It has been almost twenty-five years since I ate meat. At the age of fourteen, I became aware of the industrialised and inhumane processes involved in rearing and dispatch animals intended for human consumption, and I chose to opt out.
However, there are a lot of others who are unlikely ever to give up eating meat. I know this because I live with two of them: my partner is a highly enthusiastic omnivore and my twenty-month old daughter appears to take after her dad. “Bacon!” is one of her favourite words, not to mention breakfasts.
I don’t judge them. I’ve no right to judge anybody: doubtless I do many things that others would consider to be of dubious morality. But I do encourage them to eat good-quality meat from animals that have had reasonable lives and deaths, ideally from local farms where animal welfare is a visible priority. I have always felt that if you are going to eat an animal, you ought to take an interest in its welfare.
This is exactly what Glasgow’s Locavore has been doing. Over the last few months, I have often cycled past Queen’s Park and enjoyed watching Locavore’s small drove of pigs snuffling around in the grass. They appeared to be living good lives, with freedom to move around and express themselves in their own piggy way. I cannot guarantee the existential state of any pig, but insofar as I could tell, they seemed happy.
But I was never in any doubt about their ultimate fate. These pigs were going to be bacon. And given that around ten million pigs are slaughtered in the UK every year, many of them having been mutilated and constrained, the eventual death of some well-treated and popular pigs did not seem like the worst thing going on in the world. Too often, we – especially those of us who live in cities – are completely cut off from the places where our food comes from, allowing us to shirk responsibility for the welfare of the animals we eat and divorce the meat on our plates from the livestock we drive past in the countryside.
I understood that not everybody would see it that way. And that’s fine – generating a debate about animal welfare and the concept of eating meat seems like a useful by-product of this project. But judging from Locavore’s social media recently, some people have gone way beyond healthy debate, into the realms of hysteria, aggression and threats.
Here’s my position. I like Locavore. I blogged about them in their very early days, and I wrote about them again more recently on Contributoria. They are a small, local business that helps communities to grow their own vegetables and learn to cook, employs people might otherwise struggle to get jobs and provides fresh fruit and veg at little more than cost price to people on low incomes.
They now stand accused of being the very uncaring, profit-focused corporation they are fighting against. Well, it won’t wash, and I personally feel it is important to stand alongside them. I haven’t been as good as I meant to be about using the Locavore shop – it’s a bit far, I’m always busy, there’s always a reason why it’s easier to go to Asda.
But tomorrow I’m going to go down there and buy as much as I can of my weekly shop. I may hate animal cruelty, but I also hate bullies, and I won’t stand by and watch a fantastic part of my community being threatened and abused. I hope many others will join me.