Vegans march to close slaughterhouses

Veganism is a good thing, though not I think for everybody. But as many of us have said for years – and I think I first did myself speaking in public in the early 1970s – for the future of our planet we need to eat less meat, something which has this week been reinforced by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which clearly argues the case for this, though not suggesting we should entirely stop eating meat and diary products.

Meat production can be a very wasteful business, with large amounts of edible grains being fed to animals, particularly cattle, who use it to produce large volumes of greenhouse gas methane and only relative small amounts of meat. But animals can be raised on grass or other plant material which humans cannot directly eat, and on land which is unsuitable for growing useful crops, and traditional agriculture makes use of manure to keep soil fertile, avoiding the use of chemical fertilisers that degrade the soil, as well as also having a carbon cost in their production.

The industrial agriculture that includes much of the more horrific cruelty against animals is also largely the most polluting. Banning these practices would cut the environmental impact of farming, and also greatly raise the price of meat and eggs, and also reduce the consumption of these, though unfortunately impacting disproportionally on those on lower incomes who currently rely on cheap food produced by intensive farming.

One of the advantages of a vegetarian diet is that it can be extremely cheap, and the changes that are making vegetarian and vegan foods more culturally acceptable, and convincing us all that a healthy meal does not necessarily include meat or fish (or even eggs and cheese) are welcome. Though the kind of recipes with twenty obscure ingredients and hours of cooking time which seem to be promoted in the heavier press give vegetarianism an elitist ethos. We need simple tasty meals that are easily and quickly prepared as well as veggie fast-food chains. Chips are now almost always vegetarian, and go well with patties (and chip spice), cheese and onion pies, pickles, and more.

While we still eat meat we need to kill animals. Obviously slaughterhouses should be better run and avoid any unnecessary cruelty, and there is no excuse for some of the practices that are shown in pictures and videos. When I was young my aunt had chickens in a run behind the house, and as well as eating the eggs, there came a time when we ate the chickens. I think their deaths were quick and humane, and there was no unnecessary suffering, although clearly their lives were brought to an end (as, just as clearly they had begun) by our human choice rather than their own volition.

So I have mixed feelings about veganism. While I’m entirely happy with people choosing to be vegan – as many of my friends have – I think its universal adoption would be enviromentally disastrous. And though I’m against cruelty to animals there is something about the evangelical zeal displayed in some of the posters at the event which make me uneasy. Nature isn’t vegan, which many species preying on others, and many clearly carniverous. Evolution has I think (some argue the point) made us omnivores and, while I eat relatively little meat compared with most, I do so with a clear conscience.

Close all Slaughterhouses

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