To meat or not to meat, that is the question... well my question anyway. I grew up on a farm in central Eyre Peninsular, South Australia. We were predominantly a cereal cropping farm, but we also ran a few head of sheep and cattle for meat and wool, this meant that for most of my childhood we killed our own meat.
As with most children who grow up on a farm, my siblings and I have a very clear idea of exactly how our meat makes it on to our plates. Dinner was a standard meat and three veg affair, with the meat component being dictated by what had been killed and was filling the freezer.
So perhaps this is where my predicament started? I understand that meat is an industry, the sale of animals as food supports many families across Australia and the world. However as far as I knew whilst I was growing up, all of these animals were kept on farms that were similar to the one I grew up on. They roamed the country side, occasionally being moved from paddock to paddock to allow for cropping and feed regeneration until one day they were taken just down the road to be slaughtered. (There was an abattoir about 5kms from my house.)
Now I don’t want to pretend that we were so isolated that we didn’t know any other way. There was a small town about 15kms away and the city of Port Lincoln about 180kms away so of course I had seen the meat section in the big name supermarkets but my childish mind assumed these animals had spent their life the same way as the happy animals on our farm.
I am now almost 30 and have seen a few more things, travelled the globe to some extent and been exposed to a few harsh realities of what actually happens within the meat industry. It appears that the demand for meat is higher than what can be produced economically in an ethical farm situation.
The areas the animals are kept in are getting smaller and smaller, with some not actually ever getting the chance to use their legs before they end up in live transport to a slaughtering facility. There are ‘bobby calves’ who are a ‘bi-product’ of the dairy industry where cows have to be kept pregnant and/or lactating to maintain their milk supply who are killed before they are a month old just to feed the want (http://freefromharm.org/dairyfacts/).
My question is, why do we need so much meat? Think about how many meals you eat each day or week that contain meat. Does there really need to be that many? Do we really need to be eating ‘spring lamb’or ‘bobbi calves’ ? Isn’t there a better way of doing this?
I am a vegetarian, however I have only become a vegetarian in the last 6 months. I won’t deny for one minute that I find it hard, that I miss that rack of lamb, those chicken wings or a perfectly cooked steak. I cannot however, bring myself to eat the meat of these beautiful creatures when I know how they spent their lives before ending up on my plate.
Is the cruelty really necessary? I guess my point is, you do not have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to understand that the way we farm, transport and kill our meat is not okay.
To be raised in a tiny cage, unable to move, walk around, stretch your legs or maintain your instinctive animally behaviour; to then be loaded into a loud truck, startled and scared, with adrenaline pumping and driven for gosh knows how long or how far before being stored, ready for slaughter simply isn’t okay in any light. Check out this link for more information. http://www.sustainabletable.org.au/Hungryforinfo/Pigs/tabid/110/Default.aspx
Animals are often treated as meat before their lives have actually ended.
All of these thoughts pass through my head on a daily basis.
It hurts to see the chicken truck. You know the one I mean. It travels down the highway, through your town or city with crates of chickens stacked high. The feathers are flying out the back and the chickens are not moving. This isn’t because they are dead, it is because they don’t have any room to move and in many cases they never had any room to move.
It’s a huge problem, I am aware that by not eating meat I am not moving mountains to change things. However perhaps my voice will make others think. If you are not ready or don’t want to become a vegetarian or vegan, the least you can do is be aware. Buying meat ethically is generally more expensive than buying from a big supermarket, but at least you know more about where the animal has come from. Shop for your meat using your head and a conscious heart instead of thinking about your wallet.
Buy organic, free range meat. Buy from small, local farms. Do some reading on where your meat comes from, what that animal went through before ending up on your plate. Remember that a life has been taken for your dinner.
If you eat meat, make sure it is ethically raised and killed. If money is a big concern for you, then try smaller portions of meat, or a meat free day of the week to recoup the cost. Big industries can be changed with small changes by the majority, and it starts with you.
References and some interesting, thought provoking reading.