January 29, 2009

Woud you eat giraffe, or rat?

(This post is a follow on from a Posterous entry I made recently)

If people eat meat, should they be worried about what meat they are eating?

Obviously you should be worried about the quality of the meat your are eating - you don't want anything that is tainted or contains the source of CJD (mad cow disease in humans) - but should it really matter if you are eating cow, sheep, pig, crocodile, giraffe, dog, cat or rat? And if it does matter why does it matter?

Surely once the meat is killed (humanely hopefully) and cooked then there is no different to the end consumer regardless of what the meat is? A steak in a polystyrene container sealed with cling film could contain beef or horse, crocodile or ostrich. Why does it matter? You can, of course, decide that you don't like the taste of certain meats and not wish to eat based on that, but at the end of the day if you subscribe to the carnivore mentality then any meat should be fair game (pun intended)

Several years ago I worked with a Belgian guy who considered himself a bit of a gastronome. We travelled extensively for business and he would avail himself of many of the local delicacies at each location. A lot of the things he ate I wouldn't even look at and he saw this one day - as he shovelled a spoonful of small, whole fish into his mouth, eyes, tail and scales included - and said 'Gary, you eat with your eyes not with your mouth'.

I wonder how many people out there eat with their eyes not their mouths.

This came about because Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - a UK gourmet chef and TV personality - was in Africa some years ago when he was offered (and accepted) giraffe meat at a meal. He found nothing wrong with doing so, but apparently conservationists were up in arms. In the piece Hugh defended his actions by saying that if it was a boar or an impala he had eaten nobody would have batted an eyelid. The fact that it was a beautiful, long-necked, spotted-coated giraffe made people more emotionally involved than they should have been.

On a recent episode of Long Way Down where Ewan 'Obi-Wan' McGregor and director John Boorman's son Charlie were motorbiking from the top of England to the bottom of Africa they spent the night in Rawanda. Their guide brought a live goat with them and it was slaughtered, butchered and cooked by the machete wielding guide and eaten by the cast and crew. The looks on the faces of Charlie and Ewan (and no doubt some of the crew) was priceless as it suddenly occured to them where their food was coming from. (Incidentally they were also shocked that Rawanda was the scene of such barbaric machete based massacres, but didn't put two and two together...)

At this point it should be pointed out that I am a vegetarian and have been for more than half my life. I don't eat anything that ever had a mother. Having said that I don't have a problem with anyone else eating whatever they like (although I would encourage anyone to consider the benefits of a vegetarian diet). But I do feel that at the end of the day you either agree with eating meat or you don't. If you do then you should agree with eating any sort of meat. Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, horse, crocodile, ostrich, rat, dog, giraffe, cat etc. You may not like the taste of freshly chargrilled dog, but should you refuse to eat it because it is a dog? I think not.

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