Ashley Fruno, Associate Director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia.
The loss of jobs in Ipswich, and in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants which are closing down around Australia, is a symptom that should not be ignored – people are turning away from meat
A poll released last year by Roy Morgan Research revealed that between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults who are eating all or almost all vegetarian rose to over two million (11.2 per cent of the population).
The jobs of the future will not be in filthy, dehumanising work slicing up terrified animals, but in new technology that grows clean, hygienic meat in the lab. The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, and fellow billionaire Richard Branson have joined other business giants in putting their money where our mouths will be. They have noticed that consumers are demanding protein that’s less reliant on feed, land and water. Branson wrote this week that, in the future, “we will no longer need to kill any animals and that all meat will either be clean or plant-based, taste the same and also be much healthier for everyone.”
The way meat is produced today creates major problems for the environment, human health and of course the billions of animals kept in appalling conditions and slaughtered in terror and agony. The meat of the future, for those who choose to eat meat, will be cruelty-free.
This is a really superficial look at the meat issue. There are different systems for raising livestock, ranging from repulsive factory farming to animals raised entirely on pasture. The former is a disaster for the unfortunate animals, the environment and our health. The latter, if done well, can have positive benefits for the animals, our health and the environment. The problem is you lump everything concerning the eating of animals into an oversimplified one size fits all. You paint a picture where meat production is always hellish and appalling. This is not the case.
As for the lab meat, it may or may not be tasty and healthy. I do not know as I have never tried it. But what I do know is that such a laboratory based food processing system will skew our already over corporatised food system further in favour of the multinationals. If you are unaware of why this is an issue, you may want to read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma.
Data from Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences’ (ABARES) show per capita consumption of meat in Australia has remained about the same. The proportion of pork and chicken has markedly risen as the proportion of red meat has declined. While the proportion of vegetarians has risen, the low cost of chicken and pork mean remaining 90% of people who enjoy meat are not as discouraged by cost as low income people used to be. Many of the vegetarians are urban people from the younger generation who were not brought up watching chooks being killed or seeing carcasses hanging in the butcher shop. They find the thought of killing animals uncomfortable, because they have never learnt, as older generations did, to move beyond that comfort zone and learn to accept the blood and guts are part of enjoying meat. Similarly most young people have never learnt to enjoy eating offal, so some of the most delicious cuts of the animal go to waste or to pet food. Does Peta need to be reminded that cruelty to animals is an offence? Peta believes there are instances of cruelty on farms or in abattoirs why has it not brought them to the notice of the RSPCA or the police? Does Peta believe the RSPCA is derelict in its work stopping instances of cruelty – if not what indeed is its raison d’etre? Their attitude leaves open that their real concern is not so much animal welfare – around which the RSPCA does a marvelous job – but to impose their diet and their squeamishness on others, by closing down or greatly limiting production of meat in Australia and so pricing the out 90% of people from enjoying meat. Fortunately for our farmers and for towns like Casino and Kyogle that depend on beef production the rest of us will continue to want to enjoy what is an expensive but enjoyable form of food.