The Lie of The Land
A truly depressing documentary on Channel 4 the other night – The Lie of The Land. Quiet anger masked by unfailing politeness characterised a group of ordinary farmers as they watched, not just their livelihoods, but a whole way of life disappearing before their eyes. In the face of a twin assault from government bureaucracy (new regulations to ‘protect’ the environment means more red tape and less scope to manage the infinite variations that land and animals in the real world require) and city dwellers’ demand for ever cheaper food, their bewilderment was heart rending.
At root is a confused and, in many cases, irrational attitude to animals and the realities of rearing them for food. On the one hand we demand an end to fox hunting (a largely symbolic gesture in the face of the many other forms of animal abuse that we know nothing and apparently care less about); on the other, the way we have turned food into a commodity like anything else (to be produced ever more ‘efficiently’ and at ever lower cost) leads directly to the import of meat from countries where attitudes towards animals don’t bear inspection – while, at the same time, to the culling of healthy animals on our own farms because they have no economic value. The net result is that the day is not far off when Britain will no longer produce beef, pork, poultry or milk.
For those of us who eat meat and care about animal welfare, it really is time to reassess the choices we make on a daily basis. Are we going to be accomplices in the destruction of a centuries old way of life simply because supermarkets provide us with cheap food – with the end result that we will become dependent on other countries to feed us? Or are we going to face up to what it means to eat meat and attempt to understand the cycles of life and death that are implicit in its production? If we care about animals then the answer must be that we try and get closer to the people who actually rear them; and that means buying local produce from butchers and farm shops who know where their meat comes from and the conditions in which it was produced. If you know the farm your meat comes from, you can always go and visit …