I’m now over two weeks into my Veggie Month challenge. There have been numerous times now when I thought I would end up having to eat meat but I’ve managed to avoid it. I’m actually pretty surprised with myself that I haven’t given up yet. The hardest point of the challenge so far was when I found myself in the food court of a shopping centre. My friend went to McDonald’s and I began to wander around the different outlets trying to work out what I could eat. Not McDonald’s, not KFC, the queue was too long at Pizza Hut, not Nando’s and not even the various sandwich shops as they were almost entirely meat based. What do vegetarians even eat? I’ve mostly been living off jacket potatoes and pasta.
The purpose of this post is to try and get some sort of insight into what the meat industry is like. I was to stay a vegetarian the main reason would be because of the animals. I don’t ever want animals to suffer for me to have something nice to eat. I shall research a bit and write as I go along so at this point I have no idea what I am going to find.
Firstly I’ve investigated the RSPCA. They run a scheme called Freedom Food and all meat with that label on is guaranteed to come from a source which treats the animals well. There are a whole set of standards farmers have to match to get the label and these standards appear to be really comprehensive. All the farms are inspected to check they meet these standards and then regularly monitored to ensure they are still keeping to the standards. Schemes like this one are great and mean you know where meat is coming from and that the animals are actually being looked after properly.
On to PETA now, though I’ve got to be careful with them because of course they are trying to persuade me not to eat meat. I’ve just been reading about Foie Gras is made- it involves vigorously force-feeding geese so much that there body is virtually falling apart. It sounds really horrible. The good news is that it’s completely illegal in the UK and much of Europe so even if I ever ate Foie Gras, it wouldn’t come from that source anyway thank goodness.
Pigs are a major source of meat and PETA has a lot to say about how badly they are treated. These are all for the US though I should add:
- Mother pigs (sows)—who account for almost 6 million of the pigs in the U.S.—spend most of their lives in individual "gestation" crates.(6) These crates are about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide—too small to allow the animals even to turn around.
- According to industry reports, more than 1 million pigs die en route to slaughter each year.(20) No laws regulate the duration of transport, frequency of rest, or provision of food and water for the animals.
Well those aren’t nice at all. DEFRA, who are in charge of environment and farming stuff in the UK have some new rules for pig welfare which become legal from January. I get the impression DEFRA have been doing some great work within the last few years and seem to have lots of new-ish welfare acts for various animals:
- Battery cages for chickens are now completely banned and their are minimum requirements in terms of space.
- “anyone responsible for an animal must take reasonable steps to make sure the animal’s needs are met. This means that a person has to look after an animal’s welfare as well as ensure that it does not suffer.”
- In the EU there is now a ban on the use of the close-confinement veal crate system. Basically you can’t keep calves in tiny boxes any more.
- There also appears to be strict regulations on gamebirds, fish, ducks and geese, rabbits, goats, deer, turkeys and even ostriches.
All in all I’m actually quite pleased by what I’ve heard. The UK meat industry seems to be one that treats the animals pretty well and the government seem to be working to make sure this happens. Seeing as though virtually all the meat I eat comes from the UK market I can be fairly sure that it’s come from a decent source. The US and the EU clearly still have lots of issues but at least there is promise. Things are getting better all the time and I really hope that the time when all animals get a proper life isn’t too far away. If you know of any stories in this area which might be of interest please send them my way as I’d certainly be interested in reading them.
That’s all for today and I shall leave you with this silly song about vegetarians that my lovely minion Ellen shared with me. It’s called “Carrot Juice is Murder”: