I am a meat eater, and it does not take me more than a minute to realise that Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy is right: meat-eating should be treated like smoking. That doesn’t mean I am going to give up all meat – far from it. But it does mean that I’m able to wade through the mire of ‘militant vegan’ smears suggesting that McCarthy is unable to do her job because of her nutritional choices, and understand that Corbyn’s appointment was actually very astute.
When the smoking ban was introduced, it was not a policy to stop everyone from smoking everywhere for all time – it was a considered piece of legislation that focused on greater health benefits for all. Furthermore, it sought to engage with the population, to educate about the dangers of tobacco and to allow grown adults to make a considered choice. All too often in the case of meat, people are blind – perhaps willingly so – to where their food has come from.
It has been predicted that UK households waste 570,000 tonnes of fresh meat each year. Globally, the human population wastes a total of 12 billion animals, which are bred, butchered and then binned. It is estimated that to produce just one cheeseburger, enough fossil fuels must be used to drive a car for 20 miles. And at a time when millions are starving overseas – and indeed 100,000 children are homeless in the UK and without regular meals – we feed the world’s cattle 8.7 billion human diets. Indeed, experts have suggested that if the UK gave up beef, it would be a better way to cut emissions than not using cars.
The issues then, of waste, of the ethical questions and the environment are things that genuinely and urgently need to be tackled. And the fact that the status quo is being challenged by a member of the shadow cabinet is something that should be celebrated, rather than mocked.
In an interview with Farming Today, Kerry noted that what she wanted was ‘for the industry to have the best welfare standards possible, to be sustainable as well as economically viable.’ Hard to disagree with that, isn’t it? But because she’s in Corbyn’s cabinet, she must be an overgrown throwback hippie with an evil agenda to rip the McDonald’s cheeseburgers out of your children’s hands.
At a time when people seem to buying into the idea of a new kind of politics, focused on issues and policy rather than grandstanding and hand-wringing, the critics primed to pounce on McCarthy are the real throwbacks. After all, the new shadow secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has a solid and sensible opinion rooted in fact. Are you really surprised that the Tories, so vocal on badger-culling and fox-hunting and so silent on the issue of animal welfare, want to paint her as a militant madwoman?Reuse content