Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Do we care how our meat is farmed or slaughtered?

Do we care how our meat is farmed?  Sorry, I mean our animals...

We've again seen in the news the latest scandal concerning our supermarket meat and the revelation that much of our meat is slaughtered according to Halal, albeit they tell us most is stunned.  Though the labelling isn't required to state either.

I passionately care about this matter and the wider issue of farming and animal welfare in general. Not because I am against the slaughter of animals but because I believe that every living being deserves compassion.  A farm ANIMAL should live a healthy, clean and free-ranging life before it is processed into meat.  That process too should be quick, sensitive and humane and free of any degree of preventable suffering.

So as our news screens are splattered with these stories; you remember the horse-meat scandal not that long ago and now halal and animal slaughtering methods. Should we care about any of this?


How many of us recognise the familiar ordering of a takeaway meal ..."we'll have the Bargain Bucket, the Deluxe this, the Royale that".  It's part-and-parcel of the society we live in isn't it, we are all used to and expect the two-for-a-fiver, buy-1-get-1-free offers at the supermarkets.  Do we actually care what we put in our mouths, do we even consider the processed chicken, pork, beef or horse 'meat' we are eating (or worse feeding our children) actually once lived and breathed and went moo?

And if we can even imagine the friendly-shaped bread-crumbed meat once with feathers or a curly tail do we ever then wonder how it was killed?  How it left a farm, was transported and then killed in a slaughter house?  How many of us even know how our live animals are 'normally' processed into meat to join the debate on whether discovering your kebab was stunned before it was slaughtered or simply had it's throat cut and was bled whilst a Muslim said a prayer for it, is an outcry or not?

So, perhaps you could say if I care so much I should prove it by declaring myself veggie or even vegan? No. I enjoy eating meat, but I care (and unfortunately often find myself in a complete minority in doing so).  I care about where, why and how my meat arrived on my plate.

I grew up on an intensive piggery unit here in Cornwall so have experienced first-hand exactly what happens to live farmed animals.  Ours was a small farm: 100 sows so 1000 pigs in total.  It was intensive in its methods but the scale and size meant that in retrospect it was just about acceptable, and anyway as a child you are a passive player in your up-bringing and decisions of your parents.  And that was 20-30 years ago. Today I value all the other wonderful life skills growing up farming gave me and wouldn't change it.  Except if I could (and I would) I'd own and run an outdoor pig unit today specialising in some rarer breeds of pigs delivering quality free-range slow-grown pork.

When I hear stories and read about the issues in Compassion in world Farming, whom I wholeheartedly support, I can't help wondering how many of us care?  We allow living-beings to be farmed as meat (not animals) and we allow their welfare to be compromised in the name of cheap meat.  Whilst scarcely ever considering their slaughter.  If not halal do we know the other methods?

Get involved and you can make a difference. 

Standards in the UK are thankfully regulated and are comparably good, but  it saddens me to read and hear how far the rest of the world is behind us.  And when you learn just how poor conditions are in the USA your wonder if there can ever be any hope of changing things.

Do you care?  Really?  Enough to buy free range chicken perhaps?  The price may be more, but my argument is simply that you buy less of it; you savour it; use every part of it and be thankful that it gave its life for you to eat it.  Remembering, at least it had one.  Buy British, buy outdoor reared pork, bacon, sausages, buy organic milk.  Use a local butcher who can vouch for the trace-ability of the meat.  Eat Free-Range eggs (surely everyone does that now anyway?)  Avoid most processed meat.  In buying British you can have some confidence in the way it was farmed and slaughtered, and of course you are supporting our hard-working British farmers.

As an individual by making these small changes you will make a difference.  If you want to do more and help the bigger picture then support CIWF and sign up to their newsletter or I'd recommend reading  Philip Lymbery's compelling 'Farmageddon'.  Or just spread the word (a little like I'm doing by sharing my thoughts here with you).

Do we care? No, not enough.  Should we care? Yes, much more!

I'd be interested to know what you think and how much you care so please do comment below.

You can sign Compassion's Petition against non-stun slaughter here.

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