The Ethical Carnivore by Louise Gray (Bloomsbury, £16.99)
Eating meat raises huge environmental, ethical and health issues. It is also a natural pleasure with important cultural resonances: turning vegetarian means you will never again share that special meat dish you loved as a child. So can we combine caring for animals with eating them? To be, in the words of Louise Gray, an ethical carnivore?
Gray, a former environment correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, investigates the question in this sensitive and powerful new book. She decides that for a year she will only eat animals she has killed personally. The setup enables her to explore what it feels like to shoot a rabbit (emotionally harder than this farmer’s daughter had expected), skin a deer and visit an abattoir.
The abattoirs are especially challenging: one visit “looks like the post-massacre scene from a gangster movie.” In the last few years, the number of abattoirs in the UK has fallen from a thousand to 200. Hygiene regulations mean that ad hoc slaughtering in a butcher’s yard is a thing of the past. What we now have is an industrialised process that treats the animals as meat before they’re dead.
For consumers unwilling to get their own hands dirty, Gray recommends they source meat more carefully. Ethical is more expensive, but knowing the true price of giving an animal a good life (and death) means recognising eating meat as a special luxury, not a daily necessity.