13 June 2021

Meat

Like most people of my generation, I was raised on meat. It was there at nearly every meal and when it wasn't there, there was fish instead. We had bacon, liver, sausages, mince, lamb, chicken, beef, roasted pork and on Christmas Day we had a big fat turkey with all the trimmings.

As a child I never even heard of vegetarianism. It wasn't a possibility and as for veganism, well I might have thought it was some obscure eastern religion. 

Once upon a raft in the middle of an Austrian lake, I pulled in a sea line with several hooks upon it. I must have been ten or eleven years old. On every hook there was a beautiful fish, writhing in the air, their silvery scales catching the sunlight of that August morning.

I called to my brother Paul who was on the shore, "I've caught some fish! What do I do?"

"Bash 'em with the paddle! Kill 'em!" he called back.

"What? I can't do that!" I said and paddled back to the shore with the writhing fish gradually dying in the air. Back on land Paul dispatched them without hesitation. They were duly gutted and my family later ate them but I could not eat a morsel. I was thinking of the fishes' bright eyes, the metallic appearance of their scales and the desperate gulping movement of their mouths.

Killing other creatures does not sit well with me. I do not like setting traps for rodents  and I even have qualms about ending the lives of garden slugs and mosquitoes. Quite literally, I would not hurt a fly.

And yet I eat meat. It's quite a contradiction isn't it? Probably hypocritical. I guess that if I had to kill a pig  and butcher it then I would not bother with pork products or if I had to kill a young sheep to get some lamb chops, I would surely turn around. 

In supermarkets, meat is presented in such a way that you kind of forget about the slaughter of animals or their death throes. It is weighed then wrapped in plastic on polystyrene trays, not far from the yoghurts, the fresh pasta and the garlic bread. There are no protesters in the aisles waving placards or chanting, "Meat is Murder!"

Our son Ian is of course fully vegan - he practises what he preaches. Our daughter and son-in-law have vowed never to eat fish again after watching the "Seaspiracy" documentary and they only eat meat at the weekend. They are currently agonising over whether to put meat in Baby Phoebe's diet when she is older.

Shirley is more enthusiastic about following their lead than I am. My meat habit is well ingrained but at least we have been consciously reducing our meat intake and plenty of midweek meals do not involve cooking the flesh of dead animals.

The way that the meat industry works has a massive impact upon global warming and this is especially true in relation to cattle farming. I am sure that you already knew that. At a personal level I guess that we should all be doing  a bit more to address climate change and reducing our meat intake is one of the ways we can all help, even if we are not ready to be fully vegetarian or vegan.

What do you think about meat consumption?

35 comments:

  1. My older daughter was vegan for many years; it's a difficult diet to maintain. She's now vegetarian and occasionally eats fish. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals because I'm not a huge fan of most meats. An exception would be roast with horseradish or fresh salmon or halibut.

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    1. The thing is that we do not need to go the whole way. Just reducing meat consumption is a massive help. At my age I doubt that I could ever go fully vegan.

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    2. Exactly! I'm definitely on the very low end of meat consumption as are you it sounds like.

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  2. I would not want to give up meat but like you, we have gradually reduced our consumption over some years. What I do want to know is that the meat I eat comes from well treated and painlessly slaughtered animals. Putting meat in a baby's diet is a tricky question and I err on the side of including it but I am sure many would disagree with me.

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    1. To prevent allergic reactions in the future, it is probably a good idea to introduce babies to a wide range of foodstuffs - including meat.

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  3. I could very easily go without the meat we have available today. It just doesn't taste good. I was bought up on grain fed beef on the farm and my Mom roasting it. Meat today doesn't even taste like the old days.

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    1. So many animals are fattened unnaturally these days.

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  4. I don't eat much meat, a small portion on my plate but I still like meat. The big guy on the other hand is a meatarian. He can't imagine a meal without meat. He's a big man and says he needs that much meat to keep him going. He says, "You don't get this big without eating meat." Unless you're a cow, or a whale or an elk.

    The funny thing is, he loves animals and I know if we ever had a farm, every single animal would have a name, they would love him and he would never eat meat again.

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    1. You could suggest just one meat-free day a week.

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  5. Raised on a sheep farm and involved in the slaughter of the 'house meat' and dog tucker, i could deal with the carcass from the point of slaughter onward but i never did any actual killing and i know my father didn't enjoy it. Like you i can kill nothing (except mozzies that are in the act of biting me). Unlike you i took meat out of my diet years ago, at first for economic reasons, and later because i realized how much more intersting meals had become (had to become) without it. I don't eat meat-like substitutes. It seems rather pointless. If one craves the texture and flavour of meat, eat meat. I have never been agaist eating meat (or fish) but believe we should only eat that which has been raised for that purpose and then only bio-ethically and humanely, and we should never deplete the wild population of anything for human food. I had my thoughts on the subject well and truly clarifed by Michael Pollans book The Omnivore's Dilemma, and recommend it to anyone thinking about changing their food habits - all food both plant and animal.

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    1. A very interesting response Tigger. Thank you.

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  6. Intrinsically we are carnivores and have been since the stone age.Personally I love meat (although for health reasons I prefer not to eat red meat) and fish and would not make a good vegetarian or vegan. Kay sees a lot of medical problems resulting from vegans who dont eat a balanced diet. I would let Phoevbe decide when she is old enough.

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    1. If we all ate less meat it would help the planet. Cutting it out completely is too much of a step for most of us.

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  7. I am a meat eater and cannot see myself giving it up, however, I am quite squeamish about the whole process of slaughtering animals. Agriculture plays a significant part in our island's economy and many families still rely on farming for their livelihood. Without our, admittedly, small-scale farmers and their husbandry of our countryside our green and pleasant fields would soon become a concrete jungle and the animals would no longer be a part of our landscape.

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    1. They haven't always been here. We look at hill farms where sheep roam and think it is "natural" but it isn't. Sheep were introduced to these islands several centuries back in history.

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  8. I gave up meat years ago, but very occasionally have chicken and fish once a week. So vegetarianism is most of my diet. Yes the killing of animals is brutal and made my decision easy, also now, with the methane question, given out by cows, less cattle on the planet would be a good thing.
    Then of course my next step would have to be cheese and butter, but am very reluctant to give them up. But the gradual introduction of veganism and vegetarian food is an absolutely good idea.

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    1. More and more people are seriously considering these questions.

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  9. There is no rose tinted spectacles concerning animal farming. What would we do with the male animals if we didn't eat them? I have raised cattle and pigs and took them to slaughter and hate them. It's not something I enjoyed but unfortunately necessary.

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    1. If the male animals had not been born you could not slaughter them.

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  10. Eating meat is a personal choice. When I was young, vegetarian was just a word, and until I was in my teens I had never been aware of knowing one. My first experience was going to tea at a friend's house, and afterwards telling my mother that we had a nice salad - except for the peanuts (which I've always hated) and they had forgotten the meat! My mother explained that was because they were vegetarian. Apparently the family were viewed with some mistrust, and were definitely considered weird!
    I eat meat and fish in moderation, and will continue to do so, as they have always been part of my diet. I have non-meat/fish days, but some of the alternatives, if I were to go wholly vegetarian, are not foods I would enjoy or even consider eating.
    Being vegetarian is not just about omitting meat and fish from your diet, it's also about reading the labels on every packet to check that there are no animal by products, that the eggs you buy are really free range, no butter, and the vegetables are organic. If you are really committed you buy your food at health food shops, although these days it's easier, with supermarkets offering organic and sustainably sourced produce.
    The slaughter of animals for food has been part of our culture, and has built up a gigantic industry over the past century. What would we do with all the surplus animals, if the whole world suddenly became vegetarian or vegan?

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  11. Same as you, Neil, I am aware of the contraditcion and hypocrisy in my professed love of animals and nature and meat consumption. Also same as you, if I had to provide for my own meaty meals, I would not eat it at all - the thought of having to take another life only so that I have meat (or fish) on my plate does not appeal at all.
    But... I like meat, I like fried sausages, I like salami and ham and bacon, and I also like filet of trout and other fish. The amount of what I eat is below average, as I usually only have any of this on weekends, and not even that is a given.
    If I had to make do without cheese and other dairy products, that would be much harder. And I know that the dairy industry is not exactly looking out for animal welfare, either.
    So, yes, the dilemma is there. Wherever possible, I rather pay more for local produce and/or from places where I hope I can trust their claim of sticking to high standards in raising livestock and growing produce.

    I admire what Ian and many others are doing, and I know it would only be a bit of an effort to imitate their shining example.

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  12. Same as you, Neil, I am aware of the contraditcion and hypocrisy in my professed love of animals and nature and meat consumption. Also same as you, if I had to provide for my own meaty meals, I would not eat it at all - the thought of having to take another life only so that I have meat (or fish) on my plate does not appeal at all.
    But... I like meat, I like fried sausages, I like salami and ham and bacon, and I also like filet of trout and other fish. The amount of what I eat is below average, as I usually only have any of this on weekends, and not even that is a given.
    If I had to make do without cheese and other dairy products, that would be much harder. And I know that the dairy industry is not exactly looking out for animal welfare, either.
    So, yes, the dilemma is there. Wherever possible, I rather pay more for local produce and/or from places where I hope I can trust their claim of sticking to high standards in raising livestock and growing produce.

    I admire what Ian and many others are doing, and I know it would only be a bit of an effort to imitate their shining example.

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  13. I find it disgusting. Like you, we had meat nearly every day when I was little, some of which I enjoyed, although I never liked greasy fatty joints and chops and gravy and often got into trouble for refusing it. The sight of cows and sheep peering out of transporter always disturbed me. Haven't eaten meat for years now. I eat fish but now realise it's unsustainable. It's just by chance that aesthetics put me on the right side of the environmental argument. Don't know how I would have coped when my mother was growing up in a Yorkshire village where they kept and butchered their own pigs.

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  14. Just a wee testimonial. A couple of years ago I went 'whole foods, plant based' as an experiment. Never felt better, enjoy my meals and wish I'd given up meat and dairy products years ago. (My dairy farming ancestors must be spinning in their graves.)

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  15. I was vegetarian for years until I met Dave, who loves to cook and serve meat. I now generally eat vegetarian when it's up to me, and eat meat for evening meals when Dave cooks. (He sometimes cooks vegetarian too, so he's trying.)

    If I had to kill my own food I would definitely be vegetarian. Unless I was starving.

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  16. As you know, we have a very different relationship with meat. My husband is a hunter and he butchers the meat himself. Neither we nor our grandchildren can fool themselves about where meat comes from. Same with fish. I do buy meat in stores sometimes. We grow a lot of our food too but I buy vegetables and fruit in stores when we crave something we're not growing. When I do buy meat, I try to buy the sort from humanely raised and butchered animals.
    Having said all of that, I don't feel entirely comfortable about eating meat. And like Steve- if I had to kill my own, I would be vegetarian.

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  17. Funny of our choice in blog topics today as mine is similar to yours in a way. I grew up on meat and potatoes at every meal but have strayed away from that greatly as I have aged. These days we probably buy and consume 40 or 50 pounds of red meat a year which sounds like a lot until I say that is for our family of five. We tend to eat a lot more chicken or seafood these days but are completely comfortable with vegetarian meals.

    I personally feel though that the whole topic of cows being bad for the environment is WAY overblown by media hype and lack of research. People always sight manure runoff as a huge issue yet grain/produce farming, urban lawn fertilizing and natural atmospheric deposits each contribute more nitrogen to our streams than cows do. Then there is the topic of cows burping and farting and yet what they rudely let fly into the environment pales in what is released when one considers all the fossil fuels we use to run things.

    On a related note, there is research being done with seaweed in cattle feed that reduced methane emissions by a whopping 90%.

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  18. I have been a vegan for the past six years. I began it for health reasons, but quickly came to the conclusion it's what's best for the planet. That said... I use to hunt (don't really have the heart for that much anymore), enjoy fishing, and still cook animal protein for my husband. We have a small herd of beef cattle (I try not to think about their future) and have bees (I do eat honey). If I were forced to eat meat again (zombie apocalypse or something), I'd try to acquire a taste for game. Harvesting wild animals seems more humane to me than the whole abattoir process. Done right, a wild animal never knows what happened and (hopefully) doesn't suffer.

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  19. My husband is a hunter. I don't have the heart for it. I eat meat but left to my own devices, I'd be happy to eat salad every day of my life. Tim would not be happy to subsist on salad alone. And so I eat meat that I could never kill which makes me a hypocrite of the highest order.

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  20. I don't want to be completely vegetarian or vegan but have been heading in those directions for probably 20 years. My efforts were hampered by a very resistant family but they have all made progress and we are more United about it these days.
    We no longer have dairy milk in the house at all, eat less cheese, less eggs, less meat etc

    I still find it harder to cook vegan and vegetarian meals, it's a whole different way of thinking and planning but it's worth the effort.

    I have known children raised vegan who were always healthy and have heard of others who struggle.

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  21. I don't know how I could live without eating meat or fish, though I do not like the thought of hunting and slaughtering animals one bit.

    That said I have thought about vegetarianism a bit lately, not for myself but because a girl in my office is a vegetarian and I have had to consider what she can and can't eat when we order lunch. It's certainly an admirable lifestyle (though I think she has to avoid meat for health reasons) It's just not for me.

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  22. I eat animals that are cheerfully wandering around until they’re killed. In Australia the cattle and sheep I buy are in pastures until they’re killed. I also eat kangaroo.

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  23. There's a mxim - I think from Michael Pollen that says our diet rules should be

    "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants'

    By eat food he means items that look like food, that are not overly processed and don't have multiple ingredients

    It's a good maxim I think.

    And as for the meat vs care for animals thing, our lives are full of small contradictions; even the vegans will have to make compromises. I'm all for healthy balance and a healthy respect for others.

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  24. I am an unapologetic omnivore and firmly believe that this is the diet humans are meant to follow. But at the same time I do not think we need anywhere near the amount of meat that is normally consumed as part of the modern western diet.

    I'm not a hypocrite and have butchered meat and fish. My dad was a big fisherman and we all got our first rods at around 3 years of age. But we were taught not to waste and it was either "catch & release" or "eat it for dinner".

    I often enjoy vegetarian meals and fully support things like "meatless Monday" but I'm afraid that Veganism is a step too far for me. I have friends who are vegan and have gamely gone to dinner at their homes or to local restaurants. I have found the food to either be quite tasteless or tasting overwhelmingly of either tomato or curry. I have a soy sensitivity so many of the products that are offered as a substitute for meat or cheese are off my menu (not to be too graphic but much of the next few days would be spent in the loo). I would much rather eat actual food than processed alternatives but to each their own.

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  25. I rarely eat meat but have no fundamental problem about eating animals, (it's what most animals do, and we are animals), if looked after well and killed instantly and without stress, it is the conditions they are kept in and the stress of the queue for the slaughterhouse that bothers me. Hence I rarely eat meat, but hypocritically I sometimes do; and modern dairy production has its cruelties too. By the way, something about me that few people can comprehend is that I don't like Yorkshire Pudding (but don't take that personally old chap).

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