Another Step In The Right Direction?

Coming up from March 18 to 24 this year will be Australia’s inaugural Meat Free Week.

A week where, as the name suggests, consumers give up eating meat for a week.

Don’t worry about this being a deceptive vegan conversion program, as according to the about page, … it’s not about becoming a vegetarian or giving up meat for life. All we’re asking is that you give up meat for one week from the 18th to 24th March and ask some buddies (friends, family, work colleagues) to sponsor you for each day you go without.

By the end of the week, the organisers hope you will do two things:

  • Commit to eating less meat, thereby reduce the demand for factory farming, take the pressure off our environment and improve your health
  • When you do eat meat, make the choice to buy/eat meat this is ethically produced and sourced

There is a section of the website for those who are vegetarian or vegan that states:

Yet, not everyone will hear us or want to take on board our message. But with your help, we can stop the debate and start a conversation. Remember, it’s not about making people wrong for their choice to eat meat, but rather getting them to consider doing two things:
(1) Reduce their meat consumption
(2) Choose to only eat free range, when they do eat meat

Aside from the fact that it is a tad insulting to have self confessed foodies who still consume animal products believing they have the same message as vegetarians and vegan, they haven’t said what it is that they want to stop debating, and start a conversation about. So for all intents and purposes, it does appear that this is just another website/organisation that is trying to increase awareness of the perils of factory farming.

That being said, I started wondering that considering that the flying pig campaign started by Animals Australia last year, that is still running, how much more ‘awareness’ needs to be raised on the issue? And at what point will this happy meat train stop and it be said that animals are not ours to use?

Then I asked myself the question that if it gets Australians to stop consuming meat for a week and the corresponding impact that it could have on the lives of those who are used would it really be a bad thing?

Ultimately, I think it is, and something that will be a hinderance more than a help.

Whilst there are large number of animals killed for food, there is an inherent problem with focusing on the way that food animals are treated.

As I discussed in the previous post, Is There Such A Thing As An Ex-Vegan?, after Alexandra Jamieson’s announcement that she was no longer veganthat if we attach warm and fuzzy labels to food and our behaviour like ‘humane’, ‘compassionate’ and ‘conscious’ it absolves us from all guilt and responsibility for the life that was taken. Pretending that by choosing happy/humane/ethical animal products you can have a compassionate life, is just that.

Pretending.

Focusing on treatment, and the conditions that food animals are kept in will have very little impact on the 358,772 Lambs; 159,487 Sheep; 148,295 Cattle; or 7,183 Calves that were killed in Australia last week. Of which, approx. 33% of beef and 51% of lamb products actually remains here.

For those who are concerned about the way that food animals are treated life is about as good as it gets for the animals mentioned above. Apart from the 30-90 days that cattle spend in a feedlot, near the end of their lives, and some ‘one off’ procedures, there are no cages to free these animals from.

The other thing to consider is that if Australian consumers decided to follow through with their pledge and only consume happy meat, we do not have the infrastructure or land available here to satisfy demand, nor would every consumer be able to afford the increased price for happy meat. This last point alone would see more of tax payers money sent to subsidise animal agriculture to make it affordable for those lower down the socio-economic ladder.

In the same way that the industry has put pressure on the government to relax the mandatory pre-stun requirement for religious reasons, I am sure they would easily be able to convince the government that intensive factory farms were a necessity to keep animal flesh ‘affordable’.

Which brings me to the final point I would like to make. If the consumer is even remotely concerned about the way that food animals are killed, the only option for them to take is to go vegan.