Tuesday 27 September 2016

Ignore the bleating, there's far too much woolly thinking on ethics of eating meat

Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30

'Inevitably, the morality of meat-rearing is completely separate to the morality of meat-eating because once you have decided that meat is murder, there can be no ethically acceptable way to produce it'
'Inevitably, the morality of meat-rearing is completely separate to the morality of meat-eating because once you have decided that meat is murder, there can be no ethically acceptable way to produce it'

It was a traumatic weekend for RTÉ's two chat show hosts, but a weary viewer will argue that watching either the 'Late Late Show' or 'The Ray D'Arcy Show' can be a traumatic experience for the audience, so sympathy will be in short supply.

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D'Arcy undoubtedly wins the booby prize for the worst interview following his car-crash encounter with 'Making A Murderer's much sought-after attorney, Dean Strang.

But the hysterical and righteous fury which followed Ryan Tubridy's item with a Galway farmer who has invented a new device for tagging lambs was a perfect example of how far removed from the source of our food so many Irish people have become.

It should be noted that the 'lamb carousel' is not a fancy French dish but a device which is designed to make the tagging process easier for both farmer and lamb. Tagging is, after all, an EU-mandated practice and not something farmers do for weird sadistic kicks.

But that point was lost in the rage and invective that swiftly rained down on RTÉ, Tubridy, the farmer and, ultimately, anyone who eats meat.

That the first group to call for a boycott of the 'Late Late' was the ludicrous National Animal Rights Association should come as no surprise.

Campaigners, even the more ludicrous ones, have always been with us and that's vital for a functioning democracy, even if the animal-rights movement has often attracted people whose apparent love for animals is matched only by their contempt for their fellow humans.

But while single-issue groups will always, by their very definition, be rather myopic in their approach to the matters which enrage them, there is no such excuse for otherwise regular folk to be so publicly horrified by something so anodyne and, lest we forget, designed to ease animal distress.

The actress Rachel Pilkington appeared on Tubridy's radio show and provided a masterclass in pious virtue signalling when she explained her "aversion" to the item by stating: "I've always had a high sensitivity towards animals as well as people."

That's lovely for her, I'm sure you'll agree. And I'm sure you'll also agree she is obviously a better person than the rest of us.

But where do these people think our food comes from?

We have utterly lost touch with what we eat and a lot of that can be blamed on supermarkets, which now sell meat which doesn't look like it ever met an animal, let alone came from one.

We kill animals to eat them. That's a fact of life and one of the perks of being the top of the top food chain. Of course, there are problems and there is plenty of room for outrage over certain lax farming practices which have brought us such delights as BSE and the Dioxyn pork scandal of a few years ago.

Then there are issues surrounding battery farming, factory farming and halal meat slaughter. These are all thorny topics which should be addressed, because no matter what the more militant animal-rights activists might like to claim, no meat eater wants their food to suffer during either its life or its death.

Some pundits have said this is another example of the urban-rural divide but it's actually much more simple than that. It's simply a divide between people who want to know where their food comes from, and those who don't. Indeed, a religious conservative could even argue that when people stopped saying grace before a meal they stopped thinking about their food at all.

Instead, we're rapidly importing the worst elements of contemporary British and American culture, which means that anything which might make people feel even slightly uncomfortable is immediately denounced and condemned.

In fact, how many of the spittle-flecked outragerati have ever spoken to a farmer or seen how even the smallest farm works?

As it happens, I was lucky enough to hold a newborn lamb in my arms last Saturday during a visit to my father-in-law's smallholding. It was a lovely, smelly little thing, which I will be eating in about six weeks' time.

It will have lived a good life and it will be appreciated in its death and I, for one, am morally comfortable with that.

Inevitably, the morality of meat-rearing is completely separate to the morality of meat-eating because once you have decided that meat is murder, there can be no ethically acceptable way to produce it.

But for the rest of us, who are resident in the real world, it is vitally important to know that what we put on our plates was not unduly treated because, if nothing else, the meat tastes better.

Even the proudest carnivore will admit that there is a case for vegetarianism.

What a shame then that vegetarians seem so haplessly incapable of making it.

Irish Independent

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