Helen Martin: No need to go the whole hog over meat

A FEW days from now we should get reports about how successful Veganuary has been for the 50,000 people who ­formally signed up to it, and others who informally gave it a try.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 5:00 am
Many animal lovers still eat meat  but there is a dark side to meat and milk production

The vegan campaign can be persuasive. But most people who love ­animals also love eating meat and won’t choose to analyse that conflict every time they chomp a bacon roll or a burger – though looking a lamb in the eyes is enough to rule out ­shepherd’s pie for a month.

They may not take the vegan route and permanently cut out meat, milk, eggs and everything else that comes from sentient beings, but the sight of a lorry taking farm animals to an abattoir, watching a cattle auction on TV, or passing a field of mummy ewes and baby lambs frolicking, can bring on guilt and a twinge of nausea.

The vegan lobby has also pushed planet and environmental issues. Not only does animal wind and manure produce high levels of pollution, but 40 per cent of world grain feeds animals and more than a quarter of the planet’s ice-free landscape constitutes animal grazing. If we all went vegan, no human would starve and the ozone layer could recover.

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But if the love of animals is one of the main drivers of going vegan, or vegetarian, where would that leave us?

There would be no fields of cattle and sheep in scenic, rural areas. If we wanted most species to survive, small groups would have to be kept in zoos. With a farming background, I know humans have bred farm animals for so long that many are no longer capable of living wild. Even if they were, there would be no vets or humans providing safety, treating diseases or injuries, putting them to sleep rather than leaving them to die in agony, or doing everything possible to stop them freezing to death, suffering fatal ­dehydration, or being attacked by other animals – or humans.

Those of us who empathise and adore all creatures probably have pet dogs, cats, gerbils etc, but few could accommodate a cow or a ram, let alone a herd or a flock.

The debate over going vegetarian or vegan – or not, is extremely complex, even for animal lovers.

I admire and respect ‘Vs’, but we can’t all join the club. The best option for pollution, animal welfare, human health and the planet, would be a combined campaign by both veggies and carnivores to turn the clock back to better, pre-supermarket days.

Today’s bulk farming to keep food cheap, animals’ lives crowded in barns and cages, the cruelty involved in vast commercial milk production, are some causes that could bring us together.

When I was a child we had long-cooked mutton and old poultry (usually boiled). Now lambs are killed aged one; chickens make it from six to 14 weeks. Beef cattle usually meet their end at 36 months, yet several top restaurants, especially in London, buy beef from countries who let them live from eight to 17 years!

Wouldn’t we all want smaller farms, free range animal welfare, longer life-spans, painless endings, and mixed cattle breed milk? But thus, much higher prices to pay. So, go veggie two days a week and buy meat from butchers who know the provenance. Isn’t that the best way forward?

It’s rubbish when people drop litter

THINKING about wild animals, plastic pollution is horrendous. We’re aware of the tortuous effects on oceanic animals and fish. But have a look at some of the former train routes, now cycle and walking paths, around Edinburgh.

We took the dog for a stroll down one of those around Craigleith Retail Park.

Within a few yards there were oodles of discarded coffee cups from Costa and KFC customers. They continued through the walk but the garbage grew with poly bags, about a skip-full of beer and drink cans in total, plastic rings, bottles, crisp packets, a discarded fuel can, not to mention degradable stuff like fag packets and paper, all along the way. Disgusting for folks but even worse for voles, hedgehogs, birds and anything else living there.

My first thought was the litter droppers destroying the place. Then I realised there were no litter bins either.

So much for Edinburgh’s walking and cycling routes. This was more like plodding through a rubbish dump.

Edinburgh’s a great place to live – for some

THE Vitality Index, an assessment by property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton which rated Edinburgh with the best prospect of economic growth in the UK this year, was certainly good news for the city.

But it seemed to focus on “education, entrepreneurialism, affluence, productivity, growth and environmental factors”.

Uncollected refuse, random litter, congestion pollution, crumbling schools, food banks, shop closures, job losses, the closure of welfare centres for the deprived such as Craigmillar’s, didn’t get mentioned.

It was described as “great news for landlords”. (Well, hooray! I have two rental flats.)

But isn’t this an assessment based on and boosting the comfortable and rich folk in our divided city, ignoring all our problems and poverty?

Move to dock pay is snow go

WITH Jeremy Corbyn insisting that any Brexit plan must maintain employee rights, as that’s a party principle, it’s rather ironic that that East Lothian’s Labour council plan was to dock pay or write off holidays if staff obeyed police and stayed home in a snowstorm. Legal, perhaps. But Dickensian? Definitely.