I was going to use this as the title for another piece on Brandt & Levie (and thus as another of the terrible puns) but instead felt it fitted better here, where I want to give a shout-out to a new book by ex-Observer reporter, Louise Gray, called “The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat”
It’s not a particularly easy read for you, as this excerpt below may show, neither was it an easy journey for Louise in the course of her reporting and writing during her year of research as she looks at what’s actually, really, really involved in bringing food, that’s based on once living animals, to your table. These animals have to die. And I know that a lot of you get that. At least intellectually. But this is much more of a visceral experience.
Then there’s the lauded Scottish chef Fred Berkmiller who knows why he wants to understand this process
He accepts death as part of the process, and one that everyone should know about. “We are weaker than we used to be,” he says. “Because we are completely disconnected from our food.” Fred blames the supermarkets. “Look at the horsemeat scandal. In the end it did good because it made people think.” Fred points to his temples. “We have to know where an animal comes from, for the flavour, the quality.” He puts his hand on his chest. “For your own heart.”
“Food is freedom,” he says. “Understand it and you can make a choice. Ignore it and the supermarket does it for you. I know where the animal comes from and I know how to respect it. I use everything.” He opens up a pan to show me the pork belly sitting in sauerkraut, points to marinating loin chops, pulls out a tray of crisp ears.
Like him, I think we all
“want a link between the men who raised and killed that animal and me. I want to make sure they all come from guys who have a passion for food.”
Because that way, if you decide to stay as a meat eater, you can (and must) take some responsibility for the integrity of the supply chain, for the proper, respectful use of the whole animal.
Louise goes on “I no longer feel we should all visit a slaughterhouse”. This isn’t a book that attempts through polemic to shame you into stopping eating meat. She is saying that you should be aware of the process, the blood, the guts, noise & smell, but not to feel ashamed of your choice. And she ends by asking
“Should I be vegetarian? Should I not be feeding the kids meat?” And without thinking I say “no” and it is an interesting moment. I come back to myself. Surely this should be my first thought, to stop this happening? But it’s not really.
My copy is on order. I commend it to you. If you’re going to eat meat, then be conscious of what happens to the animal all the way through its life-cycle, at its death & afterwards, when it goes to the butcher and thence to your table. And respect them.