In light of the appointment of a ‘militant’ vegan labour MP to the position of shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs I want to put my two cents out into the world. I hope not to come across as at all hypocritical as I have spent most of my life as an engaged omnivore. I’ve seen the gruesome videos of animal slaughter and educated myself on the environmental impact animal farming has on the planet, yet I still choose to (now very occasionally) eat meat. I have tried and failed on several occasions to label myself a vegetarian and cut out meat completely from my diet. Now a few years older from the previous attempt and (if I do say so myself) a whole lot wiser, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t need to label my dietary decisions. I probably eat around 96 per cent less meat than I did two or three months ago with the odd dabble in Nandos or an indulgent seafood dish without a feeling of utter guilt that I have just eaten part of an animal. By massively cutting down my meat intake I know I have not only made myself healthier but have saved thousands of litres of water that goes into the production of meat products and though I am one person, decreased the demand for meat.
National Geographic have a handy tool that shows how much water is used in the production of different foods.
Now here is what I do not understand about the words and possible future actions of Kerry McCarthy. She likens meat-eaters to smokers and claims they/we should be treated and advertised at in the same way. Smoking is bad for our health. Right now in our life-time smoking affects us and the people around us. Eating an excessive amount of meat can for be bad for our health, is bad for the environment and allows gross cruelty to animals to continue. But there are far fewer effects that affect us directly in our life-times. Humans are selfish beings. We will usually have a higher concern for our own or our families’ well being than we do for anyone else’s let alone future, unborn generations or animals. Meat eaters cannot be treated in the same manner as smokers. Simply telling people to stop eating meat, banning the consumption of meat in public places and making it illegal for under 18s to buy meat (just carrying on the ridiculous comparison) will not be successful. It is essential that the global consumption of meat is reduced if food is to be sustainable for the ever increasing human population but this can be done by every household slowly but surely decreasing their meat, dairy and animal product use.
There is a colossal industry built on the fact that people consume meat and it would be catastrophic to see this collapse overnight. People should be encouraged to eat less meat but not through forceful means with shock tactics shoved in our faces on the underground and in ad breaks between Gogglebox on a Friday evening. The vegan utopia that the likes of PETA and seemingly some politicians hope to see in the near future is pretty much unobtainable but turning people to the idea of consuming less meat is essential for our species’ survival.
Peace, love and part-time-veganism.