My daughter’s favorite job when I ran a dairy farm was to feed the baby calves when their mothers couldn’t. Until the day she asked me what had happened to the male calves that wouldn’t end up in the dairy herd.
I told her. That was 40 years ago. She hasn’t swallowed a bite of meat since then.
Today, she earns a pretty good living as a vegan chef.
I can hardly remember a meal from that time without something that had ever bellowed, clucked, or clucked – but now I enjoy her amazing vegan dinners.
Veganism, once a ridiculous cult, is going mainstream. We carnivores believe that we have to justify ourselves.
What is going on here?
For the past week, the nation has gone into spasm as an alpaca named Geronimo was euthanized after testing positive for bovine TB. The response was simply astonishing.
For the past week, the nation has gone into spasm as an alpaca named Geronimo (pictured August 31) was euthanized after testing positive for bovine TB
The reaction to what happened in Afghanistan was on a different scale, but much more disturbing. After an extraordinary lobbying operation, dogs and cats were rescued, while desperate families were left at the tender mercy of the Taliban.
Pen Farthing, who ran “Operation Ark,” denied that he cared more about pets than people. But Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs that soldiers on the ground had been distracted from saving people and Farthing’s supporters had taken “too much time” with senior commanders.
Geronimo’s case did not have the same overwhelming moral force. In fact it had none.
But it said a lot about our strangely divided society. The animal was tested twice for bovine TB and found positive both times.
Bovine tuberculosis is a terrible disease. I know dairy farmers who have had half their herds destroyed and nobody cared.
But Geronimo was cute, and cuteness counts in this strange moral debate. Dairy cows are not cute.
The philosopher Peter Singer sowed the seeds for the animal rights movement almost 50 years ago with his book Animal Liberation. His critics said it would run out. The opposite has happened.
A YouGov poll last week found that 40 percent of the British public believe that animal lives are worth as much as human lives. Politicians have received the message.
The Mail revealed yesterday that a new ‘pet kidnapping’ offense is on the way, which could mean people who steal pets could face up to seven years in prison.
That is the kind of sentence that can be imposed on a criminal who brutally attacks another human being and causes serious injury.
Boris Johnson, who rarely sees a popular cause he disagrees with, has committed his administration to “putting animal sentiment at the heart of government policy.”
When Parliament meets again this month, it will debate a bill that will “formally recognize” animals as living things.
There is a problem with this. No one has an appropriate definition of what “feeling” means in this context.
We all know that animals can suffer. We know they feel pain. We know they want to protect their babies.
The reaction to what happened in Afghanistan was much more disturbing. Dogs and cats were rescued, but Pen Farthing (pictured) denied he prioritized pets over people
We know they enjoy their freedom. I was (almost) moved to tears when my cows were allowed to go out into the pasture for the first time after the winter months in a stable.
I watched them – even the old-timers with hanging udders – as they dice the field. Don’t let anyone tell me they weren’t having a good time.
So how will the new Animal Sentience Committee fulfill its duties once it has formally recognized that animals are capable of suffering?
It’s relatively easy when it comes to pets. Abuse your dog or cat and the RSPCA has the power to take you to court. Quite right too. Farm animals are an entirely different matter.
It is clear that the separation of cows from their calves within days of birth must end. An end to beef farming on industrial fodder grounds.
There will be an end to the chickens crammed together for the miserable few weeks of their lives, many of which can’t even stand, let alone move.
That’s all possible. But there’s a catch: we’d have to pay for it.
It’s fine for people like me. I can afford to spend a tenner on a real free range chicken. The mother in the tower block who depends on an intensively reared three-pound chicken for her permanently hungry teenagers can’t.
There is also another catch. The chickens and all other animals must be killed if we want to eat them. I’ve seen what happens in a slaughterhouse. Don’t tell me the animals don’t suffer.
Of course, that’s no problem for supporters of Peta, the world’s largest animal rights organization that will almost certainly be represented on the new Sentience Committee. They will just tell us to stop eating meat.
Last year in Britain we killed about 2.6 million cattle, 10 million pigs, 14.5 million sheep and lambs and almost a billion birds. So that would wipe out an old industry that large parts of rural Britain depend on. Are we happy with that?
If you are already a vegetarian, it is quite possible. We don’t have to eat meat or fish. And vegans like my daughter prove every day that we don’t have to eat milk or cheese or eggs either.
Boris Johnson (pictured), who rarely sees a popular cause he doesn’t approve, has committed his government to ‘put animal sentiment at the heart of government policy’
But there is a deeper question behind this major cultural shift that the nation appears to be going through. Do we humans have good relationships with other animals?
Over the centuries we have wiped out entire species thinking we can control nature to our own advantage.
It is indeed possible that we are exterminating ourselves while destroying our own habitat. Our cruelty and selfishness is on a global scale, and most of the time we have no idea of the effect we are having.
You could say that we only do what other animals do – exploit the world for our own benefit and are not too squeamish about harming other living things.
The heron I saw in my local pond seemed unbothered as it gobbled up a sweet little gosling.
But let’s go back to that hellish airport in Afghanistan and the rescue of the pets. There was one question that was not immediately addressed, because the assumption underlying it would have been morally repugnant.
How many pets are worth the life of a single child?
You know the answer to that and so do I. Therefore, the Animal Sentience Committee has an impossible task.
IT IS A STICKING PROBLEM BUT WE ALL NEED TO CHEW GUM
This is a health warning. What you are about to read may cause your blood pressure to rise and red marks of anger to appear on your cheeks…
Everyone should be chewing gum. Not just every now and then. Every day.
Yes, I share your view that the idiots who drop chewing gum on sidewalks – or wherever – are a disgrace to society.
I welcome the announcement this week that the major chewing gum manufacturers have agreed to pay £2 million for an official ‘gum task force’.
What you are about to read could cause your blood pressure to rise and red marks of anger to appear on your cheeks… Everyone should be chewing gum every day (stock image)
I’ve been to Singapore where it’s an offense to chew gum on the street and I was jealous of their immaculate sidewalks.
Like you, I’ve been revolted by those idiots who chew big gum with their mouths half open and their jaws acting like pistons on an old steam engine.
And yet I must tell you that chewing gum is good for you. I learned it the hard way.
Like most post-war youth, my mouth was a disaster area. No fluoride in toothpaste, no electric toothbrushes and lots of sugar. I had so many fillings that there was enough metal in my mouth to build a Spitfire.
I ended up going private. Not cheap, but worth every penny, if only for one piece of advice. Chew a little sugar-free gum after every meal and drink. So I did.
That was over 30 years ago and I’ve never had a refill since. It works because it helps prevent harmful bacteria from damaging your teeth and, more importantly, your gums.
And if that doesn’t convince you, try this: Some of those bacteria get into your brain.
And the latest research shows what scientists have suspected for several years — it’s linked to a protein marker that means you’re more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease.
So chew gum and avoid dementia.
Just don’t spit it on the curb!