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AND IN THE CREEN CORNER
As people turn their back on meat-eating so the meat-trade grows ever more desperate to maintain its "market share". Its latest measure is the hyped-up fashion for "exotic meat" - not sheep or cows or pigs but HamaSr kangaroos and crocodiles. As usual, though, where there's money to be made, there's greed and horror lurking just out-of-sight. To shed some much-needed light on the matter, The Vegetarian Society (patrons L & P McCartney) have launched a new campaign, The Cull of the Wild, and its Campaigns Director Steve Connor has written this introductory article.
In pubs and high-class restaurants kangaroo steaks are being served up with abandon, and no mention is made of the cruelty and destruction that accompanies the "harvesting” of these quite fascinating creatures
The livestock industry has come up "with its latest sick joke: a whole range of new "exotic" meats to "tempt" our jaded palates. Bison, buffalo, kangaroo and ostrich - the range of species that may be listed on menus all over Europe and America before long is terrifying. In the UK, ostrich is being particularly touted as The Next Big Thing.
Ostrich farming today is a frenzy of mating, breeding and incubating, and concern is already growing about an industry that exposes these huge birds to appalling suffering. One shipment of 106 ostriches was en route from Devon to a breeding farm in New Zealand via Manchester Airport. On arrival at the airport, 20 of the birds had suffocated to death in the lorry and another had to be destroyed by a vet. And, in the first case of its kind, a farmer in Ireland was recently prosecuted for cruelty against his four ostriches. Investigators discovered Thomas Sexton's distressed birds standing in a 12-inch soup of their own dung, urine and mud. Covered in their own waste they offered us a frightening glimpse of what lies ahead.
Sometimes known as "volaise", ostrich meat retails at between Ј12 and Ј15 per pound. Though lower in fat than beef or pork, with saturated fat levels nearer that of turkey, ostrich is considerably higher in protein. British consumers already eat 50 per cent too much protein than is acknowledged to be good for them, and animal protein in particular is suspected of playing a part in osteoporosis and kidney complaints, both of which are less common amongst vegetarians.
Ostriches can live up to 75 years of age. The females may continue laying into their forties, while the males remain fertile for most of their lives. On British farms the birds are slaughtered at just 12 or 15 months of age, with genetic selection offering even younger slaughter ages in the future. The intensive rearing and selective breeding of the animals could cause severe problems such as leg weaknesses through high protein diets, and accelerated growth rates, crippling afflictions that are already endemic in Britain's poultry industry.
An animal as large as an ostrich is difficult to slaughter, and this is causing particular concern. Suggestions made by the ostrich industry for "acceptable" slaughter techniques include hooding the animal overnight to subdue it and then soaking the hood in water to assist the electricity of the stunning tongs, hobbling feet 18 inches apart to prevent the ostrich from kicking, and even killing the bird by dislocating its neck, as if the farmer were simply dealing with an oversize chicken!
But the meat industry is not stopping at ostriches: other meats like kangaroo and llama are beginning to take a hold in the market place. A butcher selling a kangaroo sausage was one of the 12 finalists in this year's Sausage of the Year competition, a chilling indication of the acceptance of "exotica". The imports of rare, obscure meats are as troubling as the domestic rearing of ostriches for the simple reason that the welfare abuses that occur can be very great indeed and beyond the reach of European legislation. In Louisiana and Florida, in the American South, alligator farms are producing reptile meat for European dinner tables, for diners who will never have to confront the horror of the conditions on those farms.
Here and in South America most crocodile meat is "harvested" in the wild, in hunts that can entail gruesome and slow deaths for the animals involved. They may be shot, stabbed or caught with nets. When trussed up, final slaughter is achieved by repeatedly clubbing the crocodiles or by spearing them through the back of the neck. Studies have shown that they can still be fully conscious as they are skinned.
In pubs and high-class restaurants kangaroo steaks are being served up with abandon, and no mention is made of the cruelty and destruction that accompanies the "harvesting" of these quite fascinating creatures. In Australia several species of kangaroo have become extinct because their habitats have been swallowed up by livestock farmers. Allegedly competing with the livestock for food, the kangaroos have become viewed as a "pest", and now the Australian authorities license "shooters" to kill five million kangaroos every year, representing the largest wildlife cull in the world.
Animal welfare groups claim that cruelty is commonplace. According to the International Wildlife Coalition (IWC), the "shooters" are mostly weekend sports hunters, with only five to ten per cent working as full-time "professionals". The IWC paints a harrowing picture of the cull: "After a kill corpses litter the ground. Sometimes still-conscious kangaroos are impaled on meat hooks by their heel tendons and hung from vehicles. Female kangaroos are often shot with a baby (joey) in their pouch. There have been reports of joeys being beaten to death against the side of the truck or crushed underfoot."
With two thousand people a week turning to vegetarianism, the meat industry is desperate to keep the money rolling in. The Vegetarian Society's campaign, The Cull of the Wild, will expose the truth behind the trendy new meats in the butcher's shop and on the supermarket shelves. The rest is up to you. Please telephone us now on 0161-928 0793 (that's a UK number) and we'll gladly send you a campaign action pack.
A LETTER TO YOU, JULIE
The letter from Julie Sabelfeld in CS75, explaining how difficult it is to remain a vegetarian in a country suffering from a cold climate and a poor economy, has prompted a good deal of interest, and your responses have been forwarded to her. One, from Teresa McCaulogue (you didn't print your name, Teresa, so we hope that's the right spelling), of Wroclaw, Poland, revealed a definite empathy for Julie's dilemma.