29 SEPTEMBER 1984, Page 7


Was it illegal? Was it cruel? And where did they get the sheep? Last week's embarrassment in Roehampton has brought out the worst in both countries concerned: the sentimental British hyp- crisy about animals; and the Iranian habit of killing in public. There is no particular evidence that killing sheep by cutting their throats is crueller than killing them after you have stunned them with electricity first. As the Islamic Society points out, when human beings are given stunning electric shocks — as is done in ECT to schizophrenics — they are -given a general anaesthetic first. But in British slaughter- houses the electric shock is given instead of an anaesthetic. No one who has ever killed a sheep can suppose that the brutes enjoy the process much however it is done; but it remains arguable that the Kosher and Halal methods of slaughtering are less painful than anything approved by the EEC. Meanwhile The Forestry Commis- sion, an organisation almost as sinister, has also got into undeserved trouble, by put- ting squirrel pie on the menu at a dinner for conservationists. A Mr 'Doug' Fraser, who had been invited to the feast, but had no plans to eat the main course, told the Daily Telegraph that 'I know grey squirrels have to be culled, but culling them is one thing, and putting them in pies quite another.' Quite apart from the fact that squirrel pie is an old-established delicacy, what possible harm is done to a dead squirrel by cooking and eating it? Conser- vationists'may well be wrong to argue that squirrels need to be 'culled'; but the argument that squirrels are delicious is unanswerable. Anyway, it is hard to escape the suspicion that the diplomat who killed a sheep would not so have shocked the British if the regime that he serves was not loathed by all civilised people for killing so many human beings — a loathing only slightly mitigated by the fact that the Ayatollahs have a weakness for killing Iranian students . . . And this leads to a further reflection: the sheep was killed in the road because there was a gutter and drain convenient there. Had it been killed in the extraterritorial garden of the diplo- mat's embassy, there could have been no fuss, though there would have been a lot of blood on the grass at the next reception. But what is to prevent the Iranians from holding public executions in the Embassy Garden? They could raise large quantities of money from the animal-loving British public by selling tickets.