Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?
Should we eat less meat and consider the origin more of the meat that we do eat?
BEING BOTH AN ENTHUSIASTIC CARNIVORE AND A SENTIMENTAL ANIMAL LOVER I AM FACED WITH A DILEMMA WHEN ASKED THE QUESTION – “IS IT ETHICAL TO EAT MEAT?”.
In answering the question, I think we need to consider the origin of the meat that we eat and the quality of the lives of the animals involved. We need to be conscious of the fact that by eating meat we are causing the death of an animal that we share our planet with. This is the price we are paying for the pleasure of eating meat.
As technology and understanding of diet has increased, along with growth in economies throughout the world, our demand for meat has risen alarmingly. Clever packaging and convenient presentation of meat has meant that we have lost touch with the relationship between meat and the animal that gave it’s life. In an old fashioned butcher’s shop, like the one I grew up in, you could see the carcasses hanging and although this may be brutal it is a reminder of the origin of meat. It’s no surprise that we are prepared to waste meat and pay little for it when we have no connection to the animal it came from.
I don’t want to preach and I realise, having been there myself, that it’s not possible for everyone to afford to pay more for meat. At the same time, it shouldn’t be possible to buy 3 chickens for £10 in a supermarket.
It sounds contradictory, coming from an online butchery business, but I believe that, where possible, we should eat less meat and consider the origin more of the meat that we do eat. Many of the tastier cuts are less expensive that the more popular premium cuts and we can make a great deal from them.
There is no doubt that factory farming on the scale that we have seen in recent years is unacceptable both from the welfare of the animals involved and the damage that it does to the environment from waste products. I’m not going to go into the horrors of that here as it’s been well documented elsewhere. At the same time we need to realise that it is not possible to meet the increasing demand for cheap, lean meat without such production methods.
One of the reasons that I founded our online meat businesses, other than the immediate need to earn an income, was to get back to the farming and butchery that I remember from my youth growing up in the Yorkshire Dales. At that time butchers worked closely with the farmer and were on hand to advise their customers of the best cuts and how to use them.
We have tried to recreate farmer/butcher relationship by using organisations that are both farmers and butchers. Our main supplier, Charles Ashbridge, has farms in North Yorkshire and his own butchery supplying some of the best chefs in the country. Charles cares deeply about the animals in his care and hates to see waste of any kind. From birth to slaughter the animals are treated well and respected, being allowed to feed naturally and grow slowly.
Farmers, like Charles, have returned to using native breeds. These breeds fell out of favour as demand for faster growing, leaner animals rose. The breeds we sell at Grid Iron Meat take much longer to mature and put on weight naturally without the need for growth promoters. They enjoy the freedom to graze on North Yorkshire pastures and have lives more than twice that of their factory farmed, cross bred cousins.
The fact that these animals grow more slowly and have a higher fat content makes them a less attractive commercial proposition for the farmer. The meat is therefore more expensive than that found in most supermarkets. I believe that, if you can afford it, this is a price worth paying and, if you have the time, it’s worth considering less expensive cuts and learning how to use them.
In conclusion, I think if we can remember that an animal gave it’s life for the meat we eat and respect that by not wasting it and consider the origin of the meat we buy, we might feel better about being carnivores.