It got into the press some months agao that David Cameron’s in-laws were objecting to having a slaughterhouse built next to their home. Quite why I should be interested in the personal matters of the Prime Minister’s relations is beyond me as it’s doubtful they were a major influence in our decision at the last general election, but that’s to digress.
I’vdjust read a letter to a newspaper that was written by a lady from an organisation called Animal Aid who suggested Cameron’s in-laws would benefit from being educated about the reality of meat production. She implied that all slaughtered animals went through terror and pain and went on to say that Animal Aid makes available films about the subject.
Now, I’m sure that she holds genuine feelings but in her enthusiasm to further her cause she makes the same mistake made by so many who want to change our views: she transparently told only part of the truth and, as a result, lost me as a potential member to Animal Aid. There’s so much more to this subject than she let on.
It’s possible she actually disagrees with the breeding, rearing and killing of any animals for food. She didn’t say in her letter. I wondered if she’d be happy for us to eat an animal that had been accidentally struck by a car, or – taking the human element out of things – had met its end purely by its own misfortune (one of my sheep tried to commit suicide this weekend and didn’t even thank me when I saved its life). Is it ultimately the eating of meat that she’s against or the rearing and killing? She didn’t say.
But what I know not to be true is the suggestion that all animals destined for our table go to their maker (and diner) filled with terror and pain. The majority do, and I’d have been reaching for an Animal Aid application form faster than the release of a captive bolt if she’d said that. But, and here’s the rub, a minority don’t.
Obviously I’m a supporter of eating meat. That’s why I do it and why it’s on the menu in the restaurant. But being the wise and intellectual race we are, surely it’s morally correct that any meat we do eat comes from an animal that’s treated as well as possible prior and right up to its demise? After all, few of these animals would exist outside sanctuaries if we didn’t choose to eat them. We’d still need cows for milk but what would happen to the 50% of boy cows born? I guess there’d be a few sheep knocking about to keep moorland grass down but rabbits seem to be amazingly efficient at that in my garden. And pigs? They’d have to be in zoos.
Animals can be reared in a way that gives them a good time on this planet. And it’s not beyond the wit of man to put systems in place where the animals aren’t stressed being transported to the slaughterhouse and then, when they get there, never actually realise what’s happening to them. It does happen. We do it for Oldfields and so do a number of farmers we use to supply us.
I’ve seen the two extremes of slaughter house: first the sort where animals are delivered in multi-storied lorries and know exactly that a frightening fate awaits them due to their treatment, the noise, confusion and smells. And then the other sort where the animals are kept calm and quiet, get no terror-inducing feedback and are quietly and professionally led away to a sudden and, if there is such a thing as an animal afterlife, surprising end.
It could be like that for all animals reared for meat. It’d mean more expensive bacon but that’s your choice.
But this is the sort of reasoned discussion we should be having rather than picking on some people who didn’t choose to be, and really shouldn’t be, in the public eye. Perhaps Samantha Cameron’s parents don’t actually want a commercial building built next to their house and it’s their right to object. Maybe they don’t actually believe in industrial-style slaughter houses. I don’t know as I’ve not discussed it with them.
What I do know is that I’d prefer organisations such as Animal Aid to tell the whole truth and make sure we’re all educated properly so as to be able to make informed decisions rather than preaching, as they do, that the only cruelty-free diet is a meat-free one. I beg to disagree with them but admit that the cruelty-free option requires effort. And that’s what we, at Oldfields, are trying more and more to do.