The Shop, Gazegill Farm

 

 

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I suspect that this post should perhaps be accompanied by a BBC-type warning, ‘This article contains images which some viewers may find distressing‘! I have avoided the blood and guts – and the actual killing is not carried out at the farm anyway – but these are pictures from a busy butcher’s shop. Not to everyone’s taste!

From my personal perspective I was keen to see how the general public reacted to the shop, positioned as it is in the heart of the farm yard, and where its open plan allows the butchery operations to be on full view. I wasn’t sure how I would react myself, but the shop is an integral part of Gazegill Farm so I really needed to find out.

To my surprise, I witnessed several visitors coming into the shop who had never been before and whose first enquiry was to seek confirmation that this was the farm which only sold meat produced on the farm. Walking past the pigs just yards from the shop, rather than being stressful was in fact a positive confirmation of the provenance of the meat. Several visitors having made their purchase made a short tour of the immediate farm and its occupants.

Paul and his team working in the shop carry out their work with calm dignity and respect for the meat they are working on. It is hard work physically, particularly on the day I was there which was when they were making up Internet orders as well as serving the shop. I didn’t realise just how hard till I spent this day with them. Obvious in hind sight, but in manoeuvring and dissecting half a cow, you are dealing with a big object.

I think in the course of my travels last year that I have come to terms with being a non-vegetarian, BUT one who must know the provenance of the meat and for this provenance to be a good one if I am to partake of it. Any doubts on its provenance and I become a single minded vegetarian. Its difficult to explain how – perhaps because it is as much, if not more, emotion than intellect – but the day in the farm shop helped me along this road whilst also leaving me not totally comfortable with the sight of dead meat in bulk. Which ever way you look at it, the meat is a dead animal. I’m still not sure why when in bulk it feels uncomfortable.

Please do feel free to respond and articulate your own views around meat eating. I met many and varied opinions in my travels, and have the greatest respect for those who have carefully formulated their position, no matter which way it goes, and in particular those like the team at Gazegill who are working with a conscious caring and respect for animals destined to be food for humans.

For more on Gazegill Farm see the farm website.

 

One Comment

  1. alexheffron

    Thank you for another great blog post – just stumbled across your blog from it being shared on Facebook. Great photos. I have actually been a vegetarian in the past, only for about 2 years in total, with the longest period being 12 months. Brought on by not feeling comfortable with the idea of animals being killed and then believing that I couldn’t do it myself. I have been back to eating meat again for the last 2 years, initially so because I feel much much healthier for doing so. Without meat I felt lethargic and not quite at my best. As soon as I ate meat again I felt much more energy.

    I am now coming full circle too as I am about to take on a 15 acre farm, and intend to raise our own high welfare animals for meat, eggs and dairy. I recently witnessed the slaughter of a chicken for the first time recently, and found that to be reassuringly better than I had imagined. It was of course done in a humane manner. I haven’t done it myself yet, but intend on doing so once I have trained with someone in how to do it properly.

    My position these days, having spent the last 12 months studying all things related to sustainable, ethical, regenerative agriculture, is that an animal-based diet is by far the most sustainable one in the UK. They are absolutely vital to healthy soil and provide humans with so many essentials. So can you truly have a vegan diet when it depends upon fertility that comes from animals? Maybe some would argue that we don’t have to eat those animals – but in the real world, where people must make a living then can those animals really be justified economically? I know many would feel uncomfortable with that statement, yet it is true.

    It takes more than just not eating meat to be vegan, as most vegans will know. But on top of that, I do worry about the pressure a vegan diet puts on soil fertility – the absolute key to true sustainability in farming. I think most people who claim that vegetarianism and veganism is by-default more eco-friendly/sustainable than a meat/dairy-based diet are naive of the reality of agriculture. If we include another important topic such as food sovereignty then again I see it very difficult to provide a healthy vegan diet in the UK alone. I know of people who would adamantly disagree, who know far more about agriculture than me, so not saying my argument is infallible, but I think it’s worth serious consideration. There is a difference between what may be considered a sustainable and unsustainable vegan diet, just as there is a sustainable and unsustainable meat-based diet. If vegetarians could shift their diet from being so dependant on annual crops to perennial ones then perhaps it could be considered sustainable, but that is far from happening for most people. Another thought I’ve had recently too, is that there is considerable ecological cost too, as result of massive fields of annual crops sprayed full of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, that inevitably lead to the indirect and direct death of animals such as birds, bees and other insects (as does the fertiliser run-off lead to the extinction of fish species in rivers) that are also perhaps conveniently not factored-in to impact of the average vegetarian/vegan diet. When meat comes from an ethical, organic source, the animals can live side by side with many other species, allowing a stronger ecosystem.

    I realise some of the naiveté shown, particularly by vegetarians in my opinion, as that was myself once too. There are comments that get thrown around by environmentalists, that under examination aren’t always true. For example, there is much focus on the methane output of cows, but what about their ability to help sequester carbon by building soil? Some argue, when grazed in certain manner that more likely mimics the movement of wild animals, that they can even sequester more carbon than they emit. It’s rarely as straightforward as it is often put. Then of course there are the air miles (and subsequent ecological destruction) on the dairy, and meat replacements that many non-meat eaters like to eat. Simple solutions are rarely the answer – we love to find someone/something to demonise and make the cause of all our problems – but does that help to solve them? Perhaps neither meat eaters nor veggies/vegans are eating sustainable – I think both groups need to make considerable changes. Fundamentally it’s our entire food system that is dysfunctional and needs changing, whether we eat meat or not.

    I’m by no means trying to cast all vegetarians or vegan in a bad light, these are just my current opinions and thoughts, some of which may deserve consideration – in an attempt to perhaps balance out the charges against meat eaters. In my opinion true sustainability has to be the goal.

    Like

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