I feel strongly about animal rights but I’m not one to force the topic of veganism into conversation with strangers for fear of coming across as “the preachy vegan.” I’m also horribly socially awkward so talking to strangers is not my happy place. But when your specially prepared meal is brought over to you with a big “vegan” sticker slapped on top, it kind of works it way into conversation regardless.
And the conversation went a little bit like this:
“Oh, you’re vegan. That’s really great.”
“I could never do it though.”
“It’s really not that hard”
“But I just love meat. I agree that factory farming is awful but that only really happens in America. And I only ever eat ethically sourced meat.”
Cue end of conversation. Trust me when I say it was neither the time nor the place to start debating the many problems with that last statement. But it got me thinking again about this warped perception of where food comes from, and the even more bizarre notion that there can be such a thing as ethically sourced meat.
Of course factory farming happens right here in Australia. It’s happening all over the world. 500 million animals are factory farmed each year in Australia alone, and between 520 – 620 millions animals are slaughtered each year for human consumption. With this kind of demand it’s hardly surprising that factory farming is rife. People expect to eat meat every day, and they expect it to be cheap. Factory farms are designed to meet these expectations while still turning a tidy profit. Greedy consumers and greedy suppliers mean that millions and millions of animals are forced to live in cramped and unnatural conditions, subjected to a life of pain and suffering, before having their lives cut short. It’s happening right here on our doorstep but people don’t want to know about it lest they lose their appetites.
The idea of “ethically sourced meat” is one to try and ease the mind of the more conscientious consumer. I think in some ways it can be a stepping stone to making the connection from the living, breathing animal to the dead flesh on your plate, but I think people also use it as an excuse to carry on eating what they want. Never mind that a chicken was killed well before the end of its natural lifespan, take comfort in the fact that it was free-range.
Ethically sourced meat is an oxymoron. There is nothing ethical about killing something that doesn’t want to die. There is nothing ethical about killing something simply because you like the taste of meat. We do not need meat to survive. We do not need meat to be healthy. Ethically sourced meat is a myth. It doesn’t exist. Because there is nothing ethical about eating another living creature simply to satisfy your own taste buds.