One Man’s Meat

A controversy is brewing and I need your comments for a letter to the meat industry. Would you prefer hormone-free, free-range meat or are concerns about food shortages more important than compassion to animals?

IT’S a complex moral dilemma indeed. A few weeks ago, 35 veterinary scientists put an advertisement in this paper promoting the use of hormones in meat, and giving reasons why hormones were better for livestock, people and the environment. The ad was in response to Coles’ saying it was promoting hormone-free meat.

It was later revealed that the ad was bankrolled by veterinary drug companies including Pfizer and Bayer under the guise of the Animal Health Alliance. Spokesman for the veterinary scientists, Sydney University’s Professor Ian Lean, told me that there was no conflict of interest – the issue was so important that the scientists needed the muscle of drug companies to fund their campaign.

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The verdict is out on this in medical circles. HGP is banned in Europe. But claims that current practices are good for animals are patently ludicrous. Animals such as sows are kept in crates, separated from their young. They can’t move to the right or left for their whole lives, which is why they need growth hormones. They grieve continually. Professor Clive Phillips at the University of Queensland says the suffering of hormone-fed cattle is acute: animals become overheated; they live in discomfort.

The ethics of this have not gone unnoticed by the board of Coles and now Woolworths who can see the cruelty and know that consumers no longer want to support inhumane practices. Meanwhile, adrenalin from fear and misery permeates the flesh we eat. One of the reasons pigs in particular are kept in tiny crates, claims Lean, is because they roll on their young and thus eradicate our food supply. “What mother would not undergo a little discomfort to ensure that more of her children survived?”

According to Lean, Coles is involved in a cynical marketing exercise and consumers would not support its efforts if they knew the “facts”. I say he’s wrong. I told him I’d put it to my readers and publish the response. I say that most people feel deeply about such matters and, given half the chance, would want a solution that is both drug-free and compassionate. I need your opinions.



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