Well a few days ago I gave up meat. A small step to another way of eating or an even smaller step along a journey? Who knows?
So what do I mean when I say that I have become a vegetarian? It means that I have given up eating meat, that tasty stuff you fry, roast, grill, grind and process, the flesh of animals. I haven't given up animal products, I'm still eating butter, milk and wearing leather on my feet. Maybe that's for the future, maybe not. Do I still eat fish? Don't know, haven't crossed that bridge yet.
The reason? Perhaps the first and most pressing is simply cruelty. There have been a number of news reports recently where cruelty has been exposed in piggeries and elsewhere. One of the most shocking for me was the case of Harling Farm in Norfolk exposed by the group Animal Equality. Like most people I read the story with horror, maybe watched some of the edited video footage and then went back to knocking up a bacon sandwich. But something brought the story back to my mind and I ended up watching some of the unedited footage from the Animal Equality site. There are many negative superlatives that can be used to describe what I saw but none do justice to the absolute cruelty that those pigs were subjected to. I remember years ago seeing some footage from PETA so headed over to their site and again was saddened and horrified by what cruelty man can inflict upon the defenceless. Can anyone watch their videos on Chinese fur and not be moved? Many years ago I remember watching a video taken covertly of the back of a restaurant in Korea. You saw restaurant workers drag a dog outside, put a rope around its neck, hoist it in the air and then beat it mercilessly. Apparently the fear that goes through the dog makes the meat taste better. Like fuck does it. As they let the animal down you could see its tail wagging, glad to be relieved from the torture. Then they dragged it back inside the restaurant. You know what happens next.
Another aspect of all of this is the industrialisation of the killing of animals for food. Perhaps I wouldn't be vegetarian if we truly had compassion in our farming methods. But we don't and our food production is driven by the capitalist ideal of making a profit at any cost. Somewhere I read that just in the USA over a billion chickens are slaughtered each year to satisfy the demand of the market. To maximise profit we create frankenstein chickens and employ mechanical methods of destruction that really belong to some devilish dream. Shareholders rejoice as the assets suffer and are killed.
So thanks to those brave people such as the undercover Animal Equality members who expose such cruelty the eating of animal flesh is now in my past, and as to the future I don't know. There are still aspects of food that don't sit well with me - milk and dairy, eggs and leather. But I have taken a step to dissociate myself from the killing machine. It's a start.