BBC Pebble Mill,
Sunday, 16th April, 1995.
Dear sir or, indeed, madam,
Now here's a thing: as you will be aware, there has been a lot of brouhaha in the press recently regarding cruelty to animals, especially with regards to packing up calves into boxes and shipping them off to France to be made into paté and such like.
Although neither a rampant vegetarian nor a lesbian myself, I, and I believe most other British citizens, have a lot of sympathy for animal welfare causes. It came as something of a shock, therefore, to hear on this morning's omnibus edition of The Archers a milk cow lowing in obvious distress. As cows, unlike dogs and other intelligent animals, are not really capable of being trained in acting rôles, I can only surmise that the animal in question was in genuine distress.
Although I am sure that The BBC tries to take the best possible care of the animals in its employ, it seems stupid to me to drag a fully-grown milk cow into a recording studio in the middle of a major conurbation, such as Birmingham, for what is, in effect, a walk-on part. The natural habitat for cattle is the open field and placing them in an artificial environment like that is bound to cause distress to the creatures, no matter how well they are treated. It is precisely that sort of action that the animal rights protesters are objecting to.
The BBC has so far managed to keep out of the current animal rights controversy. As a keen The Archers fan, I should hate to see the programme disrupted by militant types, trying to ensure better animal welfare for the actors. As a suggestion, would it not be possible to employ an animal impersonator, such as the excellent Percy Edwards, for the animal rôles, thereby allowing the animals themselves to remain in their fields, doing what they're best at, namely producing milk?
PS What I have said above is clearly not intended to apply to chickens and other poultry.