothered by the fact that some people are upset by her actions (or what PETA referred to as her ‘callousness’). After all, she was a vegetarian for 9 years simply because she objected to factory farming. As she said herself:

Here is my cat eating the rabbit innards. No waste no packaging no processing no food miles.

— JEANETTE WINTERSON (@Wintersonworld) June 15, 2014

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • DaveyT

    The only ‘art’ involved here is the out-of-proportion response it has generated. 115 million chickens are killed worldwide every day for food, 7 BILLION every year in the USA alone. None of them make it onto Twitter, as far as I know. 300 years ago everyone killed and ate rabbits on a daily basis for food – I’m sure they didn’t feel the need to tell the whole world about it. This is just a symptom of the sanitised and dull lives we lead nowadays. Let’s move on. What’s next – some ‘artist’ filming themselves taking a dump?

  • GraveDave

    Well, to do all that is one thing – or two or three things (and fair play to her). But why did she feel the need to post it on twitter? Has she not sold any books lately – or what?

    Btw, I’d not even heard of her before now.

  • zanzamander

    Did she eat the cat as well afterwards?

  • zanzamander

    To me heaven would be a big bull ring with Hemingway in his birthday suit, hiding his shrivelled private parts with his bare hands looking down at a bull stood at the other end, head down, horns pointed, nostrils flared, rubbing his hooves on the ground, raring to go.

    Now that would a “sport” worth watching.

  • Lucy Sky Diamonds

    Halal style?

  • Kennybhoy

    Good for her! :-)

  • Pier66

    Jeanette Winterson she needs a brain control… she’s SICK
    in very bad way

    • gelert


      That nasty old woman killing poor little bunny-wunnies ! I bet she eats those pretty fluffy lambs, too. Mmmm 😉

      • No Good Boyo

        I wonder if Pier66 kills rats? And spiders? And other small animals that aren’t cute?

        • gelert

          I’ve been told that young rat is like chicken.

          • No Good Boyo

            I’ve never eaten a rat, but I have eaten a squirrel, which is basically a rat that has evolved to live in trees. It wasn’t bad at all. Skinny, but some of the most succulent meat I’ve ever tasted, and reminiscent of rabbit.

    • GeeBee36_6

      Ah yes. Eating meat is ‘sick’. It is one of what might be regarded as the twin pillars of human civilisation. Agriculture (for the provision of food) and animal husbandry (er, also for the provision of food).

      The corollary of your thesis is, clearly, that humans – and especially civilised humans – are unspeakably foul. In this, of course, you are far from alone. There are, alas, innumerable others like you who neither know nor care about what it is to be human. but who treat all who might listen to an inane diatribe about how much better the world would be if only all those nice animals could be left alone to get on with the grisly business of killing and eating each other.

      • Lucy Sky Diamonds

        I dont think lions do it for fun. They do it to survive. There is a difference.

        • No Good Boyo

          You’re absolutely right there’s a difference. And while eating, for the likes of you, is a duty to be indulged with the maximum of guilt and self-flagellation, for me, it’s a pleasure. I really don’t care about the animals that I eat. I do not consider them the equal of humans, although they do taste very nice, for the most part.

          As for the shrill lectures and platitudes of your lot, you do nothing to persuade me to change my mind with all your screaming hyperbole. Seriously, why I would want to associate myself with such an unpleasant crowd of self-righteous banshees?

          Now excuse me. I’m going to indulge in a tomato and dead-cow curry for lunch, and I’m going to relish every mouthful, while not giving a second thought for the poor, suffering cow or its impact on the environment. You, of course, will probably be outraged and harangue in mighty sanctimony. I’m sure it will make you very happy.

          Do you drink beer? When first fermented, it’s cloudy with suspended sediment and tastes horrible. To clear the sediment, they add “finings”. Fish guts, that is. Veggies really shouldn’t drink beer.

          I’m going to enjoy a lovely pint of cider, complete with fish guts, with my curry.

    • Lucy Sky Diamonds

      Indeed, her bloke obviously doesn’t give her the meat she craves! she has to find an alternative.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here