By William J. Furney
Are people willing to put up with mass death and destruction, on a global scale, because they can’t do without their addiction to meat — and then, oddly, laugh in your face when you dare suggest there’s anything wrong with consuming the decaying flesh of animals?
It’s almost certain the newly discovered coronavirus leaped from animals to humans because people, in China, were eating what’s believed to be bats that were riddled with the killer bug. And in just over half a year, the contagion of many names — thanks for that, WHO; it’s probably your sole contribution to the health emergency you were meant to help prevent — has infected the entire planet, with over 8.6 million confirmed cases (the real figure will be much higher, due to a lack of testing in many countries) and a death toll that’s fast-approaching half a million people (currently 464,620).
Now, as a growing number of countries, including heavily hit Italy and Spain, ease their lockdowns or lift them entirely, cases of novel coronavirus infection are breaking out at — you guessed it — meat markets and slaughterhouses.
Fear has gripped Beijing in the last week, after the virus was discovered on chopping boards used for fish at a central market in the Chinese capital, where authorities began imposing sudden lockdowns in residential areas to try and prevent a second-wave of infection from ripping through the population — an Asian megacity of over 21.5 million people where the iron-fisted Chinese Communist Party continues to reel from overseas accusations (you’re not allowed to criticise the ruling mandarins in Beijing, or you’ll find yourself in boiling-hot water) it did little or nothing to prevent the initial outbreak, last December.
In recent days, coronavirus infections have been reported at meat-processing plants (slaughterhouses, to give them their non-cloaked name) in the UK and Germany, forcing shutdowns as hundreds of people tested positive for coronavirus and thousands were placed in quarantine while health authorities probed links between the contagion and meat. In tiny Ireland, health authorities have confirmed 828 cases of coronavirus at slaughterhouses around the country in the last two months, and they say infections are rising.
But don’t tell the people who feast on meat each and every day, because they don’t want to know. Just as, like ostriches with their heads plunged into the sand, they largely have no idea how their bloody meat got to the shops, or about the brutal and oftentimes torturous end to the creatures they devour: it’s better not to know, because the reality is too raw, and brimming with an existential horror that’s the stuff of real nightmares. Just keep on tearing into that steak, burger, chicken or whatever the muscle and veins of your choice, and keep your mouth — and your eyes and ears — clamped firmly shut.
The reality that cannot be denied is that meat causes cancer in the human body, harbours killer organisms like the new coronavirus and the farming and production of the stuff is the single-biggest cause of environmental destruction on the planet.
And yet they laugh and scoff and pour scorn on vegetarians and vegans as they stuff themselves with more killer substance and have no idea what they’re doing.
It’s the “I’ll eat what I want” and “Don’t start preaching to me!” variety that was on display in comments on newspaper articles this week reporting the new meat-based corona eruptions when people dared to suggest meat was wrong and that veganism is the only healthy, cruelty-free and sustainable diet around.
In a post-Covid world, and well before, such an egocentric attitude is irresponsible and immoral across a spectrum of pressing concerns and no longer acceptable to right-thinking people. Our actions in what we eat are directly responsible for the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the planet.
Thankfully, attitudes are changing, especially among the young, as they see the all-round harmful effects of eating meat, and veganism is soaring, with manufacturers catching on and creating ever-more vegan products to cater to the growing new taste for ethical food. Those who scorn such a healthy advance in human society would faint at the sight of a vegan dinner and instead go running to the fridge for a pork pie to fill that gaping hole of selfish living that’s constantly gnawing at them.
We are living through a global pandemic that has taken lives everywhere, and if there’s one thing many people are realising, it’s that things have to change, that we cannot go on as before, with our harmful and destructive ways.
It starts with what we put on our plates.
- Title photograph by William J. Furney