Meat comes from dead animals

Apologies for stating what may seem pretty obvious to most of us but I’m beginning to wonder just how far some of us have become removed from this reality? Let’s try a little test – see if you can tell which of these pairs is meat, which is an animal and what the connection is between them.

This point has been in the back of my mind for a while now and after watching another episode of “River Cottage” starring celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I can’t hold back any longer. Hugh’s “USP” (unique selling point) is a deep affection for chickens and this comes through in his programmes where he is a tireless campaigner for chickenkind. All these celebrity chefs have a USP. It is not enough these days to just be a talented chef with fresh recipes and a good TV personality, they must have something extra. We’ve got the one that says f**k all the time, the black one, the Chinese one, the Cockney boy, the motorbike Geordies, the daughter of an ex-chancellor, the two fat ladies, the fish guy with a dog, the one who might be gay……. I tell you, if you’re looking to break into the celebrity chef market you’re running out of opportunities unless you’ve got a limb missing!

Anyway, Hugh wants everyone to stop buying factory farmed chicken and buy free-range organic ones instead. The issue he keeps coming up against is cost, with most households on a budget not being able to spare the extra money required to buy a happy dead chicken as opposed to a miserable dead chicken. It’s hard to tell how much truth there is in this when in the last programme one ‘guest’ said she couldn’t afford organic chicken but later announced that always buys organic duck (far more expensive). Her buying choices were based simply on the fact that she had no affection for chickens but she thought ducks were cute! Another part of Hugh’s strategy is to expose his ‘guests’ to the reality of how factory chickens live their short lives versus how the better raised chickens live and also to the process of killing and preparing an animal for cooking. This is not exactly unique, the f**k man has tried it in his own back garden with his kids (not killing his kids, just teaching them that animals are killed and turned into meat) and there have been other programmes along similar lines.

What amazes me is how most people simply don’t associate the animal with the food, or don’t want to. For them, chicken is what you buy in packets in Tesco, the lumps in a Chicken Tikka Masala or what KFC are good at, not a feathered, living, thinking, feeling animal. Not something we should care about. Maybe this shouldn’t be so surprising because it’s very possible that most people have never actually been in close proximity to a real chicken, or bull or pig – certainly the animals are nothing like as familiar to them as the packaged supermarket meat they encounter once a week. Even if they have met the animals in a ‘petting zoo’ that was different, they were cute, nobody would kill them. Even excluding personal contact, none of the adverts for meat products focus on the animal, just the end product, so we’re not even getting the right message from the TV. Understandably, given that poor treatment and execution are not top of the things most likely to sell a product!

How sad it is that a society, our “western” society at least, that once had an extremely close relationship with its livestock has progressed to the quite ridiculous point where we can’t even associate a packet of supermarket meat with one (or more) dead animals. How strange that people are able to disassociate themselves completely from the massive breeding, engineering and slaughter that goes on in their name. It does make you realise how things like ethnic cleansing can happen even in this day and age, just think of them as cattle. Is it really that unconnected?

Of course, not everyone is like this. There’s a big difference between city dwellers and farmers or country folk for example and there are still city dwellers, like myself, who remain fully conscious of what’s going on but despite this, the number of people losing touch must be growing at a rapid rate. I was unfortunate enough to be given a guided tour of a cattle slaughterhouse, in Croatia of all places, many years ago. It was a real eye-opener and whilst shocking it does bring you face to face with the reality behind being the dominant species on the planet and having a carnivorous lifestyle. It didn’t stop me eating meat and I don’t think anything ever will but I can certainly have some sympathy with those who refuse to do so.

I don’t want to world to go vegan, that’s not what we are as a species, not yet at least, but I would like us to show more respect for the animals that die for us. I would like us to be far more open about what is going on and not to pretend that it isn’t. I would like people to eat their Sunday roast in full knowledge that a sentient being was slaughtered to make it possible, to feel thankful for that and perhaps to feel slightly guilty if much of it is thrown in the trash.

My last point is about all this free-range organic malarkey. I don’t know what the right term is for livestock that is “cared for” while it is being fattened up. I’m not sure that organic or free range cover it but no matter, the question is whether it is the right thing to do or not? Or perhaps whether we are doing it for the right reasons. Isn’t it a little devious to be nice to an animal whilst knowing that you’re going to kill it and eat it? People talk about the improved taste so are we being nice to them out of pure selfishness to get better food or to assuage our guilt. After all, if our mission was to be nice to the animals and to improve their lives we wouldn’t slaughter them would we. I suppose looking after them while they are alive does show them some of the respect I would like to see but there’s something about it that worries me nevertheless. Is it just a fashion, like global warming? Just how sure can we be about how an animal has been treated from the plethora of legal definitions out there?

Still, living in Poland the decision of whether to buy expensive cared for meat or not is not a problem. There is no cared for meat in the shops.


13 thoughts on “Meat comes from dead animals

  1. Have You seen the film Food Inc….(I think it is available recently on line as a webcast) After that you will definitely decide to become a vegan. Your guy Hugh is telling you like it is. Tyson, KFC and all the other chicken people should be ashamed of themselves. And the red meat is washed in amonia and used as fillers and then sold to the US gov school programs…yummmmm!!! Who knows if it was dead, dirty, contaiminated, infected or God only knows. So I am wondering about all those super swanky expensive restaurants we go to ….where does their meat and produce come from.

  2. There’s no question that many restaurants have very average meat products indeed. What’s annoying is that price is no guarantee of quality.

    Perhaps it is all just a matter of supply and demand. Demand being so high that there’s no way it can be met by “nice” husbandry and great quality meat. That coupled with price of course. Everything is being driven down to the lowest common denominator and lowest possible price.

  3. I grew up on a (very small) farm. We had a guy come out and kill our cows on-the-spot (they were butchered elsewhere). The chickens were just for the eggs. And, of course, in the early years my dad occasionally went deer hunting and when he happened to get something (only happened a few times) we had it butchered.

    I buy organic stuff when it is available because I think it’s right. I figure they might as well not be jammed into a little space and be miserable. I don’t think that stuff tastes any better though I do think those animals end up having less weird chemical stuff in ’em. Hormones and all that.

    That being said, there’s not a lot of truly organic stuff here in Poland. While most farms here are small it doesn’t mean they aren’t using a lot of fertilisers, doing crop rotation, making sure the animals have a reasonable bit of space in which to wander/roam/stretch their legs a bit.

    I also wish there was more kosher and/or halal stuff here because while you may not agree on how the animals are slaughtered, they tend to be very nitpicky about cross-contamination, cleanliness and the like. Finding kosher (or halal (as if)) stuff here is even more difficult than finding organic stuff. Even when I do see organic stuff (usually just eggs) I have no idea if the certifying group is some rubber-stamp organisation or something real. It’s hard to eat slightly less guilt-free.

  4. I agree totally. Not seen Food Inc but another interesting film was Super Size Me, haven’t eaten a McDonalds burger in 25 years, when I lived in the States there was a small chain called FatBurger that I ate at maybe once a month.

    I’m not Vegetarian as there are too many vegetables that I don’t like and my diet would get very boring very quickly. I don’t eat much red meat but I find if I go 3 weeks without a good steak I really start to miss it. Pork, lamb, liver, kidney I don’t like so chicken and fish are the main staples of my diet.

    My ex was mostly Vegetarian and I respected her views, bit like my views on religion – I have no problem with other people’s views.

    I also agree on the Celebrity Chef view, everyone has to have an angle to get on mainstream TV. At least near where I live we have a normal celebrity chef – Nigel Haworth, I’ve eaten at his places a few times and have never had a meal that was less than superb.

  5. Dang if you don’t like pork you picked a bad country to move to! Liver and kidney – no thanks. I’m picky about my fish, too – no carp, mackerel, sardines or other such nonsense. Cod, tuna, salmon, truly fresh water bass, trout and catfish (no farm-raised small fish)… Most seafood like scallops, shrimp, clams, etc. Also crayfish, lobster and crab.

    I’ve sort of grown out of McDonalds. When I visit the US and eat fast food, it’s always Taco Bell and it’s always “can I substitute rice instead of beef”? Burgerville, a pacific NW chain, does a lot of organic/vegetarian stuff. In fact, one of my favourite burger-shaped things in the world is their spicy black bean (instead of beef) burger. It’s insane. My other favourite burger-shaped thing is a Kobe beef burger from the Rouge brew pub. Also insane.

    Fast food in Poland = kebabs… which I eat once every few months.

  6. I really appreciate your article, as I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to this myself… You’ve really expressed so well my own thoughts and conflicts I’ve experiencing lately. I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do yet, but as with you, I feel that I need white meat and fish, and yes, an occasional steak. I do suspect, however, if I were ever to see a cow slaughtered, that would most likely end any future consumption of beef for me. I do love animals and abhor all manner of cruelty, but as with so many people, I too have disassociated my thoughts from the reality of the manner in which these millions of animals are forced to live…which is no life at all, and we owe it to them as their masters to give them some kind of decent life. Thanks for writing this well-thought out and very balanced article.

  7. Never heard of Haworth but will look out for him.

    You’re missing out on some good stuff with that list of exclusions! Liver and onions…yummsville. Lamb’s easy to avoid in Poland ’cause there ain’t any! Kidneys good in steak & kidney pud but otherwise I can take it or leave it. Not eating pork must be tough, Wiener Schnitzel for example or many of the Polish dishes.

    I must confess that the range of animals and parts I have consumed is pretty extensive. I don’t think there is anything I have been exposed to that I have not eaten at least once – snakes, frogs, snails, horse, alligator, cow, pig, bull, goat, deer, wild boar, moose, chicken, pigeon, pheasant, grouse, duck, ostrich, every possible variety of seafood from soft-shell crab to octopus to shark – tripe, brains, kidneys, liver, trotters………

    I have a policy of trying everything once. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t!

    Never knowingly eaten an eyeball, testicle, dog, cat, insect but there’s plenty of time left for those! :-)

  8. I’ve spent a good few years of my life working for Fast Food companies in one way or another so I’m afraid it has grown into a kind of habit now and I’m immune to their toxic effects! I probably don’t eat more than twice a month though. McDonalds breakfasts are good.

    Burger King used to have a “spicy bean burger” and was pretty tasty. A little like a falafel in a bun.

    Never tried Kobe beef, but I’d like to.

    Got a new kebab shop opened on Plac Wilsona where the Citibank used to be, supposed to be a good one!

  9. Best of luck working it all out Nancy. I think you have to do what is right for you but not lose track of why you’re doing it. I think becoming completely vegetarian is, apart from being logistically difficult, going too far. A little meat and fish must be good for you as well a varying the diet. If you don’t eat much of it then you are at least limiting the damage.

    I’m afraid I cannot understand the point of eliminating red meat, other than for medical reasons. For me, killing a chicken is no different to killing a majestic stag, bull, whatever. Once you start discriminating between different animals you’re just playing God in a way.

  10. I loved this article, Ian. I actually became a vegetarian for two years because of this issue of factory farming and after researching it about 10 years ago. This was during the time when I had three teenaged sons in the home. Can you imagine their mother not cooking any meat? And that included chicken or fish. So there was a lot of pasta and veggies and grains, etc. I used veggie cookbooks and tried to come up with alternatives, used soy mince, etc. I look back and think it wasn’t quite fair of me to inflict my convictions on my children, because my own demise with the plan appeared soon enough. My downfall was a sudden craving for Buffalo wings that was so intense that I couldn’t resist. I’m sure they weren’t even organic or from a kind farm. Who cared, they were slathered with hot sauce and they were real chicken. I must have been at the low end of my threshold for Vit B12, because nothing was going to come between me and those wings. I realized at that point I was not cut out to be a vegetarian.

    I still want to buy less meat and buy organic meat–it *is* more expensive and it has to be–it takes more land to produce it and more care. We have to realize that. If we eat less of it, have one vegetarian night and the next night eat organic chicken instead of having two meat nights in a row, that’s a win-win situation. It’s just something we need to think about and plan for in advance.

    I haven’t seen the film Food Inc, but I definitely will ASAP.

  11. W Polsce możesz kupić jajka kur “z chowu ściółkowego” – z kur hodowanych w lepszych warunkach.

  12. In Poland “cared for” meat is bought from the small farms, at local markets.

    In many villages a few famillies gather, buys a pig from their neighbour, kill it and make kiełbasa and wędliny the proper way – in wędzarka. Such meat is many times better than hipermarket (half water and conservants)food, and animals in small family-owned farms are better cared for.

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