Jim Duffy: Vegans should stop saying meat is murder

Nearly a billion chickens are eaten in the UK every year (Picture: AFP/Getty)
Nearly a billion chickens are eaten in the UK every year (Picture: AFP/Getty)
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An all-or-nothing approach to eating vegetables is not helping humans or animals, writes Jim Duffy.

I thought I’d give you my take on how the vegan movement can better influence us as many vegans – who classify the slaughtering of cows for our consumption as murder – would have us believe. But I’m not sure the vegan movement, which appears to be gaining some traction, is doing itself any favours by adopting a hardline stance.

It is boxing itself into a corner where it all begins to feel a bit binary. Unfortunately, this is happening more and more these days as we become hugely polarised on various subjects. One is either a Nat or not, AaBrexiteer or a Remainer, a Mason or not, a Trump fan or not and so it goes on … So, when the subject of food and vegetarianism raises its head in debate,

I’m looking for a more balanced framework for the discussion. After all, why do I have to be one or the other? Why can’t I just enjoy the best of both? Or is that ethically, environmentally and socially unsound?

There is no doubt in my mind that factory farming and the way many animals are reared for our mass consumption is of a poor standard. That said I live on a farm and the standards I see daily are first class. I read this week that in the UK, we consume 2.5 million chickens each day. I had to have a think about that one. Then it dawned on me as I was sitting in Nando’s eating a half chicken with minted peas and grains, that we probably do.

With Nando’s, KFC, hundreds of fried chicken shops on street corners, frozen chicken covered in batter in freezers in the likes of Iceland and Farmfoods, shelves full of it in the supermarkets, big multi-chain sandwich shops stuffing it into seeded bread rolls and restaurants serving it up for lunch and dinner, we do like to eat a bit of chicken.

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So, how do I know that the quality of care and feeding and husbandry going into the nurturing of these 912,500,000 chickens annually is top notch? Add to this the multiple burger chains that have sprung up across the country and steak restaurants that are cropping up everywhere and our red meat consumption also shows no signs of abating. We are up to our eyeballs in meat.

But, I sense there is a backlash on the way as both vegans, pescatarians, vegetarians and many other variants of -arians, decide to switch out meat from their diets, while lecturing us at the same time.

But, rather than say it’s one or the other, why can we not strike a balance? As I researched for this piece I have come across oodles of verbiage on the ethics of how we farm today and how it can indeed be improved to provide a truly higher quality of meat that is “good for us”.

Proper grass-fed cows with no pesticides etc, reared by ethical omnivore-oriented farmers, can it seems produce a meat that is good for the human gut packed with essential nutrients that we “need”.

These meats have a high percentage of omega fatty acids which makes them anti-inflammatory and good for the gut. Coupled with this, better use is made of the other bits, like the liver, which stores amazing amounts of vitamins and nutrients, but is not everyone’s cup of tea.

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So, good meat is out there and available, but like all things premium, it will have a higher price tag. If we extrapolate this to chicken, where a premium chicken is produced that is super healthy, then am I willing to pay £24 for a whole chicken in Nando’s, as opposed to £12? Nando’s will say their chicken is good quality, but if we are serious about changing the perception of meat, then we may need to be honest about just how good the meat we are served up really is. Further, who is policing this? After all, I’m not sure I want any of those chlorinated chickens they have in the USA – the country that is killing us with sugar, corn syrup and ice cream – to start appearing on supermarket shelves.

So, I totally get the vegan stance and lifestyle choice. The 500,000 vegans in the UK, a figure that is growing weekly, have a voice. But, I do not want that voice hijacked by the extreme side of veganism that screams “Meat is murder” at me.

It’s a mechanistic, science-based perspective that classifies us as killers, who then require to be punished. Those calling for farmers to be attacked and their children trampled by cows have just lost the plot and the argument.

I have no doubt that eating less meat, whether it be beef or chicken and upping my diet with more veggies will have a benefit, as I am adopting a balanced approach. And this is where the vegan movement has the opportunity to start to influence me more. Please don’t classify me as a murderer or torturer. It will just ruffle my feathers somewhat. Instead, continue to educate me on the benefits of eating more veggie products.

But, just to demonstrate how positive I feel about the change that’s is taking place, I’m going to revert to my Nando’s narrative.

Not having visited it for years, I was amazed to see that almost half the menu is vegetarian. And not just some lettuce leaves and a salad bar. Far from it. Really tasty, nutritious vegetarian options that do not sit aside in small text on the menu.

No, they are front and centre and part of the new Nandos offering. So, the clever people there have seen the trend happening and are leading the charge. Now that’s a big change and must be a welcome one for vegetarians – and hopefully vegans. Like all things in life, striking a balance is the key. My plea to the growing vegan movement is this: nudge me along in a positive way and together we can change how a nation eats and nurtures itself, while improving the life of animals on farms.