I Eat Meat

This is not a blog about activism, or elitism. This is a blog all about what makes us individual, what makes us human. The ability to rationalise, reason, formulate opinions, and to politely agree or disagree.

I eat meat.

I am a passionate wildlife artist, advocate for conservation, and firm believer in animal rights and animal protection.

But yes, I do eat meat.

Meat has been a part of the  human diet for at least the last 2.6 million years, and even our closest living relative the chimpanzee is known to indulge in meat-eating on occasion.

Our teeth are omnivorous, our brains require extremely high-energy foods, and our digestive system resembles more that of a carnivore than a herbivore – we don’t have a four chambered stomach, a rumen, or an appendix that does anything more than go septic and occasionally rupture.

But my argument here is not that meat is or isn’t an important part of our diet. It is about how we can eat it.

I am very lean, so whilst I admire those who adhere to a plant-based diet, I feel that our diet, and mine particularly, should be just that, plant-based, not plant-only. A good dose of healthy protein fuels our brains, our energy levels, and provides us with vital nutrients and minerals that plants simply can’t provide.

I believe that the eating of animals is not ethically wrong, but the way that we consume them certainly is. Nature is cruel; animals are slaughtered on a daily basis; babies ripped from their mothers’ wombs by hungry, slavering predators, wild dogs chewing on the legs of their prey, consuming them alive, or the Komodo dragon, that gives one bite and leaves it victim to die an incredibly slow, painful death from infection.

But nature doesn’t know any better. We humans have the unique perspective of rational thinking, of empathy, and I suspect that this insight developed pretty early on in our meat-eating habit. We developed weapons and hunting tactics to dispose of our prey as quickly and as cleanly as possible, to avoid unnecessary injury to ourselves or our victims.

As the intelligent species, we have a moral obligation, if we do wish to consume meat, to do it in a way that causes the least suffering. Why condemn a hen to a life of confinement, disability, darkness and disembowelment, when that hen can be provided high quality food, adequate movement and a flock? Financial gain, increased productivity and a twisted air of superiority.

There are more cattle than humans on the planet today. The more our human population swells, the more our demand for beef swells with it. Cattle are an enormous contributor to global warming, producing vast amounts of methane, and they require large amounts of land and grain to bring them up to slaughter weight. In fact, cattle need ten times more land then pigs or chickens do.

Switching away from beef, we can perhaps save vast amounts of land and grains that could be directly consumed by humans. We can use this surplus land to raise pigs and chickens in more ethical conditions, giving them sunlight, room to move, socialisation and enough freedom as any pet deserves.

Eating meat is not without its problems. We are rapidly running out of space for ourselves and our need for food. Climate change is exacerbating the problems of drought, famine, over-cultivated and deforested land, making it more and more difficult to grow crops, to feed  our animals.

I have of course, barely touched upon the cruelty of animal slaughterhouses, not because I wish to shy away from the topic, but because this subject is already extremely well-known and contested. But at least there are people within animal husbandry seeking to change this; take Temple Grandin and her work with some of the biggest cattle raisers in the US and around the world, adopting simple yet radical tactics to ease an animal’s suffering once its fate is determined. Even such simple things as changing the way they are led into the slaughterhouses; the colour and the texture of the ground the walk on, can all ease their journey.

As much as I enjoy meat, I feel that it is my responsibility to make the right decision, even though it may be a sacrifice to choose one item over another. I am lucky, I can make that choice. We are victims of our own success; we can raise and enjoy such a huge quantity of beef is a great sign of progress, however, taken to an extreme, the consequences start to outweigh the benefits. There is no need to go to the extremes of raw eating or veganism either, it’s all a matter of common sense, and a little bit of empathy. Obviously eating less meat is good for us health-wise, and environmentally.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/beef-uses-ten-times-more-resources-poultry-dairy-eggs-pork-180952103/

http://www.nature.com/articles/nature16990.epdf?referrer_access_token=Dvw4Oy4jOcYXUeaNGq1HhtRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0M8YcVenEcO7CgRz5HSvoTFoxs-22vo5cVzlc-7sejkjL83ZSX8tCP9TAi4GEE5frJaJMgJRLWWJOIVMjH_elhYqsIPOiJI5TaBhYGLDw1ehi1v_AH5K1C2YWQ4wP9TT8S5w6WQcrc78tOVXtZS8mezAVwWMde_WZRvetX3FPXoo_SnbBgNY1hePpzJ-7oDAA8%3D&tracking_referrer=time.com

http://time.com/4252373/meat-eating-veganism-evolution/

http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/19/temple-grandin-killing-them-softly-at-slaughterhouses-for-30-years/

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The Story Behind the Painting: Life at Last Light

Life at Last Light represents the resilience and adaptability of the raven to an urban environment.

IMG_2646
If you’re visiting New York, you might just catch sight of a raven. Just goes to show that if you can make it here, you really can make it anywhere. Oils on Canvas, 2017, available for €350 for the first asking nicely

Ravens are highly intelligent, sociable, and highly adaptable, but even with their skills, life in an urban environment is tough, from winging your way through glass disorienting skyscrapers to traffic, pollution and an unhealthy and unnatural diet. But the raven is one of nature’s hardy immigrants, and has embraced life in the concrete jungle. This article of Crows and Ravens Making a Comeback in New York was part of the inspiration for this painting, as I was searching for a suitable species to represent my feelings of home, as an immigrant myself (born in the UK, now living on the island of Malta).

This painting is the first of two in which I am reflecting on home, perhaps with homesickness, perhaps with admiration, and more than a little humility for the millions of refugees that have been forced out of their homes due to famine, conflict, political uprising, or all three. I talk about this in two previous blog posts here and here.

A House We Call Home

Sometimes, we feel at home, and sometimes, we don’t.

For humans, home means many things. Home means the place where we were born, or the place where our parents lived. Home is the house that we built with hard labour and machines, or the one we simply opened the door to. Home can be a particular corner of a particular room; somewhere where one can feel familiar, safe, and content.

Shelter is one of our basic needs; like food and water, but very few of us in the world live in just a rudimentary shelter the way some animals do; not even isolated tribes and cultures that still maintain a ‘primitive’ hunter-gatherer existence. We create artefacts, paint our front doors, decorate and re-decorate, or, as in Malta, we give our homes unique and often times questionable combinations of the husband and wife’s name.

Maltese House Name
A not so typical house name, including…a pet? Source: http://anecdotesfrommalta.blogspot.com.mt/2009/08/crazy-maltese-house-names-1.html
Ndebele Painted House
The beautiful geometric designs of the houses of Southern African Ndebele.

 

Like the bower bird’s flair for interior design to impress his mate, we too decorate our houses to show off our individuality, our ancestry, and to display our sexual and financial status. We choose unique artefacts that have symbolism only to us; we keep memories of childhood, of past and future. We show off our best and conceal our worst.

And of course, no home is complete without its lodgers!

Springer Spaniel

I wonder if I’ll move from the house I’ve come to call my own for the last year and a half; the one I helped design and finance. The English in me says I will; we’re like Monarch butterflies, journeying over the generations (most often returning to the same place where we were born!), the restless in me says I’d like to travel and try homes in other countries. The artist in me says I must.

House Sketch
Sketch of my childhood home, from memory.

In the final of this three part blog I’ll be pondering on animal houses, and talking about the paintings that inspired these blogs.