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.