As my fiancé will attest I am a bit weird about meat and I am always teetering on the edge of vegetarianism. I like the taste of meat, but I really struggle with the thought of defenceless animals being slaughtered for the human race’s food consumption. It is a difficult subject, pregnant with controversial idealism and/or naivety on the part of the general public. On one hand, we are animals who happen to be at the top of our food chain. Is it not the same as a tiger feeding on a small water buffalo? Although on the other hand, humans are highly intelligent beings, able to empathise with the animal that is being terminated for our dinner plate. This is the light hearted (not) conversation that was initiated in my office today when talking about the social impact of our behaviour on society and being linked to a social impact company (I work at an Impact Investing company). My colleagues were unable to get their heads around the fact that the majority of animals that are bred for our consumption, would not even be alive if it were not for the fact that as a species, we devour tonnes of meat and dairy on a daily basis. One of my colleagues suggested that as animals breed naturally and that there would be no difference to the population of cattle, even if our appetite for meat and dairy products waned. This is completely unfounded. Even if we forget the animals bred for meat for a moment and focus only on those bred for dairy, there would already be a change in population of cattle in the UK. Dairy cows are impregnated annually in order for the heifer to continue producing milk. As a meat eating country, the young male cows are reared for a defined amount of time until they are then slaughtered for the meat industry. Sadly, if we did not eat a large quantity of beef in the UK, then the baby male cows would be terminated at birth due to not being able to produce milk or any other by-product in their life time. The farmer is unable to afford to keep animals that will not contribute to the business.
Is it better to have a short lived life (as long as they are treated well) or to not have one at all? My instincts say that the former must be the best of a bad bunch of options. I do very strongly believe that ALL animals have the right to a well lived life, I am therefore a massive advocate of free range and farm bred meat and dairy. I happily pay more for my meat and dairy products knowing that all of the animals involved in each product were treated fairly during their short lives and that their unfortunate death is dealt with in the most humane way possible. Until there is a magic potion to make tofu taste like a rump steak, I can’t see any other solution in the current meat loving society that we live in.