Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Unwanted animals shot at birth... or...

This video about UK Rose Veal is inspiring.  I knew that to get milk, a cow must give birth to a calf, but what I didn't know is that most of the male calves are shot at birth.  Please have a look at this film, even for a few minutes to get an idea about how dairy farmers and the RSPCA in the UK have banded together to give these calves a chance at life.

What is the situation in Australia?  I will endeavour to find out.  If you are a dairy farmer, I would like to invite you to leave a comment to give us your perspective.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The moral dilemma

This is a continuation of the rant in my last post, if you missed it.

I was reading a book based in Nazi Germany.  A man had to prove himself to Himmler by killing another man.  He was told that if he killed the man, the man's three children would not be killed.  He couldn't do it.  In his belief, it was wrong to kill under any circumstances and Himmler, true to his word, killed the man and his three children.  The point was to emphasise that the man chose his own ego over the lives of the children.  What would you have done?  Is it right to kill one man to save others?

My thoughts on this are inconclusive, and we'll get to how this relates to the moral dilemma of eating meat in a minute.  But here's the thought.  Should the man have sacrificed his morals and saved the children?  I think not.  Because you cannot be responsible for another person's actions.  If Himmler was going to kill the kids, then that is his choice based on his moral standing and not the man he gave the ultimatum to.  Who's to say he wouldn't have killed them anyway.

It's like the woman who stays with her abusive husband because he threatens to kill himself if she leaves.  What other people do is up to them.  We have to live by our own moral code or what's the point?  We have a collective moral code called laws and legislation to prevent acts which harm others.  It doesn't always work as a preventative measure which is why we have courts and judges and disciplinary procedures.  This doesn't always work either.

But there has to be a modicum of free will doesn't there.  We can't police everything all the time.  Imagine if we did.  People would be afraid to go to work in case they accidentally did something wrong.  In my experience, most people spend too much of their work life covering their arses as it is.  Compliance with legislation is one of the main expenses of many Australian businesses which is sending them broke.  It's not just cheap labour that's sending them overseas.

You want to put cameras in all the meatworks and feedlots in Australia and have them monitored full time?  Who's going to pay for that?  Would you work for a company that had you on camera 24-7? What else will they be monitoring? What if you're late back from your 15 min break?

Is it right to kill an animal to feed a family? That's the moral dilemma I've been asked to justify.  If so does that mean that we deem animals to be lesser creatures?  I don't think so.  I believe that I can work with cattle and eat them but also give them respect.  I also believe that eating meat is a natural thing to do.  Other animals do.  If you think that eating meat is cruel to animals then don't eat meat.  I personally enjoy a nice piece of steak.  And I'm happy to argue the point with anyone who wants me not to.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Animal Cruelty

Since becoming an Agvocate, I have had to justify my position on the slaughter of animals for meat.  That's not really a news flash but when you buy your meat from the shop, you don't have to think about whether or not that piece of meat came from a beast that had a horrific end to its life.  You don't have images of cattle, sheep or pigs screaming in fear and pain floating through your head as you buy your bacon or rib fillet steak.

Yesterday I checked out my twitter account to see this link sent to me directly for comment.

And not long ago, a friend posted this one on facebook

Watching these images makes me really sad.  I don't blame activists from getting hold of these videos and doing their best to stop these practices.  It's really confronting.  It does make you wonder whether eating meat is the right thing to do.

But let me make a few comments to put things into perspective.  In both of these cases, the abattoirs were immediately shut down for investigation.  Why is this? Because Australia has standards for meat production and slaughter which are strict and uncompromising.  Any breach of these standards leads to swift action.  There is little room for tightening of this legislation.  We have legislated against cruelty, what we can't legislate against is stupidity and unprofessionalism.

If the workers in these abattoirs are incompetent, it is the job of the supervisors to train them or get rid of them.  But are they allowed to get rid of them I wonder.  I don't know of a single employer (and I know a few) who have sacked an employee in the last twenty years.  Because of unfair dismissal laws, it's too risky.  You have to encourage your employee to resign or somehow make their job redundant, give them a retirement package or some other creative way to get rid of them.  Is it even possible for people employing staff in these facilities to say, "Here's the standards, anyone seen doing otherwise is out."?

Okay, enough of that rant, here's another.  If our legislation is so tight, why does this sort of thing happen at all?  Let's put aside my personal opinion that the second video was staged.  Here's a question, why is there a sledgehammer helpfully lying around in the abattoir? Perhaps it is because, no matter how good your procedures, or equipment, things do stuff up and a few quick blows to the head would be the fastest (and most humane) way of killing an animal in an emergency.  Can you think of something better?

It's a shocking thought, I grant you, but only because we don't get exposed to death as much as others might.  I remember when I was ten, we took a trip to the country to visit some cousins.  Whilst driving with them, a small kangaroo jumped out in front of the car and we hit it.  My Aunt went back to see if it was dead and the poor little thing was lying on the side of the road with a broken leg.  I thought we were going to help it but when my aunt opened the boot, what she took out was a lump of timber and promptly bashed the kangaroo over the head and killed it.  It took me a while to recover from that, and I clearly still remember that standing out amongst other experiences I had that holiday.  But that's the reality of the situation.  Death is a part of life.  Everything that lives must die.  Here in the country, people seem to accept that better than those of us from cities.

So what more can we do about animal cruelty?  Do we shut down all meat producing businesses and go vegan?  I think that Animals Australia and PETA would have us do just that.  What would happen then?  We'd need more grown food to make up the difference.  All grazing land would have to be converted to farm land, be irrigated, and kept free from pests.  By pests I mean animals.  We don't have enough water to sustain our farming land now, look at the Murray Darling issue as an example.  And any animals such as Kangaroos, wild pigs, dogs and cattle would have to be shot on sight so that they didn't eat our precious crops.  What if you weren't a good shot and the animal was wounded in the belly.  That would be more scary and painful way to die than by stun gun or sledgehammer would it not?  And the meat would be wasted. Eventually, with the human population increasing in current proportions, there would be very little  animal numbers left in the world.  Look at all the native Australian bush creatures that we're trying to save from extinction.  Save the koala, save the bilby.  We're encroaching on their habitat now.  Imagine what would happen if all animals became suddenly useless.

Perhaps instead we could let all the animals roam free in designated forests and you can get a permit to hunt your own if you want to eat meat.  Of course that means you'd have to get a gun license and learn to use a rifle.  Again, what if you missed? What if you hit it in the leg and it ran off, not to be found.  What sort of horrible death would it have then?  What if all the cattle were wild.  They'd be subject to diseases like tick fever and worms that we prevent against now.  They'd have horns which they could do damage to themselves and fellow cattle with as they vie for top position within the herd.  The young would be killed and eaten by dingos and wild dogs.  That's not a pretty death either people.  Have you seen what a wild dog will do to a calf or lamb?  Or an eagle for that matter.  They pick them up and drop them from a height, then start picking at them whilst they are still alive.

Slaughterhouses might seem inhumane to you, even to me.  But nature is far crueller to animals than we will ever be.  We have legislation against cruelty to animals.  If we really consider the options,  farming our meat and slaughtering it within accepted practices is the best way to get our food to the table.  It suits city folk not to have to hunt, and it suits country folk to look after the land and animals.

Finally, I'd like to add that cruel people exist in the world and they will find a way to be cruel no matter what legislations are in place.  Unfortunately some of them will end up working with animals.  Others prey on people.  Some will abuse their own kids.  You can make up all the rules you like, but ultimately we have to rely on individuals having their own set of moral standards.  That goes for every business and every part of life and is not limited to abattoirs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fresh food

We've been eating corned beef every meal for a three days straight.  Not because there is a lack of other food, but it was a big piece of meat when it was cooked and you don't want it hanging around for more than a week.  It's one of our own.  Back in the old days (about ten years ago) my husband's family would butcher their own beef.  These days, you really can't get away with that unless you have your own cold room.  So every three months or so we send a beast into town and the butcher takes care of the rest. I've had to learn how to cook all of the different cuts of meat, not having eaten anything but rib fillet before.

We also have three chooks, of which two are laying at the moment.  So we have a decent supply of eggs. We were going to have a steak tonight, but when an accident occurred with the egg carton this afternoon, it was a no-brainer that tonights meal had been changed to quiche.  It wasn't my intention to finish off the corned meat but there you go, the fates stepped in.

It occurs to me, since I rarely buy meat and my veggie patch and chook pen supply a good amount of our staples, why is my grocery bill still around the $800 a month mark?  Methinks I'm going to have to start keeping receipts.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rain Glorious Rain

It's flooding again.  Not at our place thank goodness, but in Roma and Charleville in central Queensland.  Last year we had widespread flooding all over Queensland and this wet season it's happening again.  It really is a game of pick-your-natural-disaster out here.  If you aren't up to your waist in floodwater, you're either fighting a bushfire or starting the bores because of the drought.  But why are our towns always going underwater? Why did Brisbane go underwater last year?

I would suggest that climate change is a convenient scapegoat, but the truth is that this country has always had these natural disasters. There are a lot of people who know the history of floods and droughts in this country.  How often do they get consulted on issues of infrastructure?  How are developers allowed to build on floodplains and fill in creeks and gullies?  Why are so many people losing their livelihoods and belongings every year? I do not know the answer to this but I have my conspiracy theories.  What's yours?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Coles brand

My mum did some shopping on her way home today.  She stopped in at Coles.  It's unavoidable sometimes, as the 7-11 just doesn't have the range of products you require.  After reaching for her frozen peas, she discovered that the packet she had selected had the coles brand on it.  She had to look hard to distinguish this from the name brand product.  After returning the product from whence it came, she found the McCain frozen peas and continued shopping.  The same thing happened in the cold meats section.  She said she's sick of it.  Not only are Coles products prolific through the store, their packaging is so close to the most popular branded product that it is easy to grab the wrong one in a hurry.  Mum decided not to reach back up to return the Coles packet of ham but dumped it back in the fridge (she said she felt like throwing it on the floor but didn't).  It sounds like a good idea to me.  Next time I inadvertently get the wrong product, perhaps I'll leave it in another part of the store.