Meat is murder?
Really interesting piece on Radio Four’s Today programme this morning. The lusciously voiced Sarah Montague sat down with Jonathan Safran Foer and adopted Westcountry foodie Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to discuss the ethics of the meat trade.
It was a very middle-class argument.
US writer Jonathan Safran Foer has written a book documenting the horrors that go on in battery farming. He was so shocked by what he found that he became a veggie – even for that great American feast, Thanksgiving. He was arguing that this was the only way to force producers to stop mistreating animals. He also laid the blame for global warming at the door of farming.
HFW, on the other hand, has written a book called Meat, so despite his championing of free-range (battling Tesco amongst others), he argued that there are enough good farmers out there to allow us to eat flesh ethically.
You can read a shot article on it – or listen to the six-minute recording – here and I suggest you do.
I’m aware that HFW has his critics, but I find myself agreeing with him – to a point. The idea of abandoning meat is wrong and damaging both to health and to farmers livelihoods. But that isn’t to say they don’t need to sharpen up a bit.
But by arguing over the ethics of meat, they ignore the real factor driving factory production – economics. Only by using a combination of economics and ethical distaste can they “force” factory farms and the Government to agree to better conditions for livestock. A Tesco Value chicken is still cheaper than a shiny organic free-range one, though that assumes you buy both in a supermarket. Get thee to a regular butcher and to be honest I see very little price difference. Plus you know your money isn’t going into a shareholder’s yacht fund. There is also the fact that with a sales drop during a recession, the price you may pay for a decent cut may drop as the market hardens like a McDonald’s addict’s arteries.
The point is that an economic stand will worry battery farmers more than a ethical one, they know that the animal welfare lobby is still so small compared to the general meat-eating populace that for now at least they have little to worry about. Hit them in the pocket, that’s the only way to get them. You’ll also be doing a favour to Westcountry farmers, who are by and large on the ethical free-range side of things anyway.
It’s up to you.
Politics over, next post will be on cupcakes. Game on.