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Why I Choose Not To Eat Meat But Don’t Expect Others To Do The Same

I don’t eat meat for animal welfare reasons - but I’m not against meat eating, nor am I anti-farming.

You might find this a strange position for someone who chooses not to eat meat for ethical reasons.

Certainly, the debate between some vegans and meat-eaters has become so polarised it feels I’m alone in this view, though I’m sure that’s not truly the case.

So please don’t misunderstand me - I care greatly for all animals and for their welfare.

For me, the way cheap, intensively-reared meat is produced to the detriment of animal welfare should absolutely be a thing of the past.

Creating A Better World For Farm Animals

But rather than putting pressure on meat eaters to completely change their diet, I think it’s more realistic to encourage them to choose products from animals reared to higher welfare standards.

Inevitably this means meat costs more and many people can’t afford to eat as much. And that’s also no bad thing - for people’s health, the environment and definitely not for animal welfare.

It might be that my pragmatic view comes from the fact that I ate meat as a child and continued to do so until my early 20s. And also from the jobs I did in the school holidays and as a student which, completely unintentionally, involved various stages of the food supply chain.

A Pragmatic View on Meat Eating

First of all, I helped out on a family friend’s sheep farm, so I’ve seen and experienced the hard work and commitment involved in caring for farm animals.

Then I worked in a supermarket, with hundreds of packets of meat rolling by me on the checkout conveyor belt and, later, I had a student job making pork pies and sausage rolls in a factory.

I’ve always been an animal lover and I remember the idea of becoming vegetarian crossing my mind several times as a child and young adult - but instinctively I knew that, for my parents, it would not be a welcome change.

But even when I could make my own food-purchasing decisions, I still continued to eat meat.

As a student, I was on a tight budget and I regularly bought low-cost chicken - eating that with ‘basics’ frozen chips and peas worked out much cheaper than buying fresh vegetables from the expensive convenience store on the university campus.

At the time I was largely unaware that most chickens are bred to grow too quickly and reared in bare, dimly lit and overcrowded conditions - and, to be honest, I was too wrapped up in studying and enjoying student life to think about it.

The True Cost Of Cheap Meat

I think I was also avoiding having to face up to the true cost of cheap meat. I was someone who cared about animals and had thought about becoming vegetarian - and yet, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t for a long time.

And it’s not just me. When I try to talk to friends and family about the reality of intensive farming they tell me to ‘shut up’ - I think because they simply don’t want to know.

Most People Are Not Vegan

So, although more people have reduced or removed meat from their diets in recent years, we are a very, very long way from the whole of society becoming vegetarian or vegan.

And that’s why - even as a non-meat eater of more than 20 years - I support RSPCA Assured

As you might have noticed from my bio, I now work for them (that’s how much I believe in what they do), but I’ve always thought of RSPCA Assured as a fantastic way of improving the welfare of farm animals.

All farms who join the scheme must comply with the RSPCA’s stringent higher welfare standards which cover every aspect of the animals’ lives from birth through to slaughter.

Look For The RSPCA Assured Logo

So when you see the RSPCA Assured label on a meat, fish or dairy product, it means the hatchery, farm, haulier and abattoir have all met the RSPCA’s higher farm animal welfare standards.

By working with the industry, RSPCA Assured is continually driving up animal welfare standards and the food label helps people (most of whom would choose to eat animal products anyway) to make better choices.

So I’m someone who chooses not to eat meat for animal welfare reasons, and I’m also proud to work for an organisation that’s improving welfare for millions of farmed animals.

It makes perfect sense to me, but sometimes people don’t understand my position - and that’s okay.

While most people continue to eat meat it’s got to be better to do what we can to improve farm animals’ lives - and encourage people to choose higher welfare products.

I, for one, can’t simply turn my back.

About the author

Helen Briggs - Communications Lead

Helen Briggs loves cooking and sharing good food with her friends and family. She cares about the environment and where food comes from, particularly when it comes to animal welfare.

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