From the farm to the fork

Dead cows walking: Three animals are led into the abattoir for the BBC3 documentary Kill It, Cook It, Eat It

Oblivious of their destination, the cows are coaxed into the narrow passage of the abattoir The slaughtermen are subdued and gentle, mindful that any upset could cause a surge of adrenaline that will spoil the meat. The first cow is brought forward and a small bolt gun placed at the centre of its forehead. The trigger is pulled and a 15cm bolt shoots into the skull, not killing the beast but rendering it permanently incapacitated. The animal drops, a gate lifts and the body rolls sideways into an adjacent room. Immiediately, a slaughterman plugs the hole made by the bolt as a second wraps a chain around the cow's front and rear opposing legs. The cow is lifted so it hangs upside down over the 'bleed pit'. With its head dangling down, the first slaughterman makes a deep, swift cut from the base of the neck to the jaw. Blood gushes out. The windows steam up. Slowly, the animal stops kicking. We are standing in an abattoir modified for the BBC3 series, Kill It, Cook It, Eat It. Each episode follows the life and death of a lamb, pig and, today, cow as they make the unknown, notoriously ignored journey from field to plate. 'There is a new desire to learn where the food we eat comes from,' says BBC3 controller Julian Bellamy. 'That's why we've made the series. It's about giving the audience the facts and letting them come to their own conclusions.'

Pleased to meat you
Steve Mettrick, slaughterman for award-winning family butcher JW Mettrick & Son, agrees. 'Some people want to buy their meat and go away. But we've defanitely noticed a turn, with people going back to their local butchers wanting to know where their meat comes from.' In the series, an audience - members of trade associations, vegetarians and curious meat- eaters - have been invited to see the animals killed, watch a butcher prepare the meat and, if they so choose, taste it. CBBC presenter Rain Khanijau has been vegetarian for 24 years. 'If you eat meat, you should know where it comes from,' she says. Ed Baines, TV chef and owner of London eatery Randall & Aubin, agrees: 'It's important to take an interest in what you eat.I want to know how I will react.'

Beef encounter
Once the head and hooves have been removed, the carcass is skinned, gutted and passed to John Mettrick (pictured, centre), Steve's brother, who prepares the beef. 'Badly killed meat makes bad meat,' he says, shaping a piece of sirloin. 'If it's dark and hard, the animal was stressed at the abattoir.' To allow the full flavour to develop, beef is normally hung for 28 days. Today, however, it is cooked and presented for the audience to taste. Slightly hesitant, they tuck in to the cow that walked past them just hours ago. Store manager Rowena Perry considered becoming a vegetarian before the show. 'I hoped being here would help me make the decision,' she says. 'Although I found it upsetting, it was very quick and professional.' Tasting the meat, she adds: 'It's nice. I'll still have to think about it.' Baines is more certain: 'Once the bolt struck and the head was removed, it turned to meat.' Khanijau, however, cannot be swayed. 'It has reinforced why I am a vegetarian.! had one glimpse as the animal fell to the floor and couldn't stop crying.'

Handled with care
Chef and farmer's daughter Rachel Green is a huge advocate of local food: 'Some people may find this shocking but they need to know what happens. It sounds hard but we produce animals to kill them and eat them. Here, in small abattoirs like this, it's done with great respect. People take a lot of care to produce a great animal to slaughter it.' But not all killing is so careful; large slaughterhouses work to different standards and it's encouraging to Green that audience members leave wanting to look more pointedly into the provenance of their meat. Not knowing your food's origins means large organisations can often get away with a lot of cost-cutting. That has implications - for the quality of food, for animal welfare, for farming communities and for the countryside. 'With the amount of anonymous food and processing that goes on, it's important to know exactly what you're eating,' says John Mettrick.

Kill It, Cook It, Eat It is on BBC3 from March 5 to 7 at 10.30pm.

Edited by BEL JACOBS Thursday, March 1, 2007

Chickens aren't the only victims
In the wake of Hugh Feamley- Whittingstall's TV show Hugh's Chicken Run, it's great to see support for his carnpaign against caged chickens (Metro, Tue) and even better to hear many people on the train and at work saying they are going free range. I hope readers also remember that it isn't just chickens which are kept in cages. Most other farm animals suffer from intensive rearing as well, especially outside Britain, where it is still legal in some countries to keep calves in questionable 'group housing systems'. Even if animals are given freedom while alive, the slaughter process is never pleasant and is sometimes excruciatingly cruel. Maybe readers would like to combat this suffering as well, by reducing the meat in their diet or, better still, becoming a vegetarian or vegan.
K Wright, West Yorkshire

Hugh and Jamie Oliver have gone too far with their chicken farming campaigns. Just let the farmers get on with bringing us inexpensive poultry that we want to eat - it's hard enough already with all the regulations. It is quite remarkable to be so ungrateful about cheap, quality food - they may not be Bresse chickens but they're not bad.
I Brookes, London N4

Supply and Demand
As a free range farmer, I feel I must point out a few basic facts to K Wright (Metro, Mon), who suggests that we should all become vegetarian or vegan to end animal suffering and the cruel practice of intensive farming as a whole. If everyone removed meat from their diet then farm animals would rapidly be killed off and would cease to exist in the countryside. They are only there because we eat them - no farmer can afford to keep 'pets' of that size, especially in such large quantities. Supermarkets are the cause of the 'cheap' food systems, as they threaten to buy from abroad if the domestic price isn't right for them. Perhaps Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall should do his next TV show on the Double-Muscled Belgian Blue cattle (not to be confused with the smaller British Blue), which are bred so huge and disfigured that almost all calves have to be born by Caesarian.
Julian Pearson ,Cambridgeshire

[Metro Jan21-22,2008]

Click to see Vivisection arguments

Pulling the wool over our eyes

Metro 30/10/08

Dear Ed,

With respect to Julian Pearson's nonsense argument that there would be no sheep and cows left in the countryside if everyone gave up meat. Cows produce milk and sheep produce wool,there is no need to kill them for meat - he is using the same ridiculous arguments that the hunts use to say they would not keep their hunt dogs as "pets" and that it is somehow more callous to get rid of them. We keep animals in zoos and some people keep pigs as pets as they are smarter than dogs.
Mr Pearson - like the hunters - is selfishly concerned about his own welfare - not that of the creatures he shares the planet with.

5 Reasons Why Meat-Eating Can't Be Considered A 'Personal Choice'

· by Sharon Seltzer

Written by Robert Grillo - Founder of Free From Harm

Of all the convoluted rationalizations for eating meat in an age when eating meat is not at all necessary for our survival or health, many people today are borrowing a popular slogan I like to call "the personal choice self-deception." It goes something like this: "My decision to eat meat is a personal choice." And it is usually followed by a statement sympathetic to their vegan and vegetarian friends, acknowledging that they too are making personal choices that are right for them. Sounds great on the surface, but it's what lurks beyond the surface that I find deeply disturbing for five key reasons.

1. Eating is a communal, multi-cultural activity until the vegan sits down at the table

First, let's take a closer look at what personal means in the context of the highly social human activity of eating. Personal food choices had never been discussed at the dinner table until a growing number of vegans and vegetarians - by their very presence at the table - question the legitimacy of eating animals. A person who tells you that their meat eating is a personal choice is really telling you "stay away." They don't want you to question their highly-coveted moral beliefs or perhaps they object to exposing their unexamined moral quandary over how one can justify using and killing animals for food in an age when it is completely unnecessary. In other words, "They have made this issue personal precisely in response to you making it a public."

2. There is no free choice without awareness

The irony is that while meat eaters defend their choice to eat meat as a personal one, they will nonetheless go to great lengths to defend it publicly when confronted with a vegan or vegetarian. Like some apologetic white liberals who defend themselves by defiantly exclaiming to a new black acquaintance, "But I have black friends too!", some meat eaters will go to great lengths to explain how intimately they understand veganism since they have vegan friends, have already heard and evaluated their reasons for going vegan and respect them dearly.

They've considered being vegan carefully, they will assure you, and have concluded that it's just not for them. But instead of arriving at some novel new understanding of why humans should eat meat, they simply revert back to the traditional arguments that are all pretty much centered around what social psychologist Melanie Joy calls the three N's of justification: eating meat is normal, natural and necessary. But their reasoning reveals the fact that they have sorely overlooked the big idea behind veganism which author Jenny Brown points out so eloquently in her book The Lucky Ones: "We can become prisoners of our earliest indoctrinations or we can choose to look critically at our assumptions and align our lives with our values. Choosing to live vegan is how we're able to do that best."

3. The choice has a victim and the victim is completely ignored

Let's take a look at the issue from the animal victim's perspective which has been completely denied by the meat eater's unexamined assumption that animals have no interest or understanding of the value of their individual lives. Does the animal who is being bred, raised and slaughtered for someone's food care if the person who is eating meat has given the prospect of becoming vegan any serious moral consideration? Of course not.

The notion that these conscious meat eaters think they have done their due diligence by examining the pros and cons of eating animals means nothing for those that value their lives as we do. The fact is the animals we raise for meat have at least as much of an interest in staying alive, avoiding pain and suffering and seeking pleasure as these meat eaters' pets. As activist Twyla Francois so aptly puts it: "All animals have the same capacity for suffering, but how we see them differs and that determines what we'll tolerate happening to them. In the western world, we feel it wrong to torture and eat cats and dogs, but perfectly acceptable to do the same to animals equally as sentient and capable of suffering. No being who prides himself on rationality can continue to support such behaviour."

4. Many personal choices we make have dire consequence for ourselves and others

Now let's take a closer look at the meaning of choice itself. The act of making a choice implies that the actor has free will and awareness of the options and their consequences. In the spirit of justice, we live in a society where our actions and choices are governed by what society deems acceptable. We can make a personal choice to maim, rape or kill someone, but these actions will have consequences that serve as a deterrent. It is generally accepted in a democratic society that we are free to do what we want as long as it doesn't harm anyone else or infringe on the same rights and freedoms of others.

Yet, for the meat eater, the choice of eating animals is completely disconnected from this concept of justice since justice does NOT for them apply to other species, only to humans (how convenient). In other words, there are no visible, negative consequences to eating meat. The victims remain invisible and silent to those who eat them, and that is perhaps the greatest deception of all.

5. Atrocities are never personal

In reality, the choice to eat meat negates the very meaning of choice because the animal that had to be killed to procure the meat had no choice in the matter at all. And the notion of characterizing such a choice as a personal one is even more problematic since the choice required the taking of another's life, not a personal sacrifice. Nothing could be more public than the taking of a sentient life that cares about his own life, particularly when the act is not necessary and therefore not morally defensible.

When 60 billion land animals and another approximate 60 billion marine animals are killed every year across the planet for "personal" food choices made by a single species that are based on palate pleasure alone, eating meat ceases to be a matter of personal choice; it becomes a social justice movement to protect the rights of animals. To deny animals the right to live their lives according to their own interests is wrong and to attempt to defend our choice to eat them as a personal one is delusional.

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Dear Ed

Jamey Barron falls foul of many of the ignorant arguments about vegetarianism. Hectare for Hectare crops sustain more people than do livestock, as crops have to be kept both for the livestock to eat and pasture for them to live in,they consume much more than they give back in meat.Little extra food is needed,since most meat eaters already eat veg.As for culling livestock,this is the same absurd argument used by the hunting fraternity,farmers merely would not breed the next generation. We are omnivores and have a choice about what we eat,that's what makes us "superior to animals" in the minds of meat-eaters. Funny how they cannot make an informed choice.

DL Borrell

Metro 23/9/08

Red meat raises risk of all kinds of death

A butcher fills his meat counter in this file photo

Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor Print Story People who eat the most red meat and the most processed meat have the highest overall risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

The National Cancer Institute study is one of the largest to look at the highly controversial and emotive issue of whether eating meat is indeed bad for health.

Rashmi Sinha and colleagues looked at the records of more than 500,000 people aged 50 to 71 who filled out questionnaires on their diet and other health habits.

Even when other factors were accounted for -- eating fresh fruits and vegetables, smoking, exercise, obesity -- the heaviest meat-eaters were more likely to die over the next 10 years than the people who ate the least amount of meat.

"Red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality," Sinha and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

They divided the volunteers into five groups, called quintiles. Between 1995 and 2005, 47,976 men and 23,276 women died.

The quintile who ate the most red meat had a higher risk for overall death, death from heart disease and cancer than the men and women who ate the least red meat.

The researchers said thousands of deaths could be prevented if people simply ate less meat.

"For overall mortality, 11 percent of deaths in men and 16 percent of deaths in women could be prevented if people decreased their red meat consumption to the level of intake in the first quintile," Sinha's team wrote.


Many studies have shown that people who eat less meat are healthier in many ways, and Sinha's team noted that meat contains several cancer-causing chemicals, as well as the unhealthiest forms of fat.

The U.S. government now recommends a "plant-based diet" that stresses fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Barry Popkin, an expert in nutrition and economics at the University of North Carolina, said the study was unusually thorough and careful.

Eating less meat has other benefits, he said, and governments should start promoting this. For instance, farming animals for meat causes greenhouse gas emissions that warm the atmosphere and uses fresh water in excess, he said.

"I was pretty surprised when I checked back and went through the data on emissions from animal food and livestock," Popkin said in a telephone interview.

"I didn't expect it to be more than cars."

Cancer experts said the study fit in with what is known from other research.

"This large study provides further evidence to support the recommendations by groups such as the World Cancer Research Fund in demonstrating an association between a high consumption of red and processed meats and a increase risk of death from cancer," said Ian Olver, Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Council Australia.

The meat industry denounced the study as flawed. But American Meat Institute executive president, James Hodges, said: "Meat products are part of a healthy, balanced diet and studies show they actually provide a sense of satisfaction and fullness that can help with weight control. Proper body weight contributes to good health overall."

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Dear ed,

J Kinsley makes another of those mistakes that Meat eaters make.Calves and lambs existed before we came along to farm them - the fact is the cow cannot walk properly because of our selective breeding. It maybe true that it would not last long in the wild,but those creatures are wild creatures that we chose to modify. They do not owe their existence to us,that is the exploded ego of the meat eater talking.

Dear Ed,

I knew Alex Garnett's letter would prompt the philosophically challenged meat-eaters to crawl out of the woodwork. Meat is not murder under the current law but this is because of the speciesism in our society which hopefully Rise of the Planet of the Apes will highlight. We treat animals as "things" not as individuals with lives,much as slaves were treated in times of yore.

We do not need to eat meat because I have done without it for 3/4 of my life,and the meat industry is indeed the main culprit of noxious gases that affect the atmosphere.

If one wishes to invoke being an omnivore,one must also exercise the so-called moral conscience that meat eaters use to say they are better than animals,in which case the moral high ground is not to kill anything when you do not have to,and this ground is held by vegetarians and vegans.

In this day and age the idea that a farmer is exploiting crocodiles for meat is absurd,we should be learning to co-habit with other species and live with them without exploitation,if anything that would show that we alone are not driven by our base evolutionary make-up. The fact is meat eaters show they are nothing more than animals and so have no moral high ground from which to pontificate. They are full of sour grapes and hot air and zero arguments that make any sense.

Eating processed meats like bacon, ham and sausages can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to new research.

Ham 'raises risk of heart disease'

Processed meats are already linked to a higher chance of developing bowel cancer but a round-up of worldwide research has shown a link with other conditions.

A review by the Harvard School of Public Health in the US found people who eat processed meats have a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

However, unprocessed red meats, such as beef, pork or lamb, do not raise the risk.

Experts examined 20 worldwide published studies involving more than a million people.

They found a 42% increased risk of heart disease and 19% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes for each daily serving, on average, of 50g of processed meat.

A serving of 50g is roughly the equivalent of two rashers of bacon or one hot dog.

Writing online in the journal Circulation, the authors said: "Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus (Type 2).

"These results highlight the need for better understanding of potential mechanisms of effects and for particular focus on processed meats for dietary and policy recommendations."

The authors said that, until now, studies have shown an inconsistent link between meat, heart disease and diabetes.





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