Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 31 May 2016

I can't stomach these crocodile tears over fate of frozen lambs

By Nuala McKeever

Published 02/04/2013

Farmer rescues lamb
Farmer rescues lamb

I'm not a livestock farmer. I'll admit that straight up. I don't know how someone can raise animals and care about them and cry when they get lost in the snow, knowing that the only reason they are raising said animals is to sell them for slaughter.

Such people obviously have an ability to separate out feelings. I haven't this ability which is probably why I've been vegetarian since I was 16.

All this is by way of admitting that when I watch footage of livestock farmers having a hard time, the above thought is always lurking in my mind.

And so, to the main gripe of this piece – television news coverage of the post-blizzard problems for livestock farmers here.

Turned on the BBC teatime news last Monday evening to be greeted with sombre tones and warnings, repeated three times, that the pictures about to be shown would be distressing.

Cut to farmers digging sheep out of snow drifts. Some were alive "but wouldn't survive long" and others were clearly dead in the snow already.

Cut to egg producer bravely telling us that he'd just have to keep going after the snow demolished part of his hen factory, killing hundreds of birds. The ones still alive were in distress apparently. The reporter told us he'd seen inside and it wasn't pleasant.

People on Facebook posting photos of farmer with buried sheep and lamenting "Soooo sad".

Wake up! What do people think goes on in farms and chicken factories? For a lot of those sheep, death in snow might well have been preferable to being dug out, half alive, looked after well only to be forced into a lorry and taken to an abattoir to be stun-gunned, hung up on hooks and have its throat slit so that it bleeds to death.

So we have warnings that pictures are distressing when there's live animals and snow, but when TV news goes to a slaughterhouse and the reporter does a piece to camera waking among stripped cow carcasses, that's fine? No warning there.

I'm sick of people's head-in-the-sand attitude to what they eat. Sure, there are some people who can manage to think an animal's cute and still be happy to kill it but I wager a lot of our food-related health problems would disappear if the majority of the population had to see how what they eat is produced.

Thousand of hens in a shed. That's gonna be distressing whether the roof's caved in or not.

One farmer was near tears describing how he'd been born with sheep, lived with sheep all his life but had to throw the lambs out of his collapsed barn, lamenting that there'd be no money coming in from their sale now.

It's one thing coming from real rural people. But when townies get misty-eyed over frozen sheep in a field but happily tuck into defrosted sheep on the plate, it puts me right off my tofu burger.

Let's go back to the farms when the sun's shining and follow the rescued animals to their end.

Maybe then some of the "Soooo sads" might actually lead to a change in behaviour, with people recognising that eating animals comes at a high price.

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