Head to head: Chew on this

It's National Vegetarian Week. Time to stop the murder, says vegan musician and DJ Moby. Pig out, says TV omnivore Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Pro-vegetarian

"I'm not very sentimental but I have a basic philosophy that if I can avoid causing suffering then I should. I became a vegetarian when I was 18 or 19. Then, as I found out more about how animals are treated in the creation of animal products, I became a vegan. In most cases factory farming is atrocious. There's a lot of sophistry in the omnivores' arguments. They say human beings have always eaten meat, but most ancient cultures didn't have the resources to sustain meat-eating. Back then, if they killed a zebra, it's not like they had little portable fridges to keep it in. When anthropologists find human remains that are thousands of years old they often find that they were vegetarian. Physiologically we are more similar to herbivores. A cheetah, for example, has a few really sharp teeth for tearing meat and a short digestive system designed to process food quickly. A cow has lots of molars for grinding food down and a long digestive system to extract nutrients over a long period. Humans are much more like the cow.

Everyone in my family used to ridicule me at Thanksgiving for not eating ham or turkey, and now most of them are vegetarian - a lot of them because their doctors have told them that they have to become vegetarian if they want to live long, healthy lives. People see that I'm still healthy and I'm not fat and I don't get sick that often. It seems like every other day there is some new statistic about how animal products are terrible for you.

Most people are quite complacent. They'll happily sit down and eat a hamburger, then they'll get up in arms about genetic modification. It's funny how selective people are. We live in a democracy and people are entitled to eat whatever they want, but you'd be hard-pressed to find an intelligent, civilised person who would continue eating meat after they've seen how it's produced."

Moby's latest album, `Play', is out on Mute Records

Anti-vegetarian

"If you think through the logical conclusion of total abstention from meat-eating, the consequences for the English landscape would be dire. All farm animals would become zoo animals, at best. It's not just at meal times that there would be a big difference in your life. It would happen every time you drove down a road or looked out of a window or stepped out into the countryside. I receive aggressive, threatening mail for having been seen to kill animals on screen and then cook and eat them. But I find a lot of these people are happy to eat a pork sausage from the supermarket; what they don't like is to be reminded where meat comes from.

In answer to the argument that meat isn't very good for you, I'd say eating rubbish isn't very good for you. Rubbish vegetables are the same as rubbish meat. Like anything, too much red meat is certainly bad for you. Last year I raised two pigs. I don't feel like a murderer, but in the final couple of weeks I had to wind down the personal part of our relationship. I wasn't sure when I took them to the abattoir how I was going to feel, but I heard the stun gun and there wasn't so much as a squeal. Holistic is a word normally used by vegetarians but you can be a holistic carnivore: I know that I've raised two of the happiest pigs that ever lived in Dorset and I'm responsible for eating every last bit of them.

By the way, any vegetarian who had a hankering for some meat should cast around for a spare placenta: it is a really interesting one because nothing has died. Quite the opposite. I've recently been involved in the production of one myself. It's still in the freezer; its fate is undecided."

A new series of `TV Dinners' starts on Channel 4 on 16 June, featuring Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His series, `Escape to River Cottage', returns next year.

Interviews by Richenda Wilson

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