The M&S star is 25 years old. But why has no-one considered the strangeness of a pig sweet made with real pigs?by Chris Townsend / October 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
July this year marked the 25th anniversary of Percy Pig, impossible though that might seem—for many of us, it feels as though he and his cohort are relatively recent additions to the shelves of Marks and Spencer. Percy, a squishy, vaguely fruit-flavoured sweet in the shape of a smiling anthropomorphic pig has proven himself to be doubly irresistible to the consuming public: cute in appearance; delicious in taste.
In the year that he first hit megastardom, 2008, he raked in over £10 million for M&S on his own. Since his inception, he has birthed piglets, married a lemon-flavoured pig called Penny (a confused nod to gender equality, no doubt), released “rosy noses” and “phizzy pig tails,” befriended a sheep and a cow (“Percy and Pals”), and met a tiger and a panda under his guise as a “globetrotter.” He has also, since 2011, made appearances as “Veggie Percy.”
Veggie Percy differs from ‘regular’ Percy in two key ways. First, the little pig faces now have green ears. Second, the packaging proudly indicates that the sweets are “gelatine free,” and are thus suitable for vegetarians. According to the M&S website, now “even more people can enjoy” Percy, as he no longer contains elements of a real animal.
This is, one feels, a strange move for a retailer to make—to generate noise about the implicit moral superiority of a new product, whilst knowing it will only draw attention to the more dubious qualities of the main event. Think of H&M’s current “Conscious-sustainable style” line (which can be found on their website when you choose to, quote, ‘Shop by Concept’); by creating a distinct space for ‘ethical’ clobber, they’ve rather undermined the status of the rest of the clothes they sell. And sure enough, it is the existence of the ethical Veggie Percy that draws most attention to the hidden truth of regular Percy: that he contains not just gelatine, but “Pork Gelatine.”
In Douglas Adams’s superlative The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Arthur Dent, an evacuee of the recently destroyed planet Earth, sits in a restaurant and is waited on by “a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type.” All of the dinner options that the cow rattles off are to come from its own body: it has been bred to take sycophantic pleasure in presenting itself as dinner. Arthur queasily orders the salad. This episode influenced Julian Baggini’s book of philosophical thought experiments, The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten; in the titular passage, a man named Max meets a talking pig named Priscilla, who has been genetically engineered to look forward to being killed, cooked, and consumed (“Max thought it would be disrespectful not to eat her”).