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

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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing