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Vegan extremists' beef with meat and dairy a jihad

By Fionola Meredith

Published 19/02/2016

Kerry McCarthy
Kerry McCarthy

Put down that quarter-pounder with cheese, you evil glutton. The vegans are on the march and if they can't take you by force, they'll do it with emotional blackmail.

See that cute little calf getting a loving lick from his mother? Well, he's for the chop and it's all down to you and your filthy, insatiable appetite for meat and dairy.

I mean, why not just dice up a puppy and turn it into a tasty fricassee for dinner?

People need to be taught, using dodgy anthropomorphism if necessary, that eating dog is no different from eating cow.

Meat is murder, whatever way you look at it. So is taking eggs from hens, wickedly stealing their would-be children. Butter's bad - it doesn't belong to you.

And don't get us started on leather or wool. Or honey. Think of the poor bees, sobbing their tiny hearts out.

This seemed to be the implicit message behind a hyper-emotive advertising campaign that ran on buses and billboards across Ireland at the end of last year. It was the first-ever vegan campaign in Europe, and it aimed straight for the heart rather than the thinking parts.

'Dairy takes babies from their mothers,' said one ad, with the aforementioned cute calf and his mammy. Another showed an emaciated calf behind bars with the words: 'Milk: a mother's worst loss.' A third featured a different calf - to be honest, the whole enterprise was pretty bovine-heavy, perhaps because calves are more cuddly and appealing than beady-eyed hens - staring soulfully into the camera saying: 'My life is as valuable to me as yours is to you.'

Well, it wasn't actually speaking because animals, you know, can't talk, but that's what we have vegan activists for. By a miraculous process of osmosis they can tell us what cows are really thinking.

According to the campaigners, Go Vegan Ireland, the idea was to "give the animals the opportunity to look right at the viewer; to tell them how we harm them; to ask for what they want".

I have no problem with people choosing to become vegan. I respect their choice. Although I eat meat myself, I live with two vegetarians and I count quite a few vegans among my friends. As far as I can see they just get on with it, feeling no particular evangelical urge to shove their views down anyone else's throats.

Unfortunately, that's not enough for some vegans. Like proselytising preachers, they take to the streets, airwaves or social media and instruct the rest of us to join them in the true faith if we consider ourselves to be good people. Sometimes this takes the relatively benign form of gushing about how egg-free meringues can be made from chickpea brine (mmm, yummy), but it often goes worryingly further.

The shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy, a vegan herself, says that meat-eaters should be treated like smokers and should be targeted with public ad campaigns to stop them eating the stuff.

That's bad enough, but then there are the real nutters: the small minority fired up with quasi-religious fervour who feel inspired to go on a minor vegan jihad. For instance, a pub in Norfolk was forced to remove foie gras from its Valentine's menu after being targeted by vegan activists. Apparently the King's Arms in Fleggburgh was barraged with emails, texts and hoax phone calls, including about 200 death threats. I don't quite see how that fits with veganism as an ethical mindset that promotes non-violence. Aren't humans animals too?

I do share some vegan concerns about animal welfare. Like many, I dislike the cruel practice of making foie gras - banned in the UK - by force-feeding geese or ducks so that their livers expand. I have serious issues with elements of the meat industry: the mass-produced chickens forced into growth so fast that their legs can't take their weight, the anaemic pork from pigs raised on plastic mats who never see the light of day.

But that doesn't prove that eating meat is wrong; just that we're not eating the best kind of meat in the best way. It's not an either/or situation.

Vegans are entitled to their views. They can dine on pickled carrots or chickpea pavlova while I reserve my right to tuck into an ethically-sourced, medium-rare Dexter beef burger - with cheese! - whenever I please. Or even have a McDonald's, if that's what you fancy. Whatever the morally superior militants might say, the choice is up to you.

Belfast Telegraph

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