OPINION: Tom Elliott on meat industry: We should be ready to face harsh realities

Too many meat eaters have no idea how their favourite chops, sausages, steak and roasts are produced. They tuck into succulent meals without fully grasping that animals have died to fill their plate.

OPINION: By TOM ELLIOTT - 3AW DRIVE TIME HOST on NOV 9, 2017 | The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia.

Too many meat eaters have no idea how their favourite chops, sausages, steak and roasts are produced. They tuck into succulent meals without fully grasping that animals have died to fill their plate.

As a carnivore myself, I have no problem with people eating flesh —— but in order to make an informed choice about this major aspect of our diet, all consumers of meat should visit an abattoir at least once.

In my teenage years, I occasionally stayed at a relative’s farm. During one visit, I was ordered to assist in the slaughter of five young pigs destined to fill the local workers’ larders.

Killing and gutting a pig is a gruesome chore. First, the squealing, angry animals were grabbed, held down — no easy task given they each weighed between 40kg and 50kg — and their throats slit with a sharp knife.After this, the still-warm carcasses were dunked in a large bath of scalding hot water. This facilitated the removal, by hand, of all hair plus the outer layers of skin.

Finally, the dead pigs were strung up from a nearby tree. Here, their heads were twisted off and entrails removed for yapping dogs to devour. The carcasses then bled out before being tossed in the tray of a ute.

After observing the demise of the first three pigs, the remaining two refused to emerge from their pen. In order to save time, these understandably recalcitrant animals were shot at close range with a rifle. Due to the distraction caused by all the noise and movement, the last pig required two or three rounds before it finally keeled over. A quick and easy death this was not.

Once the slaughter was complete, we packed up to leave. There were blood and guts everywhere. I felt queasy, and barely managed to prevent the contents of my stomach adding to the mess on the ground. A more squeamish person would have been violently ill, and probably never eaten meat again.

Despite this gory ordeal, to this day I continue to consume — and enjoy — all manner of animal products. But every time I add bacon to my eggs, carve a joint of roast pork or sneak in an extra piece of delicious Christmas crackling, I do so in the full knowledge that a pig has died for my culinary pleasure.

People often ignore the uncomfortable reality of meat. Steaks in the supermarket, for example, do not grow from the polystyrene trays on which they’re presented. Rather, they are cut from the carcass of an animal dragged into a slaughterhouse, and killed with a bolt to the head, before being dismembered by men with bandsaws and boning knives.

Anyone who likes grilling meat on the barbie is complicit in the deaths of livestock.

I reckon all kids above the age of 13 should tour a slaughterhouse to decide — in the most visceral manner — if they want to continue consuming animal flesh.

Of course, it’s not just meat eaters who cause animals to die. Motorists who specify leather seats on their new cars cause millions of cows to be slaughtered purely for their hides.

Fashionistas who favour fur collars are also directly responsible for the large-scale butchering of minks for their well-insulated coats.

Thousands of kangaroos meet an untimely end every year so that RM Williams can produce the elastic-sided boots for which it’s famous. If, as I do, you wear such footwear, you might as well take a gun and shoot our national faunal emblem yourself.

And what about the hordes of racegoers who flock to Flemington every November for the Spring Carnival? It’s not uncommon there for competing horses to stumble, and break a leg, before being put out of their misery.

Indeed, during the Melbourne Cup festivities last Tuesday, a horse named Regal Monarch fell during Race 4 and was eventually euthanised.

Far from being an accident, Regal Monarch’s death was an inevitable consequence of thoroughbred racing.

Morally, I have no problem with humans consuming animal products. After all, very few of us want to live a life consisting of soy milk for brekkie, vegetable patties cooked at social barbecues and squeaky, sweaty vinyl footwear on our feet every time we head out. “Dairy” products derived from cows taste better, millions of years’ eating meat helped our forebears’ brains evolve, and leather shoes look and function so much better than their petrochemical-derived counterparts.

But if the fulfilment of our needs, and our wants, means animals must die, occasionally we should confront the gut-wrenching reality of their demise. Perhaps next time a racehorse collapses in a writhing heap at Flemington, the trackside vets should forswear the privacy screen while they euthanise the injured beast. Only then will racegoers — like meat eaters — truly appreciate the sacrifice their punting pleasure sometimes requires.

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