As someone who hasn’t eaten meat for 18 years (albeit I have been pescetarian for some of this), I was delighted by two recent stories in the papers. The first was that the Government plans to ban imports of foie gras with its new Brexit freedoms. The second was that pig farmers will be banned from confining sows in cages. At present they are allowed to keep thousands of sows for up to seven weeks in narrow metal cages before and after giving birth.
Personally I find the practice of making foie gras, and the idea of caged pigs, horrible. But I know not everyone is as excited about the measures to tackle them. Currently, Britain imports an estimated 180 to 200 tonnes of foie gras a year, which shows how much demand there is for the product, and some farmers say the ban on cages for sows will result in them crushing piglets. There will be arguments about whether Britain should dictate imports in this way. Where does it end? And so forth.
These are all reasonable concerns. But I have to confess that if someone wanted a long debate about these points I would have a limited amount to say. Do I know what’s best for pig farmers? No. Or whether the foie gras import ban counts as evidence of the “nanny state”? No. Like anyone else who shares my views on meat, I see things through an idealistic, rather than technical, lens; a move towards a wider, long-term goal. I simply believe that societies (that can) should phase out eating meat and using animal products, and support changes that take us closer to that idea.
I know what you may be thinking at this point. “Phase out meat! Are you mad?” That or “Have I stumbled onto the Extinction Rebellion blog?” I don’t tend to broadcast my views on animal rights because they are quite “radical”. I also don’t want to lecture people because of that stereotype, captured by the joke: “How do you know someone is a vegan? They’ll tell you”. Although I find the opposite is true, as most veggies want a quiet life, while others ask repeatedly: “why don’t you eat meat?”. Perhaps we should all say that we “just love rescuing things”, as Meghan Markle said of her chickens while talking to Oprah.
Luckily the Veggie Crew, as I shall shorten it, hasn’t needed to be too preachy in recent years as there are now so many dietary options and there’s been a huge cultural shift towards *whispers it* veganism. It’s now cool to do veganuary (well, I think so at least) and if you tell a dinner party host you’re vegetarian, you’ll find others coming are too. The speed at which these things have happened is amazing, with so much choice for Team VC.
Choice does take me back to the Government’s import ban, which I want to make one point on. I do agree with the direction it’s gone in given how cruel the aforementioned practices are, but as a general rule I don’t believe you can force attitudes to meat/ animal rights. For instance, was it really a good idea for universities to ban meat from campuses? It’s surely counterproductive as no one likes being told what to do, and they might rebel by way of a McDonald’s splurge. Just make everyone watch Babe is my solution.
That being said, one reason the Government has enacted these policies is to send a strong message on post-Brexit Global Britain. Militant Remainers argued before and after the referendum that Brexit would be a “race to the bottom” for animal welfare, but the Government can now show that’s wrong. As a Brexiteer, I never believed in those scare stories anyway, because of the enormous shift we’ve seen in dietary habits.
Either way, I am excited to see Conservatives show how much they care about animal rights. Sometimes these areas are portrayed as “woke” ones, but I believe they are important steps – not least for the economy (it’s fantastic to have all this choice). Fundamentally it’s not really a “policy” thing for Babe lovers like me, though; it’s one of a long journey towards a better future.