By Amy Watson & Roger Byrom
We've been eating animals since before we left our caves but there’s a pervading belief within modern food attitudes that suggests our naturally carnivorous diet is either unethical or unsustainable. There are obvious philosophical and economic issues surrounding meat but there are ways in which we can consume it consciously and minimise detrimental effects to the lives of animals, the environment and ourselves.
Over the years meat industries the world over have succumbed to capitalist marketing pressures leading to widespread mistreatment of livestock and the edging out of local producers. What began in Australia as agricultural practices that were optimised for farmer and community benefit have devolved into a culture of factory farms, live exports, chemical enhancements and price gouging by oligopolistic supermarkets.
Recent footage captured by Animals Australia showed what appeared to be Australian live export cattle being bludgeoned to death by workers at an abattoir in Vietnam - Animals Australia has since visited 13 slaughterhouses in North and Central Vietnam, with only two meeting requirements for approved abattoirs. The frequency with which these stories appear proves current regulations don't work and legislation must be broadened to prevent the further inhumane treatment of animals here and abroad.
But it’s not all bad news - prompted by an increased awareness of these issues, companies and businesses alike are adopting more sustainable practices, from rescuing food waste to supporting changes to animal welfare. And on the other side of the fence, consumers are opting for more meat alternatives, which have prompted further discussions on topics like vegetarian diets and lab-grown meats.
Despite the rise in meat alternatives, Australia is still one of the largest consumers of meat in the world and many farmers, producers and chefs are becoming increasingly passionate about showcasing produce that has been reared with care and respect. As Terry Ragasa of Sutter Meats points out, “there’s an abundance of farmers out there who want to feed people and showcase the fantastic quality and flavour that responsible animal husbandry and pasture management yields”.
“Our biggest concern, other than maintaining fair and humane treatment of livestock, is supporting the local farming community. Our customers' dollar helps to boost the infrastructure that is improving animal welfare and reducing these farm's carbon footprint."
His mission to bring back the neighbourhood butcher with an emphasis on whole animal butchery, education and creation of community is indicative of a bigger movement towards meat education and ethical treatment towards animals in the farming world.
As long as we're still buying our meat from supermarkets, factory farming and live exports will remain lucrative practices. But this reliance is something we can choose to change - by using our purchasing power as consumers we can catalyse the decentralisation of the industry necessary for a more ethical, sustainable meat industry.
Whether we choose to eat meat or not, we can support the fair and ethical treatment of animals as well as our local farming communities through conscious consumption. Eating less but better quality cuts, buying from local ethical suppliers and wasting less of what we buy are all steps in the right direction and early adoption of these practices show we are moving towards more progressive meat attitudes. We can still preserve the integrity of the animal world and the people in it by taking a bit more time to consider what meat we purchase, where it comes from and from whom we buy it.