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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.


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.