A Defence of the Good Name of Meat. (Or the Revenge of the Carnivores' Carrot)
Updated: Jun 19
In 2000 the great visionary, the late Marquis of Bath stated that , “Once scientific research had come up with the means of producing a substance (edible fungus perhaps) which displays a similar texture, taste and variety to the flesh we have grown accustomed to eat then I anticipate that the transition of man in his cultural practice from carnivore to vegetarian will emerge as a natural consequence. In the meantime, of course, like the rest of humanity I shall in all probability continue to indulge in obscene flesh-eating habits.” *
In 2021, as we see the development of lab grown “meat” we appear to approaching a moment where this visionary prediction is starting to become true. The vegetarian or vegan will be freed from the boring nut roasts served by well-meaning carnivorous relations, or freed from the temptations of the wonderful smell of bacon. Hmmmm bacon, as I drool on the computer keyboard.
With this the human herbivore may be free from the risk of their food being adulterated by meat products, or by-products. There will be no risk of a Linda McCartney ready meal being contaminated; there will be no risk of lard being used to fry a vegetable burger and horsemeat will never get mixed in my vegan mince. The grass will be green, long and ungrazed by domesticated four legged slaves, the lion shall lay down with the lamb and all will be well with the world.
Of course there will be the cynics, the doubters, the heretics that cling to their primeval carnivorous habits amid speculation of conspiracy and false fears fed by old science-fiction films like Soylent Green.
OK, I admit it, I have gone too far. This is not a dream to me, it is a nightmare. Pour me another coffee quick before I fall asleep again. It is not that I oppose a vegan or vegetarian, I fully respect their freedom of choice and a reasonable right to have their choice protected. I respect their moral, religious, or lifestyle stance. Indeed, I have eaten a vegetarian diet for a period of ten days quite comfortably (although I could not last long eating vegan such is my requirement for dairy in my meals and drinks). However, I also respect the carnivore, of which I am one, and unlike my vegan friends have no issue with the death of fish, animals and birds for the benefits of my diet. Indeed, when in France, I have enjoyed eating fois gras, although I am highly uncomfortable with the forced feeding of grain to geese.
However, I have one significant issue and that is that I want my meat, and associated products whether milk, or eggs to originate from a living animal. I make no apology for this; it is consumer choice. I would also argue that my carnivorous choice should, as that of the herbivore, should not be misled by, “labelling, advertising and presentation, including the setting in which food is displayed so it shall not mislead customers.” This expectation is enshrined in Article 6 (EC)178/2002 “General Food Law” as carried over into British law. I strongly believe that meat, its descriptions and clarity of products pretending to be meat is not being upheld. To this I wish to see the “golden rule” of English law applied, that is that words retain their ordinary meaning.
An example of this is the word, “bacon” defined as “cured back and sides of a pig”. A simple definition clear fair to all in its description. However, imagine my disappointment when I bit into my SubWay roll to find it contained “turkey bacon”. Turkey bacon is NOT bacon. It is a foul (or should I say “fowl”) tasting parody of bacon. Is not such a product being called “bacon” a misrepresentation as defined in the 1967 Misrepresentation Act. A misrepresentation is a statement of fact that is made by a seller before a contract is made.
Such accusations of misrepresentation are cleverly avoided by the brand the
“Meatless Butcher” A butcher is clearly defined as “a slaughterer of animals for food; a dealer in meat”. This branding avoids this, but is it sharp practise? Here is a quandary, should the words “burger” and “sausage” be protected for meat products. I have quite happily tucked into a Mexican Bean Burger at Holkham Country Fair and enjoyed its meat free loveliness without an issue. To me the word “burger” and “sausage” define the shape and what they are made of is determined by a prefix be it “bean”, “vegetarian”, “pork” or ”venison”. Hmmm wonderful, strong tasting, low fat, low cholesterol venison. However the word “saveloy” in my ordinary meaning test must contain meat. I also insist that the word “joint” is protected by its meaning, “one of the parts into which a butcher divides a carcass” so that this word cannot be used for a vegetable product (other than that smoked by a Rastafarian and countless people living near me).
The need before this is so much greater as we encounter “lab-grown” products.
Caviar is sturgeon roe, that a similar or identical product can be manufactured in a lab may be great for the conservation of this prehistoric fish, but if it has not been harvested from a sturgeon therefore it is NOT caviar in my “ordinary meaning” test. The same goes for basic meat words such as “fish”, “beef”, “pork” and “venison” if manufactured rather from a living animal they cannot be called such in my test. The same goes for eggs which must come from a living bird to qualify. Equally fois gras should come from a goose liver not a lab grown product if it is to be allowed at all.
For those of you disagreeing with my view consider the uproar this Christmas when some enterprising person decides to market the “carnivores’ carrot”, a hideously artificially coloured product resembling the popular vegetable that is entirely made of processed meat. Even I baulk at such a thought, after all shouldn’t the word “carrot” enjoy the same protection as “meat”?
*”The New World Order of Alexander Thynn” ISBN 0-936315-13-X