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25. Meat of the Issue

"I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion."

George Orwell, 1937
"The Road to Wigan Pier"
Launched by the author in 1982
We hear a lot about meat and the abuse of animals today from various groups who see this as a major moral problem facing mankind. As the originator of the VegeBurger", I do understand where they are coming from but, from a very different viewpoint, it has seemed to me for some time that we are perhaps doing "domestic animals" a favour by including them in our food chain. I just don't think we should do them this favour, because the price we have to pay is too high. And I doubt the issue would be a problem were the state not so intricately involved at the primary end of our food chain. The interface that has developed (in the West) with domestic animals bears all the hallmarks of a classic host-parasite relationship.
In this relationship it is quite plausible to view man as the host and the domestic animals as the parasites. Though we need not envy the lifestyle of the average chicken or cow, they have, together with sheep and pigs, done extraordinarily well on the evolutionary ladder as species. They have multiplied and flourished. In us, they have a host who diligently covers over 70% of his arable land in crops designed NOT to be eaten by humans, but to be fed to domestic animals. They are eating our basic food resource. Whilst we are unable to adequately house our own species, vast acres of the country are covered in buildings built for the sole benefit of domestic animals, who must ultimately pay the bill with their sorry lives.

What do we get in return, other than worldwide malnutrition and starvation due to this huge parasitic bite out of the food chain? Disease and food poisoning is the simple answer. The excessive consumption of animal products, made possible by state subsidies and the factory farm, has now been implicated in virtually every major degenerative disease of the West, and is the source of over 90% of food poisoning cases - a rising epidemic. Did you know that massive subsidies are paid out so makers of animal feed can buy cereals at prices much cheaper than those paid by flour millers or makers of breakfast cereal for human consumption? Do you know anyone who ever marched or lobbied under the "Cheap Food For Cows" banner? Yet we pay dearly with both our wallets and our health, to support this state intervention and control of our food chain.

I am not questioning whether it is moral or immoral to raise animals to kill and eat. I am saying we are being taken for a ride and that it is foolhardy in the extreme to destroy the natural flora and fauna of the countryside to support a handful of intensively farmed crops that are then fed to a handful of animal species to produce subsidised meat at the expense of the quality and price of our primary food sources. Our return on this mad investment in meat is from a quarter to a tenth of the nutrients that we put into it - and we eat our food second-hand.

Perhaps there is a defensible argument to be made for rearing animals on the naturally occurring food waste of ingredients (like cereal husks) that we cannot digest ourselves, or for putting domestic animals to graze in some of the areas where crop farming is not feasible. Though I am not making this argument,* it is true that these animals would not have a life or be widespread as a species were they not part of the human food agenda (the same is true of wheat and cabbages). Without the subsidies that come straight from our pockets anyway, the price of animal products and meat would rise to a price reflecting the real cost of production-which is considerable.** Meat consumption would fall to the level of an occasional foodstuff rather than the mainstay of our diet, a position it only attained a few generations ago due to state support, and one which does not prevail in most of the world even today - and never can without the accessory of mass starvation for humans as other mammals feed at our own primary food source.

*My personal belief is that it is a sordid and ungrateful practice to kill our fellow mammals for food. But we have been eating meat, albeit in small amounts, as part of our diet for most of our time on earth. I would far rather see a slow drift away from meat consumption as acceptable social behaviour over a hundred years, than to have those running the state proclaim bans and create new squadrons of police to enforce animal rights. Their numbers and powers would only grow as more and more abuse took place, pet disappearances needed investigation, clandestine restaurants needed busting and so on.

** Howard Lyman, food director of the U.S. Humane society, claimed in the Guardian that the average American hamburger would cost $11 were there no subsidy structure for US beef.

Without the central interference by the growing European state in our food chain, we would never have produced the vast surplus of unwanted beef that some inspired bureaucrat thought would be clever to feed back to the vegetarian cattle from which it came. Is this how these clever people had temporarily reduced the notorious frozen beef mountain? Never in a free market situation could the laws of economics be so twisted that an industry feeds its finished product back to itself as a raw ingredient. It is like going to all the trouble of making a new road-ready car, knowing that you will promptly scrap it to use the recovered junk metal as the raw ingredient of your next production.

Today's continuing drift away from focused red meat consumption and towards more vegetable foods in the diet is accompanied by a growing appreciation of the mental and physical health benefits to be achieved thereby. Yet despite our shifting diet we are still being charged to support the wholesale rape of our countryside in order to keep our larders filled with regular doses of cheap meat and animal foods.

And don't be misled by the foolish question of "what do we do with all the animals if people stop eating them." We put them back on their natural place in the food chain, for those who wish to indulge in pre-eaten food, and stop putting them up in cheap hotels feeding them mass-produced junk food. By relieving the pressure to devote every acre to agriculture, we allow back some of the natural wild mammals, small animals and birds that used to share this land with us, and that now exist most securely only where there is income to be made from hunting them. It is a shocking state of affairs when the wild animals of the country begin moving into the city for safety, as are foxes, falcons, wood pigeons and other species.

Just let the meat industry be part of the real world of material costs, supply, demand and product liability to which every other business must attune itself; meat would then be dethroned from its improper place at the top of our food chain and restored to the quality and safety that prevailed for our occasionally meat-eating ancestors.

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From the book "Uncommon Sense - The State is Out of Date"
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