Meat is a massive thing to discuss and is a constant talking point in the green-living world. Meat-free Monday is now a household concept, documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives are on Netflix. There is a lot of media attention on the affects of animal rearing for meat on global warming nowadays, it seems like more than ever.
I will be honest here and say that I grew up on a diary farm (the photo below is from our family farm). It was a small farm which had about 60 individually named cows. We knew each cow by face or markings and knew their personalities. They were friendly, free-roaming and happy (yes you can tell when a cow is happy!). There was not a trace of animal cruelty or mistreatment as every animal was cared for and treated with respect. Whatever you might read on PETA propaganda – not all animal farming is bad.
However, these types of farms are dying out. My parents gave up dairy farming when the supermarkets refused to buy milk for a reasonable price and essentially asked them to sell it less than it cost to produce it. Small farms cannot survive in this modern world and every day it becomes harder and harder- Brexit will soon mean that many subsidies that British farmers relied on will no longer be available: “The report by Informa Agribusiness Intelligence estimates that without subsidies 90% of farms would collapse and land prices would crash.” What this means for us, the consumer, is that we will be a) paying more for our produce and b) be buying more from foreign or massive corporation farms. Corporate farms are type of farm you see in documentaries about MacDonald’s or KFC where 50,000 chickens live in a small barn with barely enough room to breathe before being fattened up by highly processed food and sent to slaughter while they are just a few months old.
So, although I am not against animal rearing for meat or dairy, I am fully against the massive, profit-obsessed, mass-producing farms that have little or no respect for animal life. Green living, for me, isn’t synonymous with being vegan or even having a plant-based diet (plant-based is different to vegan in that they generally do not have the same ethical misgivings about wearing leather, for example, but eat a plant-based diet for health benefits) but it does mean living more sustainably and ethically which means thinking about choices such as meat and dairy.
So the biggest change we have made in our lives is more towards eating less meat in general, there is absolutely no need to eat meat every day, some people eat it for every meal! Meat-free Monday is a great place to start but try extending it to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – before you know it you’ll be moving more towards Meat-Only-On-A-Monday! Try recipes such as my veggie fajitas which are just as tasty without meat! Another good thing is to be conscious of where your meat comes from, supermarket meat is nearly always going to be from a factory farm but your local butcher will probably be able to tell you exactly where the meat they buy comes from. Local is best as it means it has travelled less distance, but just be aware of who local producers are and what their values may be. Farm shops directly connected to farms are the best way to get the meat directly from the source.
Buying ethical products is another way to ensure that animals are treated properly when buying leather, honey or other animal-derived products. Do you know how the cow that went into the Primark handbag was treated? Probably not. But buying from a reputable, small-scale manufacturer means that the process is more traceable and accountable. Always look for symbols such as the leaping bunny to make sure you are buying products which aren’t tested on animals.