Friday, September 25, 2015

Treating meat eaters "like smokers"

Pinkie Sept 15

This is Pinkie, one of my three goats, this morning. She is our milking goat. The other two are kept for meat production. Since turning to a life of self-sufficiency, I have reduced the amount of meat I consume. I have however increased the amount of  eggs and milk products I eat.

Becoming self-sufficient was a personal choice for me. It was a choice based on my view that we need to consume fewer of the world's resources and cut the negative impact our lifestyles have on the environment. I wanted to show others that it is possible to have a great quality of life while consuming less.

Egg, milk and especially meat production consume resources. Land is needed to produce fodder and graze livestock which could be used for growing food for direct human consumption. More calories are fed to livestock than are recovered from the meat produced. So it is right that we look at how balanced our food supply chain is.

But, food consumption is about choices. For people like me, it's about showing that food waste can be virtually eliminated and that more fruit and vegetables can be consumed without having to end meat consumption completely. It's about a balanced approach, consuming a balanced diet that is from sustainable sources. The key description is "balanced".

And then along comes Kerry McCarthy, Labour's new shadow farming and food minister, who wants consumers of meat, eggs and milk products to be "treated like smokers". There is of course a world of difference between polluting your own body and the air around you by the unnecessary consumption of tobacco and eating food, a wholly necessary function to keep us alive. McCarthy's totally absurb, hectoring, needlessly intrusive attack on anyone who is not a vegan is mind boggling in its stupidity and highly counter productive for those of us genuinely committed to improving the health of the nation and reducing the impact food production has on the environment.

I don't give a damn that Kerry McCarthy is a vegan. That's a personal choice and is undoubtedly taken by her for reasons she believes to be totally right. But if she is really serious about wanting to tackle the imbalances in our nation's diet, she is damaging the cause.

I wonder what local Labour members in Gateshead make of it. Before the council meeting yesterday, as Labour members munched their way through their taxpayer funded meat flans and chicken in breadcrumbs, did their shadow farming minister give them ammunition to attack milk, egg, cheese and meat producers like me? Or shall we set them a test? How about following the instruction of their shadow farm boss and have only vegan food served before full council. Would they be able to stomach that?

If you want to read Kerry McCarthy's comments, click on this link.


Anonymous said...

It was a choice based on my view that we need to consume fewer of the world's resources and cut the negative impact our lifestyles have on the environment

But surely every person keeping their own animals is less efficient than bulk farming? Doesn't farming benefit from efficiencies of scale — isn't that why you can support a much larger population if you have cities which are supplied with food by surrounding farms, than if each household has to keep its own animals (in which case you're pretty much limited to a hamlet / large village lifestyle)?

jonathanwallace said...

I wasn't arguing against bulk farming. We need it. It is the case however that we are too dependent on food imported from vast distances when we have the capacity to produce some of it ourselves, either on farms or small scale as I do. Furthermore, the food supply chain produces a great deal of waste. Vast amounts of resources go into packaging and then disposal of the same packaging. Much food is wasted before it reaches people's homes, and indeed, much of it is then thrown out because people react to best before dates. Whilst we do need bulk production on farms - and I am the first to recognise that my lifestyle is only for a small minority - the overall efficiency of the system is poor, mainly because so much is wasted once the raw food has left the farm.