To meat or not to meat?

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/).