Chapter 13 – Political Persuasion
Having read this far, there is probably a question which
you’re dying to ask. Why, if meat is as bad as all
the evidence shows, don’t governments do something
about it? It’s a good question but not that easy
First, politicians aren’t gods, they’re ordinary
human beings. Whichever party they belong to, their first
aim is to gain or keep power. Without power, politicians
can do nothing. So the first lesson of politics is -–don't
upset the people who have money and influence and who can
take your power away from you. The second lesson is – don’t
go around telling the majority of the population things
they don’t want to hear, even if they may need to
know it. If you do, they will simply vote for someone else.
The meat industry is big and powerful and most people
don’t want to be told the truth about meat eating.
And those are two reasons why governments say nothing.
Meat and dairy production is by far the biggest and wealthiest
side of farming and a huge industry. The value of Britain’s
cattle alone is around £20 billion and before the
BSE scandal in 1996, UK exports of beef added up to £3
billion every year. Then add to that all the chicken, pork
and turkey growers and all the companies who make things
out of meat – burgers, pies, sausages and so on.
We are talking mega amounts of money! Any government that
started telling people not to eat meat would jeopardise
the profits of these corporations and they would use their
power against it. This advice would also be extremely unpopular
with the general public; just think how many people you
know who eat meat. That, I’m afraid, is a simple
statement of fact.
Governments everywhere tend to see environmental destruction,
starvation in the South and even human health as long-term
problems which they don’t have to worry about too
much now. Spending large amounts of money on these things
doesn’t help to get them re-elected. Only when ordinary
people know the facts and start to demand change will anything
The meat industry also spends a vast amount of money advertising
directly to the public, telling them every day in every
way that meat is good, necessary and natural. On British
television there have been the Meat to Live and Meat the
Language of Love advertisements paid for by the Meat & Livestock
Commission out of its annual £42 million marketing
and advertising budget. The poultry industry advertises
chickens, ducks and turkeys. Then there are the hundreds
of individual companies too that make profits out of meat:
Sun Valley and Birds Eye chicken, McDonalds and Burger
King burgers, Bernard Matthews turkey, Matteson’s
cold meats, Danish bacon – the list is almost endless
and the amount of money involved huge. I’ll give
you one example- McDonalds. Every year they sell burgers
worth US426 billion in 18,000 restaurants in 89 countries.
And the message is constant: Meat is okay!
Ever heard of the story of Pinocchio, about a wooden puppet
who comes to life and tells whoppers. Every time he lies
his nose grows a bit longer until he finishes up with a
huge conk. The story was meant as a warning to children
not to tell lies. It should have been written for some
of the adults who sell meat, and this is why.
Producers will tell you that their pigs are much happier
living inside their warm pens where they get plenty of
food and don’t have to worry about the rain and cold.
But as anyone who’s read Chapter 1 will know, this
is an outright lie. Factory-farmed pigs are so stressed
out and bored that they often go mad.
The egg section in my local supermarket has a phoney thatched
roof with phoney chickens. When little kids pull a string,
a recording of a clucking hen play. On the egg boxes it
says ‘Farm Fresh’ or ‘Country Fresh’ and
there’s a picture of chickens in a field. This is
the ‘Fooled you’ lie! Without saying so, the
egg producers have made you think that chickens wander
around as free as . . . well, a bird. (As we’ve seen
in Chapter 3 that just isn’t true.)
‘Meat to Live’ says the advertisement. That’s
what I call the ‘half-a-story’ lie. Of course
you can live with meat as part of your diet but how much
would they sell if they told the full story: ‘Meat
for 40 per cent more heart disease’ which as Chapter
16 shows is the complete truth.
But why would anyone tell such fibs? The answer, my veggie
or soon-to-be-veggie friend, is easy – money! The
moment loads-a-money can be made from something, is the
time when truth is in danger of taking a back seat. As
for the animals which suffer – well, animals can’t
vote, can they?
If it sounds like I’m being unfair to politicians
then just think about cigarettes. Tobacco is the biggest
killer in the world and now plays a part in one half of
all deaths around the globe. It’s been known to cause
cancer and other diseases for over 30 years. In fact most
people who smoke want to stop but find it very difficult
because tobacco is an extremely powerful drug.
So what do governments do about it? There’s no really
serious campaign to say don’t smoke; cigarettes are
still advertised in high streets all over the world and
in almost every newspaper and magazine; you can buy them
everywhere and they’re cheap enough for anyone to
get hold of. Why? Could it be the billions of pounds which
governments make every year in taxation on tobacco?!
So you see, when money’s involved the truth may
be hidden or sometimes even buried completely. But it can’t
be taken away from you once you have it. And truth is also
power because the more you know the less easily you can
‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way it treats its animals. . .The
only way to live is to let live.’
- Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948, Indian peace activist
The more we know about the meat industry the more we can
do to stop it. Knowledge really is power.’
- Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur