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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A load of hogwash ...

For some years now I have been a collector of soft toys in the form of pigs. My pigs, which all have names, and are formed into family groups of Mum, Dad and babies (porklets), have their own sties in the form of several shelves in our bedroom. They have their own individual lives, loves and careers much the same as humans, and their own family histories. It is part of an elaborate fantasy, which one day (perhaps quite soon), I may write a book about. It would make a wonderful cartoon.

The latest addition to the porcine family is a Russian pig named Sergei, who was left on our doorstep the other night by our neighbours John and Marian. A note was attached to his box to say that Putin had exiled him from Russia, and that when he landed at Hogrow Airport, immigration officials had given Sergei our address. He is settling into his new sty nicely, and has been joined by his wife (sow) Anoushka and son (porklet) Dimitri. Anouskha and Dimitri exist for the moment as etheric pigs without physical form, forms for which we need to buy. This morning then I was surfing the net looking for some suitable piggy toys when I found an article which must be true (since it has featured in none other than The Sun) stating that in the town of Dudley, West Midlands, soft piggy toys and in fact anything porcine, have been banned for fear of offending Muslim employees in the run up to Ramadan.

I wondered at first whether this was all hogwash .... but no, it is very much true, these delightful cuddly animals have indeed been banned. Anything porcine - from soft toys to pigtures of pigs on calendars have been banned following a complaint from a Muslim employee. Even a tissue box bearing images of Winnie the Pooh has been forcibly removed.

The partner of one of the members of staff in the Ednam Road Department, who chose to remain anonymous, said: "It's caused a bit of an atmosphere in the office. The staff did comply but it's just crazy - things like ornaments that have been on desks for years have had to be removed."

Head of Finance at the Council, Mike Williams, said a decision will be made after Ramadan ends as to whether these items will be allowed back. When asked what reason the member of staff gave as to why he or she found these images so offensive, he said "It did not matter why it was considered offensive". He did however acknowledge that some members of the department had seen it as "political correctness gone barmy".

Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, a practising Muslim, backed the ban and said he agreed with the action taken. He also said: "If it is a request made by an individual and other officers can reason a compromise, it is a good thing. It is a tolerance and acceptance of their beliefs and understanding".

Well I am sorry Mahbubur but tolerance and understanding cut both ways - if we have to be tolerant of your ways then you also have to tolerate of ours - and not take life so damned seriously - this is indeed political correctness gone stark, raving mad. It reminds me of the case in Sudan a few years ago when a British school teacher was incarcerated for naming a teddy bear after the Prophet Mohammed. I mean for God's sake (no pun), it is just a bear (or a boar - in more ways than one) and it doesn't mean anything !

Putting up with things that we do not like is part of life - be it pigs, or anything else. As a vegetarian I don't particularly like handling meat in my job, neither do I like listening to other people's loud music or children, but I have to put up with it. No one as far as I know is suggesting that Muslims should eat pork, so I really don't see what the problem is. While there are undoubtedly some very good aspects to Islam (such as tithing) this sort of thing really does them no favours at all and reinforces the idea that it is controlling religion that wants everything their own way. I hasten to add that these are not my views - I have worked with several Muslims over the years, and for the most part, found them to be highly intelligent people that know their own minds, without trying to get you to change your own. Acceptance and tolerance are the key words.

Michael Mallin has a very interesting article about this on his website, with some fascinating facts about pigs that I encourage you to read. He also details some interesting facts about pigs.

I discovered some for myself, which are as follows:

Pigs are highly intelligent and fast learners. They rank fourth in animal intelligence after chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants. Piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called.

Contrary to popular opinion, pigs are very clean. They keep their toilets separate from their living or eating area. Piglets just a few hours old will leave the nest in order to relieve themselves.

Pigs have no sweat glands, hence the need to wallow, usually in mud, although if available, they prefer water. The layer of dried mud protects their skin from the sun. Pigs are also great swimmers.

Pigs have a great sense of smell. Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. They have a wide field of vision, as their eyes are on the sides of their heads.

Wild pigs are omnivorous, eating both meat and vegetables. Corn is considered the best domesticated pig food. It is illegal in Australia to feed commercial, farm or pet pigs any type of meat.

Pigs have also played an important role in many ancient cultures and feature prominently in mythology from around the world. The pig was seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity in ancient Britain and Ireland. Traces of this can be seen in the tradition of piggy banks, seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

In the Hindu tradition, the divine mother Varahi was the Earth Sow. In Egypt, the sow or female pig, was sacred to Isis, and sacrificed to Osiris. The infant, Zeus, King of the Greek gods, was nursed by a pig. In Ancient Egypt, the sky-goddess, Nut was depicted as a sow suckling or swallowing her piglets which became the sun and the stars.

The pig is also there in Christian mythology, with the boar as a symbol for Christ, due to his strength and fearless passion.

The pig then far being unclean, should be highly revered as the sacred and special animal that he (or she) is and not banned from offices or anywhere else. Of course we should respect a Muslim's right not to eat pork, in the same way that my right not to eat meat at all should also be respected, but banning images of pigs altogether is taking things just too far, and as far as I know, is definitely not a part of this of this religion. If you choose to live in a country then you should do your best to fit in by honouring their traditions and their ways, as we are expected to honour their traditions and ways, by for example covering our shoulders and legs. Religion as Michael Mallin says, is a private freedom outside the public sphere. It should stay that way.

I do not write this to offend, but rather, to make people think. This is political correctness that has gone too far. The Muslims are not the only ones who are offended - I and many right minded British citizens (including no doubt many less radical Muslims themselves) are incensed by this stupidity, which is almost laughable. I would be taking it a step too far to say that I was actually offended, for this is a strong word, but it shows just how ridiculous this religious gravy train has become. So I say, bring back the Dudley Pigs - and save their bacon now!

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