CHRISTMAS is coming and 10 million fat turkeys will face the chop, ready to be eaten by 76 per cent of British families. But do we ever really stand back and look at the true cost of our festive feast?
My father often told the story of how his family were so poor he had to resort to stealing a swan from Peasholme Park in Scarborough for Christmas dinner. He never said if they ate the swan or what his dad, who was a local copper, thought of this treasonable crime.
He was of a generation where meat was regarded as a luxury and not to be taken for granted. It was a time before factory farming and intensive rearing.
Vegans were not to be seen and people were just thankful for whatever food they could get on their plates.
For over 25 years of my life, I was a vegetarian and for two years a vegan. In all that time, I never pushed my beliefs on to anyone and didn’t try to indoctrinate my children into my way of thinking.
It was my way of life and I never felt the need to try to bully anyone into giving up meat.
Yet, in the past week, there have been two cases of radical vegans using direct action against meat eaters. A restaurant was stormed and diners harangued and a farm was forced to stop its turkey auction.
Pressure was put on the farm after an internet campaign against it left it with no choice but to stop the sale.
Direct action from vegans is rising with protesters campaigning against butchers’ shops, KFC and McDonald’s. Anywhere meat is sold or consumed appears to be a viable target. They have even set their sights on the good old British Christmas dinner.
Although I totally disagree with their method of protest, what they have done is open up a debate about the food we eat and how it is produced, and that is something we should all think about as we prepare our Christmas dinner.
Having returned to meat eating because of a health problem and feeling better for it, I still have a great deal of sympathy for what radical vegans are trying to do.
There is no way veganism will become the national diet, but in times of climate change, and with growing concern for animal welfare, we have to listen to what they are trying to say.
More and more people are reducing their meat intake. Recent data suggests that 70 per cent of people worldwide have cut back on eating meat and new vegan products have increased by 250 per cent since 2010.
Restaurants and shops are now increasing the number of vegan options on offer. They are responding to the fact that 20 per cent of under-35s have tried a vegan diet.
I believe this is more than a diet fad and people are beginning to question the case of eating animals. It also highlights the concern that people have for animal welfare.
As a meat eater, it is something that concerns me too. The sourcing of good quality, healthy and cruelty-free meat should be something that we all do. The meat industry has been blackened with many cases of animal cruelty.
I fully agree with those who say that all forms of intensive farming have to be stopped and ideally all animals should be free range and organic, not pumped full of chemicals.
Ritual slaughtering should be outlawed and farmers paid a fair price for the animals they produce. The era of cheap meat should be over forever.
Many of us tuck into a sandwich or a hamburger and do not think of where the contents came from or what was the cost of its production.
It is only right that if an animal has to die to become our lunch, then whatever life it has had should have been as pleasant and natural as possible.
Christmas is an ideal time for each one of us to declare to meat producers that we too are concerned about the welfare of animals. We don’t have to stand in a steak house and shout at diners.
The turkey on our plate should be cruelty free, raised in a free range environment.
The farmer who produced it should have been paid a fair market price and encouraged to improve the living environment of his animals.
Vegans may say that meat is murder, but it is a way of life for many Yorkshire butchers, restaurants and farms. It will be with us for years to come.
Vegans don’t have the right to bully meat eaters, but they should be listened to.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster from Whitby.