Although my stall is entirely vegan, one of my neighbours sells venison. The venison comes from legitimately culled deer by a licensed stalker. Deer culling is a regrettable part of countryside management, and I don’t like it any more than the thought of any animal being killed. I’m more tolerant of it, however, because the deer in question get to live their entire lives without interferance from man, and their death is instantaneous.
The conversation I overheard was from one of my neighbour’s customers, who rushed up to him, delighted to see that he had fillet steak on his stall. The instant she realised the steak was venison, however, she became upset, ‘Oh no, I couldn’t,’ she said. ‘Because of what it is, I just couldn’t.’
What a pity she can’t apply that mentality to the piece of beef she thought she was about to purchase – or indeed to any meat?
It got me wondering. Why is a cow’s life less valuable than a deer’s? Is it because a deer is prettier? Cuter? Somehow more helpless or vulnerable than a cow?
Beef cattle spend their entire lives in an artificial environment. Conscientious farmers will make sure that life is as good as they can make it, but it’s still a long way from the life they would live if left wild. They are grown like a crop, and when ready, they are harvested.
Deer have choices cattle do not. They can go where they want (with the attendant risks from traffic, fences and the hunt, of course). They can choose their mates, raise their offspring themselves, and eat freely from their environment.
In contrast, cattle are enslaved from birth, told where and when to eat, made pregnant or forced to give sperm according to a business agenda, and, in the case of females, milked dry twice a day. They are gentle, intelligent and conscious creatures who get scared, care about and worry over their young, and enjoy spring grass and sunshine in the exact same way as deer.
Yet some people still think eating beef is okay, but eating deer is not.
Eating meat, and its byproducts, involves the taking of a life, whatever its source. If you want to eat meat, then surely your choices should be based on the animal’s welfare during its life, not about how cute it is?