Head above the trenches: Are false militant attitudes ruining food for me?

Before I even begin and before someone clips something from the text below and takes it out of context I want to go on record as saying vegetarianism and veganism are wholesome, respectable practices and I fully support anybody’s decision to partake. I have myself tried vegetarianism to decipher if it was something that would work for me, instead deciding to take a more holistic approach to the meat I eat. I am as responsible as I can be knowing where my food has come from, use supermarkets and wholesale food as little as I can afford and eat game and free range meat provided locally via my own personal network. Veganism at it’s base is done for the right reasons and I am in no way shape or form attacking the practice or the fundamental principals on which it is built.

I am sad that I even have to go to such lengths to protect myself before writing something about food, however this is representative of the times we live in. Where opinion no longer applies to the laws of free speech and every opinion on the wrong side of the mob mentality is tossed aside as hate speech or seen as a by-product of far right sensibilities. The fact is that I believe that culturally we are in a very strange place that requires dialogue and debate, when in actual fact all we are doing is either trashing each other from either side of a twitter branded fence or like myself, sitting on top of it and trying to dodge projectiles from either side. In terms of what we consume per year in the UK the numbers are obviously quite large based on the population, below are the numbers from the September report from the ‘Department of Environmental and Rural Affairs’.

  • Cattle: Beef and veal production was 74,000 tonnes
  • Sheep: Mutton and lamb production was 25,000 tonnes
  • Pigs: Pigmeat production was 73,000 tonnes.

 

This is representative of just one month and for normal people who buy meat from a supermarket these numbers will be one of two things, staggering or unsurprising. The people who are taken back by this likely exist not considering the fact that what they eat used to be an animal and have fallen into a category of people who are very comfortable in their warm and cosy existence where everything just kind of appears before them with little to no struggle. The other camp are the realists who understand what meat is and where it comes from. I myself believe in being as much a part of the process as possible and source my own meat as much as I can relative to the current season as myself and my fiancé have a friend who is a game keeper, which is pretty handy.

At one point in my life those numbers would have shocked me and driven me to do my research sooner than I eventually did, which in turn would have driven me to read more about process and how these things work. As a meat eater I pride myself on NOT supporting factory farming as much as I possibly can given budget and availability of game or local meat as it is a practice I don’t see as sustainable or frankly have much time for. However, instead of seeing these figures and jumping straight onto Facebook or Instagram and giving someone problems for posting a picture of a steak they cooked, it made me look further into how I can minimise my reliance on this without depriving myself of something I enjoy and also increase the quality of meat that I eat. For instance the deep almost wine red colour of wild venison compared to the colour of most of the beef we have come to accept in a commercial environment is genuinely jaw dropping. I also compare this to the experience of eating pheasant for the first time having lived on roast chicken most of my life – an animal that is not a million miles away from each other in terms of species can provide a completely different experience given it’s quality of life, varied diet and existence outside of the sterilised world of factory farming.

So why is it with this in mind that when someone posts a picture of a shoot or a hunt, all they receive is a mass wave of bile and hatred as if they killed their own mother when 50% the people posting the comments have ”steak night with bae’ featured on their profile? Why is it that in 2018 a man can consume a whole chicken in one sitting in a restaurant but when they hunt their own deer they are branded a murderer? It fucking baffles me a lot of the time. I mean in one respect I feel in the UK we are a product of our environment and hunting, fishing and bush craft is essentially not a mainstream part of our culture (which in itself grieves me) seemingly exclusively reserved for the upper echelon of society while the working man eats only the cuts they can afford in their local supermarket or served when they go out to the pub. Whereas in the US, even though society seems to be turning on the hunters somewhat it is at least initially seen as the wholesome working persons way of providing for their family. I think these contrasting views are also accentuated by the history of fox hunting in Great Britain – a brutal and unacceptable practice that involves chasing down a fox with a pack of dogs and results in the fox being torn apart by them. Rather than killed ethically and quickly for food, this is all sport and was subsequently banned as recently as 2005 in England, 2003 in Scotland while still remaining a legal practice in Northern Ireland.

The lack of public land in the UK also means that hunting becomes more difficult as it is something you have to now do on someone else’s land. There is still a healthy amount of places in the UK where you can go on organised shoots or stalks but these again aren’t a mainstream option for most people who love here. Scotland being one of the few truly wild areas of our little island does attract people from abroad to experience a hunt in the highlands, a beautiful setting if nothing else to experience the raw emotion and struggle of harvesting your own food. This became stunningly apparent to most of the people in the Twittersphere this summer when Larysa Switlyk put pictures on her page of her hunting trip to the aisle of Islay with her partner. Oh my… did the people of the internet give her ‘what for’. I did what no person should ever do and clicked on as many profiles as I could to see the kind of person it takes to be so aggressive and vile to another person over something they knew little about and the answer wasn’t at all surprising.

If you are reading this with an agenda then you fully expect me to say vegans here don’t you? I thought so…but nope. It was a diverse and varied group of people of different views and lifestyles with one unified attribute. Complete ignorance.

To kill an animal in the UK or US you have to have permission to do so, either by the land owner, government or relative authority. The animals will also be consumed not just tossed off the side of a cliff or left where they dropped but were any of these questions asked? Of course not. Instead all that was thrown onto the pictures were quotes of disgust and how she should be ashamed of herself. My biggest gripe with this is the lack of questions and umping straight onto the band wagon of ‘fuck you and everything you stand for’. Why aren’t these people calling ASDA, Sainsbury’s or Wallmart murderers? Picketing the chicken aisle or tweeting how Danish bacon is an abomination? Why aren’t they committed to stopping the use of palm oil that is a leading cause of deforestation? (while still consuming peanut butter that is pumped full of it). Culturally would you have ever given a shit about it if it wasn’t on Twitter? Probably not to be fair. I believe if someone said to you in conversation ‘did you hear about that woman that hunted feral goats and stag in Scotland?’ most people would have approached it in a ‘so where is the story here?’ kind of way. The outrage only hits it’s peak when the jury on social media comes together to find their next victim to destroy. Often resulting in social execution without much in the way of a trial.

The point is there are very few issue sin this world let alone this country that as so black and white you can say ‘I AM THIS’ or ‘I AM THAT’ which seems to be a fundamental problem with todays society. Are you red or blue? are you Pro or anti Brexit? My answer, somewhat pedantically has always been ‘I’m Phil’. The only time I ever pick sides is in sport, otherwise I simply want to hear both sides and pull my own takeaways from it based on my views and opinions, not just adhere to what one team or the other is saying I should think. The problem is that for some reason this now bleeds into what we eat. Because I eat a responsibly harvested wild pheasant I am potentially classed as ‘murdering scum’ whereas the VW Golf that smashed 3 of them on the way to get their cornflakes is guilt free. Fundamentally should VW or another car manufacturer be attacked for not having Pheasant or badger safety in mind when designing the latest family saloon? Probably not lets be fair.

The problem is not their point of view necessarily but their approach to an apposing one, just as you would try to sell something to a customer a point of view can be taken or left where it stands. If I was to force someone to purchase something it would be seen as the wrong approach and an unethical way of doing business and yet when it comes having an opinion or belief, we seem to be stuck within a social juxtaposition where people seem to think telling someone to ‘fuck off and die’ will have a better result than ‘but why do you think that?’ I’m not a hundred percent sure calling someone a murderer has ever stopped anyone eating meat and I’m sure from a contrasting point of view throwing the word ‘snowflake’ at anyone ever stopped them in their beliefs either. Both sides are culpable and as guilty as each other. What creates change is open and honest dialogue about the issues that matter to you. Militant attitudes only serve to create militant groups and while the title of this article specifically referenced the left in it’s first draft (as I have certainly been attacked more regularly by people who firmly put themselves into this camp) it is worth showing my distain for people who do it the other way too. It solves nothing. It goes even further to solving absolutely nothing when either side are doing it just to resist the other rather than actually having any real belief in what they are saying.

I absolutely adore food. That’s why I have this blog, it’s why I choose to use my spare time writing about it and why I spend the rest of my free time thinking about it or cooking it. This joy that I find in consuming the fuel I need to be alive is a basic and wholesome practice, that has existed since the birth of fire gave us the ability to change the form of raw ingredients to create new and exciting oral experiences. If you are to try and dampen that with aggression or hatred rather than a long form conversation then I have little to no interest in speaking to you. You personally are not the problem. Your approach is and if you fix it you may make more progress in convincing people to change something. Whether you are a hunter speaking to a vegetarian (who often share similar reasons for doing what they do!!!) or a pescetarian telling your chicken farmer associate the benefits of a fish heavy diet there are always certain sensibilities you will share because of something that gets lost in translation… we are all people. Personalities with billions of differences and similarities alike. How do we even scratch the surface if we are telling each other to get fucked all the time because of what we eat for dinner?

Take religion as a very broad example. Does picking a faith and shouting things at the others ever achieve anything apart from causing pain to both sides? no not really. Check the daily news for details… and how many people are newly recruited to a religion by someone knocking on a door during dinner after a hard days work? I would hazard a guess at not many. But how many change religions and beliefs based on sensible, appropriate conversations or simply having access to the information available to that person when they need it? I would put my mortgage on that being a much higher number. A perfect example of this was during one of Steve Rinella’s book readings around 6 years ago (one of my absolute heroes) where there was a comment thrown at him by a vegan gentleman and Steve had what I class as one of the more beautiful conversations on YouTube. Both showed compassion to each other and they bother agreed to meet in the middle and hear each other out. Isn’t that the way we should always do it? Check it out below.

 

So in summary, yes, I think modern food related culture and my own enjoyment is somewhat ruined by all the in fighting. I like to enjoy the process of finding, planning, preparing and cooking my food but often find myself being told I am in the wrong in one way or the other by either ‘side’. I would like to make a plea to my Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat eating, fish catching friends and readers alike – I implore you to think about the ways we approach communication. There are so many important issues we could discuss if we actually spoke openly rather than shutting ourselves in boxes just to achieve more likes and retweets than the last guy because you ‘shut that guy down’. We all need to be better at it and for all the points you feel your scoring nobody wins at the end. After all is said and done this is simply my thought process put into writing which some of you may disagree with… and that’s fine. It’s just how we deal with the next part that matters.

 

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5 thoughts on “Head above the trenches: Are false militant attitudes ruining food for me?

  1. The problem with “humane” farming is that not only do we not need animal products, but they are unhealthy and dangerous, which makes using and killing animals for them unethical. (If you agree that unnecessarily & intentionally causing suffering & early death of the sentient is unethical.)

    Veganism isn’t about causing zero harm or suffering, it’s about cutting down on the harm and suffering we cause where possible & practical; it’s also affordable and beneficial for health, fitness, & well-being, so there really isn’t any excuse to still be consuming animal products.

    One thing I’d like to add is that it’s important to keep in perspective when having these discussions; What’s more of an important issue, people having “militant” dialogue about victims of slaughter that makes you uncomfortable, or people needlessly creating victims of slaughter (for bacon no less)?

    This is why some vegans can come off as militant/emotionally extreme, because we have to hear “mind your business, it’s my personal choice!” constantly from people trying to justify exploitation and slaughter.
    We would rather spare their lives than your feelings and that sometimes leads the conversation to an unproductive place because the meat eater usually becomes defensive for feeling attacked.

    • First of all thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. Something I am intrigued to get into more is the feeling that animal products are unhealthy and dangerous. I have heard this quite a few times but only from people who are making a very specific point – What science is this based on?

      To my mind bioavailability is a big question that I always have to raise when talking about plant based diets as complete proteins (facilitating the carriage of essential amino acids for protein synthesis) are more commonly found within meat than vegetable such as peas etc. The other is say I partake in a hunt for a single deer… the deer I harvest would be of an age where it’s breeding capacity is in decline or negatively affecting the breeding capability of younger bucks. The alternative to this animal being given a largely quick end is it freezing or starving to death, worst case being hit by a vehicle. In a world where we have populated a vast swathe on the UK, true wilderness is hard to come by and with no natural predation for our game this means it does have to be managed. That is a result of the world we have built in my view. Which I am fully aware will not line up with your own.

      I absolutely get that the average vegan can feel somewhat beleaguered by the majority of people and think that, as I said above, both sides are doing it wrong. I’m not made uncomfortable by the content of the conversations but rather shutting up shop when I’m being attacked for following my own instincts… where as your instincts have driven you in another direction which is in my eyes perfectly fine.

      I have a completely different belief structure to you which I feel is more in touch with the natural world. Life eats life – even plants feed from animal protein in one way or another (decomposition etc) however I totally understand how and why you feel the way you do and fully support the way you live and wish you all the good health it can bring to you, be that physical or mental. The fabric of the society we live in relies heavily on mass agriculture be that arable or pastoral – we are both moving away from that but just ending up in different places. In my mind there is no wrong answer, just differing solutions.

      If the information is available in the right way the right people will find it and you can make change, but it won’t happen over night and it won’t happen if people are having to defend themselves… on either side.

    • Also your line about sparing lives rather than your feelings I feel is part of the problem. You would probably encourage more change or further enquiry with a different line of communication. I’m quite happy to discuss these points at length by understanding where your coming from but others wouldn’t. You have to understand your talking about changing process and tradition (also the easier option) for millions of people – not sure the solution is to shout or approach it in an abrasive manor.

      • But you realize you don’t get to dictate how others deliver messages to you right? Your feelings quite literally don’t matter in this conversation irrespective of whether or not you think you have the stronger position.

        The problem is not how the growing vegan population delivers the message, we are beyond that at this point, it is not 1945;
        The problem is with how some people receive (or cop out of receiving) it.

        Saying “you might convince more people to stop raping children if you used a different line of reasoning” is implying that we should cuck out and negotiate with the terrorist;

        Similarly, saying “you might convince more people to stop contributing to animal agriculture with a different line of reasoning” is an unfair response to the argument I made because it’s implying that the words I used to defend innocent victims of unnecessary slaughter were too harsh (or inaccurate/skewed/exaggerated, which they were not).

        Do you really think that after 2+ years of reading about and learning about and discussing animal agriculture & veganism that I don’t understand that I’m talking about changing tradition?

        It’s important to realize that the change is already happening, and rapidly; Veganism is the fastest growing change in terms of global trends (perhaps tied with atheism).
        So we aren’t just talking about it, we’re doing it. Dairy farms are shutting down like mad all over the world and meat companies are being forced to downsize and create cruelty-free alternatives to sell their increasingly uninterested consumers.

        I didn’t realize I missed your previous comment so I’ll try to get to that at some point.

      • I appreciate your clear passion and dedication to you cause, Which is commendable in itself.

        Can you give me an example of company responsible for the production of meat products that has downsized in favour of cruelty free alternatives? I would be intrigued to read more about that and how they did it.

        In terms of veganism being a solution for everybody I’m not sure that is sustainable or ever going to be a viable option. I could use the way sugar is used within food as an example. It has been documented that early studies were skewed towards making dietary fat the devil when in actual fact sugar was to blame for the majority of the negative findings.

        Subsequently billions of pounds/ dollars were made by creating industry’s around the consumption of sugar. We are now in 2018 where the awareness of the effects of sugar and a rise in cases of diabetes has been evident, leading people to have an awareness of the effect this can have on your health – however, people still consume these products by the boat load regardless as it is built into the culture and buying habits of the general public.

        I do think we will continue to see a rise in vegetarianism and veganism which is not a bad thing. What I do not see is a complete conversion.

        For myself I did mention in the article that I have tried vegetarianism and it didn’t work for me. I have been a PT and also have dietary experience in an occupational sense – so I have read thoroughly into the benefits of hundred’s of different dietary plans. The correct answer is… there is no one size fits all diet for everyone. I can speak quite openly myself about having better mood, physical (in all areas) health when having a balanced diet that involves meat, fish and eggs.

        I’m sure you eat wheat and grain however if you do enough research into it you see the potential for massive inflammation problems in some people that dissipate when moving to a diet rich in animal proteins while dropping out starchy carbs.

        I am still yet to see a study that confirms in a none biased way that meat is bad for you. The only things I tend to see or get sent are by people with an agenda and I will admit if any company with any particular interest in selling meat based products you would get exactly the same thing coming the other way too. What you need is a totally unbiased study to define the benefits or negative effects of each diet – the problem is somebody has to pay for it. If someone is paying for it that means they have an agenda in my opinion.

        It’s up to an individual to try different diets and pick the one that makes them the most healthy as a result. If your journey through life has brought you to the place you are in now and you never eat another animal based products again then good luck to you and I hope you have a happy and healthy life. I just feel my best self when consuming complete proteins sourced from animals, which is also my choice.

        But honestly thank you for reading and engaging with the post. I appreciate you taking the time to read another point of view.

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