Journalist goes on a plants + "only eat what they kill" diet for a year

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Journalist goes on a plants + "only eat what they kill" diet for a year

Post by NonZeroSum » Mon Apr 09, 2018 5:30 pm


Interested to get peoples thoughts and will send the post round some YouTubers to see if they want to make a video commenting on.

Louise Gray, newspaper columnist, challenged herself for one year, to whenever she wanted animal on her plate, to kill them herself. Obviously a sad state of affairs on the personal level to be aware of the ethical problem of animal agriculture and instead of going vegan, to actively seek out the chance to kill.

Also can be seen as a cynical attempt to have something interesting to write a book about, ride on the coat tails of vegan zeitgeist, that her fellow newspaper journalists were writing about and appropriate the word ethical, for ethical carnivore (even if more ethical than the standard American diet).

No doubt she got closer to a vegan diet through the challenge, did better for the environment, caused less death, but again you can't help feeling like if there wasn't an audience she would have spent a lot more time practicing tasty vegan recipes than shooting rabbits and experimenting with every different hunting method imaginable.

Main point being she wanted to feel totally responsible for the kill, so that she could face the bloody reality of her food choices. Also being a farmer's daughter she wanted to connect to the traditions and primal work that shaped the home and community she was brought into. She is disdainful of mock animal products like vegan cheeses, I guess for trying to copy a unique object, like a chef trying to reinvent an already perfected recipe?

She talks about how everyone should feel connected to their actions, emphasizing the death of the animal, not just leaving it at free range. And says if she was successful as a writer, then she made the experiences of hunting and going into slaughter house real enough for the reader. The implication being that so long as you truly feel cognizant of the animal's life and death to your plate, you've fulfilled your obligation as a consumer.

Advocates reducing meat consumption.


Journalist takes active responsibility for the meat they eat | Sustainababble Podcast #63

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The Ethical Carnivore by Louise Gray review – one way to stop us eating so much meat by Steven Poole

How writing The Ethical Carnivore taught me the true meaning of Thanksgiving by Louise Gray


The Ethical Carnivore by Louise Gray review – one way to stop us eating so much meat by Steven Poole
Gray has written a charming and eye-opening book about her year spent eating creatures only she had killed. She points the way to a reduced-meat future

[removed picture of Louise posing next to a hung up pig's carcass]
Not exactly a pleasant environment … Louise Gray at an abattoir. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

If I ate only animals I killed myself, I would live on a rather uninspiring diet of clothes moths and the occasional mosquito. But then I haven’t learned to stalk and shoot and fish, unlike Louise Gray, an environmental reporter who followed the example of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and decided to eat only what she had personally murdered for a year.

In her very likable and often eye-opening book, Gray, “a farmer’s daughter”, spends a surprising amount of time describing visits to various abattoirs, in order to depict exactly what happens when you don’t kill your own food. Dressing for her first visit, she reports wryly, “I wore a new blouse from Topshop with startled fawns on it.”

It turns out that even the highest humane standards in such places do not exactly make them pleasant environments, and Gray evokes them with a calm precision. “You always go backwards in an abattoir, from the packing plant, to the boning hall, to the killing hall, to the lairage. It is to avoid contamination.”

Outside the slaughterhouse, author and reader can both breathe more easily as she meets someone who is into collecting and cooking roadkill, and Gray herself kills a variety of wildlife, including a lobster, various fish and game birds, some rabbits, a sheep, a pig and a deer. It is bloody work, carefully described. And what Gray then makes of them in the kitchen does sound mouthwatering.

As usual when people talk at any length about food, however, a fair amount of rhetorical bad faith is also going on here. Everyone, including the author, is keen to assert their tremendous “respect” for an animal once it is dead, even though this respect mysteriously didn’t stretch as far as deciding not to kill it when it was still alive. Killing your own animals, Gray says, is “beyond intimate. It is primal.” Well, yes: so is caving another human being’s skull in with a rock, but that doesn’t mean we should all go around doing it. Most wince-inducing, Gray writes repeatedly of her “gratitude” to birds or mammals she has just slaughtered by firearm or knife (without stunning them first, as abattoirs do) – as though the beasts had generously volunteered to lay down their lives in order to grace her dinner plate.

Luckily the book has charm and style as well. “Vegan cheese destroys the soul,” Gray asserts quite persuasively at one point; while after a shooting party she reports, with an interesting mixture of emotions: “My hands smell of expensive soap and gunpowder.” The accounts of hunting trips with her father contain some vivid and quite moving nature writing and she makes some good points about the blandness of industrialised meat. Scoffing her own pig, she reports: “It tastes of pig, it smells of pig, it is a pig … I feel like we have been tricked into eating more pork than we need to in modern life by making it taste like nothing.” If you want a book that wallows in its own sentimentality, moral superiority and superficiality of thinking, you’d better read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals instead. (But really, don’t bother.)

“I realise I have a message,” Gray announces at the end of the book. “It is this: you don’t have to kill animals yourself, but you should go to the effort to find out where they come from.” Fair enough. Doing so, she believes, will “naturally encourage” us to eat less meat. So what do you call this sort of diet? The word “flexitarian” sounds to me like a commitment to eat only animals that practised yoga while alive. Gray just calls it “the human way to eat”, but this does unfortunately imply that the great unwashed masses who like to scoff a dodgily sourced kebab after midnight are somehow less than human.

She ends hopefully with the conviction that we are going into a reduced-meat future, but the problem she doesn’t address is what philosophers call moral incontinence: the fact that, as flawed human beings, we can know what’s right without actually doing it. Gray offers many strong ethical and ecological arguments for eating less meat, and then wonders why people still eat such a lot of it, even though the “facts and figures are all there”. But a person can be intellectually convinced of facts and figures and still gobble steak or pork in the evening. To change this phenomenon globally is probably going to require more than a few friendly chats with one’s Islington butcher. In the meantime, being told in this book that chickens “have better numeracy skills than toddlers” is not going to deter me from giving the conveniently ready-killed free-range bird in my fridge a damn good roasting.


How writing The Ethical Carnivore taught me the true meaning of Thanksgiving by Louise Gray

Free-range turkeys raised with care by farmer Lucy Beattie

Free-range turkeys raised with care by farmer Lucy Beattie

Writing The Ethical Carnivore taught me how to shoot, fish and butcher animals. Most importantly, it taught me to be grateful for the meat we eat.

Thanksgiving is traditionally the time to show gratitude for the food we eat. In recent years in the US more emphasis has been given to the centrepiece of the meal, the meat. Many Americans are now choosing a vegetarian or even vegan diet in order to avoid the environmental impact of raising livestock and factory farmed animals. Others are choosing to take more care over where the meat has come from and give appropriate thanks for the life, and death, of the animal.

This was the starting point of my first book, The Ethical Carnivore. Frankly, I was fed up of sitting at the dinner table and listening to my hipster friends go on about where their meat came from. Sure, they knew the animal was ‘free range’ or ‘organic’. Possibly they even knew the farmer if they had bought the meat that morning at their local farmers’ market. But did they really understand how the animal had lived and died?

I felt the most honest way to find out was to only eat animals I killed myself. As soon as I said the words out loud, I knew I was onto a subject that would surely be discussed around the office water cooler the next day. My metropolitan male friends seemed particularly fascinated. How would I do it? What would it feel like to kill? How do you skin and butcher an animal? It was also raising huge philosophical questions. What right did I have to kill an animal?

Appropriately enough for a journey that would end with giving thanks, I started off with turkeys. I volunteered to help a farmer friend process that year’s flock for the festive season. I did not kill the turkeys myself, as it was done with an electric stunner that requires special training. But I did watch the whole process being carried out. I was taken aback by how upsetting I found the moment of death, but also by the care and gentleness of the farmer Lucy Beattie. She clearly cared deeply about these animals. She had raised them from fluffy chicks and even rescued them from a flood. When the time came and the blood tinkled into a bucket, she was as quick and gentle as she could be.

As I embarked on my own experience of sourcing meat, I had the echo of Lucy’s words in my head. ‘I am the softest person I know…’ The first animal I shot was a rabbit with a beautiful white blaze. I cried, the gamekeeper I was with cried. I wondered if I was too soft to carry on, but when I looked around me at the country men and women hunting meat for themselves, I saw good people connected to nature. I wanted to learn the skills that have sustained mankind for centuries. It was never easy, but I did become much better at shooting and fishing and even butchery. I went on to eat more rabbit, squirrel, plenty of fish and deer. I learned never to waste a scrap of meat and to appreciate every mouthful. Most importantly, I learned to be grateful for the animal and the environment that allowed me these meals.

Of course, most of us cannot afford to eat only wild meat, so I also researched how domestic meat such as cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and yes, turkeys are produced on our behalf. Again it was upsetting. Much of the cheap meat we eat is raised in cramped conditions and processed on a large scale. Turkeys are the worst. Most are kept indoors and bred to grow such huge breasts, so fast, they simply topple over. I looked back at Lucy’s Beattie flock of turkeys scratching around for six moths in the Highlands of Scotland and felt grateful for hard-working farmers who give us the option of good meat.

During the year I learned a lot about the environmental impact of meat. I learned that greenhouse gas emissions from livestock are more than all the world’s planes, trains and automobiles put together. But I also met farmers maintaining the landscape and rural economies by producing nutritious food. My conclusion was that we should eat less meat to protect the world’s environment. Where we do choose to eat animals, we should be grateful for the resources spared and the farmer’s dedication and hard work.

It is possible to be an ethical carnivore. You don’t have to kill animals yourself. But you do have to understand fully where they have come from. That means not only looking at labels and attending farmers’ markets, but taking on the difficult fact an animal has died and we owe a little gratitude. I find that naturally means people eat less meat, which is not only far better for the planet and our pockets, but our health.

The book finishes with The Selkirk Grace, attributed to Scots poet Robert Burns. It is a poem about gratitude that would grace any Thanksgiving table:

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it,

But we hae meat and we can eat,

Sae let the Lord be thankit.


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