George Monbiot is one smart man. He is also very well informed on a range of matters, many of them drawing together economic and ethical threads. Yesterday in The Guardian he was on about meat.
“ What can you say about a society whose food production must be hidden from public view? In which the factory farms and slaughterhouses supplying much of our diet must be guarded like arsenals to prevent us from seeing what happens there?”
Which is absolutely true. Years ago I tried to persuade the local BBC to do a series on meat production, taking the listener into the slaughter-house as well as the down to the farm, but it got a thumbs-down. Too bleak, I was told. It would depress the listeners and we didn’t want that.
Monbiot backs up his initial assertion about hiding what we do to animals with some figures on the nature of the meat itself. Factory-farmed chickens, he says, now contain almost three times as much fat as chickens did in 1970. Pigs and feedlot cattle have similarly been transformed. Not so much meat production, then, as fat production. He gives further details on the percentage of Americans who are vegetarian (2%) and ends with a hammer-blow paragraph:
“All children should be taken by their schools to visit a factory pig or chicken farm, and to an abattoir, where they should be able to witness every stage of slaughter and butchery. Does this suggestion outrage you? If so, ask yourself what you are objecting to: informed choice, or what it reveals? If we cannot bear to see what we eat, it is not the seeing that’s wrong, it’s the eating.”
A typical killer (if that’s the word I want) Monbiot piece of writing, pointing to our eagerness to close our eyes and those of our children to what we don’t like. It smashes conclusively the argument of meat-eaters (myself included). It also (although unintentionally) destroys the argument of those who object to posters displayed by pro-life campaigners, showing what happens to an aborted foetus/unborn child. To paraphrase Monbiot: if we cannot bear to see what we do to the unborn, it is not the seeing that’s wrong, it’s the abortion.