Michael Mansfield : Abolishing meat is an ethical issue that requires everyone's attention

 

Share
Related Topics

As a barrister, I seek justice for people and defend their rights. As a vegetarian, I like to think that I take a stand against injustice for those who happen not to have been born human and so are confined and killed for their flesh.

World Week for the Abolition of Meat – from 23 to 29 January – is a week when we are asked to reflect on that suffering and try switching to vegetarian meals. Nothing could be more appropriate at a time of political, economic and environmental meltdown. Like it or not our values and priorities must be reappraised lest our planet becomes utterly enveloped by the market forces of greed and avarice under the guise of growth and progress.

I stopped eating meat when I realised that meat production contributes to a society in which the value of a life is measured by profit margins alone and comfort is of no concern.

Cows, chickens, pigs and other animals raised for food are victims of our indifference. Because they are not as familiar to us as the dogs and cats with whom we share our homes, their capacity to suffer is largely but irrationally ignored. Yet there is no longer any question about it: they are emotional beings like us. All experience joy and love and pain and fear, and all are highly social beings who form strong bonds with their friends and families and mourn when they lose a loved one. Yet raised on intensive agriculture's factory farms, pigs, chickens and other animals are denied almost everything that is natural and important to them. Most never see sunlight or breathe fresh air. Crowded together in their own waste – filthy conditions that cause extreme discomfort and stress – many of them are driven insane.

When they are still very young, they are loaded onto lorries bound for the abattoir. They ride a conveyor belt to the person or machine with the knife and then are skinned and gutted. Pleading that we are entitled to snuff out a life in order to accommodate a fleeting taste is an argument that wouldn't stand a chance in court were the victim human.

As any lawyer can attest, legality is, of course, no guarantee of morality. The law changes as public opinion or political motivations change, but ethics are not as arbitrary. Albert Schweitzer, who accomplished so much for both humans and animals in his lifetime, put it this way: "A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist …. He does not ask how far this or that life deserves one's sympathy … nor, beyond that, whether and to what degree it is capable of feeling".

It is our decision whether to pay for vegetables, nuts, fruits, grains and legumes or to pay someone miles away to string cows, chickens and turkeys up by their legs and cut their throats and cut off pigs' teeth, tails and testicles without giving them as much as an Aspro. George Bernard Shaw warned that no matter how far distant the abattoir is, we are complicit if we eat animals' flesh. The choice seems obvious: vegetarian or barbarian?

One day, it is likely that meat-eating will be relegated to the history books alongside other injustices. Until then, we can, as individuals, make the decision to go vegetarian, if for only a week.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
There were many, many contributory factors to Amy Winehouse going off the rails, which are explored to fine effect in 'Amy'  

Watching the Amy Winehouse film brought back memories of my battle with bulimia - and the help that took three years to come

Natasha Devon
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map