Defending Locavore pork

Social media attacks on Locavore pork from free-range pigs raised in Glasgow are misguided and will only increase demand for cheap, low-welfare meat.

Our nearby not-for-profit community grocer Locavore (provider of the tasty weekly veg bags I wrote about here) published a note late on Sunday:

We’ve been getting an increased amount of stick the last few days on social media over our pigs at The Urban Croft and their planned slaughter.

Emotive issues aside, is it not positive for us to produce meat closer to our customers, using waste food from our shop in an absolutely transparent way which is as kind and sustainable as possible?Facebook post from Glasgow Locavore

They’re talking about these happy chaps, who’ve been pigging out near Queen’s Park for the last few months:

a locavore pig
Handsome fellow isn’t he?

Slightly baffled about what anyone could be complaining about, I had a nose through their Facebook page. The grumbling seems to fall into three themes:

  • We told our kids that they were pets. They’ll be devastated to know the pigs are going to be eaten.
  • There’s no way to kill animals humanely. You monsters.
  • Humans shouldn’t eat meat.

The volunteers at Locavore clearly have to be polite in responding to these accusations—calling potential customers out for rank stupidity is rarely a good move for a business.

Happily, I have no such restrictions.

Won’t somebody think of the children?

If you told the young people you’re responsible for that the pigs were at some kind of local zoo then I agree; you have a tricky conversation coming up when they disappear.

However, don’t blame Locavore for that.

Pigs are animals we traditionally eat, and these ones are being raised organically and locally by a group that farm and sell organic and local food. What were you expecting to happen? Did you honestly think Locavore had sunk a couple of hundred quid of their earnings just to provide you with something to look at whilst strolling through Queen’s Park? They might be not-for-profit, but that doesn’t mean they can throw money away. I struggle to believe that, after a moments thought, anyone could have thought these pigs were being raised for a purpose other than meat.

My son is six months’ old, so whilst he finds the Locavore animals fascinating (particularly some, er, randy goat moments) I haven’t had to explain that their future is unlikely to be prolonged. Maybe when he’s slightly older I too will cop out and, when the time comes, say that Mr and Ms Porker have moved down south for the sun. But, eventually, I’ll explain that this is how we should raise animals for slaughter, and why it’s worth paying extra for meat that comes from a happy animal rather than one that spent a short, miserable existence in a cage.

Treat the Locavore pigs as an educational opportunity, eh?

If you’re trying to avoid young people realising meat comes from dead animals, I’m also mildly intrigued about your shopping tactics. Do your kids think chicken comes into being wrapped in polythene?

They’ll suffer when you kill them. You shouldn’t kill them.

The transition from living pig to bacon inevitably involves slaughter. Locavore are using an approved abattoir and have given a pair of pigs a cracking life; there’s not much more they could do to tick the happy pig box.

If Locavore didn’t kill the pigs there would be no profit from keeping them. And no profit means no pigs. Or rather, no pigs here; they’d instead be somewhere else being raised for meat. I’m not particularly familiar with pig farming in Scotland, but I’d be surprised if many other pigs had lives as good as the Locavore ones.

And don’t ask Locavore to create some grisly film of the deaths so you can pass judgement on the effectiveness of the method. If you’re concerned with slaughterhouse practices then direct your voice at the Food Standards Agency; don’t pick on a single user of the approved system.

After all, I think the speed limit in urban areas should be reduced to a flat 20mph. That doesn’t mean I’m going to picket your house because you currently drive at 30mph.

Humans should be vegetarian.

Maybe we should. It would certainly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be hugely helpful in tackling global warming.

However, is going after a local producer of two pigs really going to deal the killer blow to worldwide meat demand? As a species we ate 109,075,000 tonnes of pork in 2013. Being someone who campaigns for cycling infrastructure I’m well aware of what starting small means, but really…

Whatever you do, most of us aren’t going to completely stop eating meat.

A more realistic goal short-term goal might be to align with the Food Climate Research Network and persuade people that, if they are going to eat meat, at least save it for special occasions (like the Sunday roast). Eating meat less frequently means you can afford to buy better quality products, which in turn generally means better welfare standards for the animals involved.

This approach only works if that better quality meat is available to buy. If businesses trying to fill the gap are sabotaged by your social media harassment, posters, flyers, and other petty skulduggery; congratulations. With all the easy ethical targets picked off, the massive battery farming operations can grind on unopposed.

Tiny manipulation of the supply will achieve nothing if you don’t change the demand.

And finally…

I have some hopes.

I hope Locavore continue to raise, slaughter and turn a profit from high-quality ethically raised animals. It’s important that people can see the effort that goes into producing happy meat, and understand why only paying a couple of quid for a chicken must mean a miserable life for the animal involved. It’s also important that people who want to avoid low-welfare meat have an alternative.

I hope the volunteers at Locavore take justified pride in the quality of life they have provided their animals with.

I hope those criticising the production of ethical meat stop and consider the effect they’re having. Trying to sabotage the supply of good meat merely increases the demand for caged animals.

I hope I manage to get hold of some Locavore bacon before it sells out. I’ll let you know how it tastes.


PS: I have no connection with Locavore other than buying their weekly veg bag and generally liking the way they do business.

PPS: If you’re new here, welcome. I welcome comments on everything I write (particularly differing opinions), but note I have to manually approve things to avoid us drowning in adverts for Prada bags. There’s a comments policy here, which you can distil down to “don’t swear, be nice.”

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Totally agree!

I have been veggie for a decade and obviously encourage the avoidance of meat consumption in the first place.
Having said that I also acknowledge the fact that there will always be people eating meat, so we have to do the utmost to ensure that meat is reared to the highest standards (e.g. organic), with the lowest carbon footprint and the highest welfare standards.

My theory is that if everyone could only purchase meat to these standars you would achieve the following:
– People buy less meat because it is much more expensive
– Peopole value meat as a high quality resource without contamination rather than a cheap, tasteless staple (horse meat scandal, scrapie, BSE just to name a few)
– The carbon footprint would be drastically reduced as people consume less meat in the first place and GMO-soy would not be shipped around the world to feed our livestock , thus destroying less rain forests or exploiting arrable land.
– People will be less detached from the natural and living product meat if they are surrounded again by living entities and not ceran wrapped, water injected ready-made burgers (I know children of farmers who stopped eating meast because they had to help killing it.)

Despite being veggie, I would have very little problems with people easting meat subject to these standards – however, in the current world this is still quite utopic which is why I favour promoting vegetarian/veganism.

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