Another Bad Day for Vegetarians

Last night during an end of season party, I was just beginning to wonder what the subject of this week’s blog might be, when two of my guests approached me quite independently and told me how much my blog about the poor animals had struck a cord with them last year. Indeed, I was similarly prodded by some of my Twitter followers, who wondered if I would update them on the issue. As always I thank them, as I thank everyone for their comments and ‘likes’, no matter what the substance of a particular blog is. However, after deciding to reprise last year’s blog (reprise as I feel there is little I can add but a photo – video might be too distressing for many) I would now like to dedicate it to Brianna, who contacted me during the summer for permission to use my words during a debate on live animal exports in the South Australian Parliament.

Almost a year ago I published my thoughts on the annual ritualistic slaughter of millions of domestic animals during the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice. Although I called it A Bad Day for Vegetarians, the huge reaction from none vegetarians proved that it also struck a cord with many animal lovers no matter what faith, if any, they followed. Here it is again:

Most countries in the world have a dominant religion, whose values, rituals and beliefs have shaped the society and given a sense of right and wrong, belonging and kinship. In the western world it tends to be Christianity, where as in the far east there’s more of a mixture of say Buddhism, Muslim, Hinduism and smaller regional beliefs such as Shinto. In the near and middle east the dominant religion has been Muslim for quite some time. The one exception to this perhaps is China, where Chairman Mao squeezed the life out of most faiths and beliefs during his revolution. And while I respect anyone’s right to follow any religion they want to and would never ally myself to anything Mao said or did, I must admit that I also carry a slight mistrust of any strong religion, essentially because of the countless deaths and persecutions committed over the centuries in the name of interfaith, ethnic or other sectarian rivalries.

Having lived in a Muslim country for some years, I have witnessed the rituals and festivals of that faith such as the holy month of Ramadan, followed by the Seker Bayram – Sugar Festival. It’s a period of feasting, present giving and family, a time of fun and togetherness that I am occasionally invited to and always enjoy; not too unlike the Christmas holiday period in most points west of here. However, there is one Bayram, that follows on about 2 months later, which if I can I will ether plan any trips abroad for then, or at the very least stay at home all day on the first day. This is called the Kurban Bayram – the Feast of the Sacrifice, where animals are sacrificed, before the meat is given to the needy or shared out amongst ones family. An explanation of why this takes place can be found here.

Photo by Travlr

I have been a vegetarian for many years – and yet I do not regard myself as fanatical. I respect everyone’s right to either eat or not eat meat as long as the animal they devour has not suffered unduly. Indeed, I am not a complete vegetarian, and should technically label myself a Pescatorian, as I do occasionally eat fish. But I always apply the same rule about those creatures not suffering unnecessary pain. If an animal must die the act of slaughtering it should be quick, clean and as painless as possible.

As prescribed by religious precept, most of the countless millions of animals sacrificed during the Kurban Bayram will be conscious at the beginning of the process. So the act of stunning the animal first is unlikely to have taken place. This does not mean that the animal will suffer unduly if the job is done quickly and professionally. But what I do find objectionable is when it is done by people, who have no concept of what is really needed to dispatch an animal quickly, perhaps because they have never done anything like it before or never received adequate instruction: it can take a long time to kill an animal and end it’s pain, especially if it is done incorrectly. However, the sheer scale of the slaughter taking place on this day, always means that many inexperienced men end up just ‘having a go’, with often, unnecessary stress and painful consequences for the poor animals.

As I said, because of my bad memories of this period, I try to be somewhere else, but I do remember the permeating smell of blood and that occasion in Istanbul when I could not get my car into its garage because a discarded cows head had been wedged under the chassis. However, my worst memory is much more recent. I once watched a fat man, drunk on raki, with a cigarette hanging from his mouth and wearing a filthy and bloody shirt, running after a terrified cow, whose throat was bleeding profusely, and stabbing it in the shoulder, while all along the crowd, which included several small children, were laughing and cheering him on. Where exactly was the religion in that terrible performance?

One thing that also leaves me feeling quite sick as an animal lover, is the TV coverage. Most stations show a selection of scenes filmed earlier in the day during their Evening News programs. Often introduced by anchor women, who are often grinning as if about to share a joke. These scenes essentially show similar mishaps to the horror I related above, of traffic stopped by wild eyed bleeding goats and injured sheep chased by cars full of knife wielding amateurs, or some poor cow trying to escape through a river and on one occasion a camel with a large spear dangling from its breast running down the hard shoulder of a motorway. This year most channels also showed us how part of the European banks of the Bosphorus, through Istanbul ran out red for tens of meters from the shore because of the sheer quantity of blood coming from storm drains.

Photo by Charles Fred

Sometimes these scenes are accompanied by music and the laughter of the person filming or those around. Then there is usually a few minutes showing many of the most inept slaughter-men arriving at some hospital casualty ward or other, mostly with cuts from the knives they used incorrectly or suffering from crush or kick injuries from the animals they were incompetently trying to kill. However, the worst thing I ever saw, was when one particular channel decided to relay their round-up of injured people and terrified or wounded animals, to a soundtrack of wacky music and canned laughter, the kind used to boost the sagging popularity of lame comedy shows.

So now I just stay in and hideaway – I rarely see anyone and keep well away from every park, car park or other piece of wasteland, just in case it has been legally, or illegally designated as an abattoir for the day.


Scotland Please? – Let No Finally Mean No!

So there you have it again – a big fat ‘No’ to Scottish independence. So please SNP, and all you other Republicans please accept the fact that the old animosities have actually moved on since the 17th Century and get over your impulsive need to ruffle everyone’s feathers every generation or so. Isn’t it finally time to just let it go for the good of the whole because all that these votes ultimately achieve is resentment, not only between Scotland and the other members of the Union but also within Scotland, where divisions between friends and within families will now fester long after this latest dalliance with self rule is long forgotten.

Despite everything that has been said and printed and tweeted, the leaders of the ‘Yes’ campaign (most of whom seemed so mesmerised by a chance to carve their names into history that they wouldn’t let something as inconvenient as the truth spoil their 15 minutes of fame), always knew Scotland would have a hard time of it if they won. Whether that was because they would be left out in the cold and bidding to get back into Europe or because they would soon end up running around like headless chickens desperately trying to organise the logistical nightmare of introducing a new currency.

Photo by kay 222

The ‘Yes’ campaign never missed a chance to brag about Scotland’s fractionally higher GDP at the moment, but even a dyed in the wool nationalist like Alex Salmond must have had his secret doubts, because he knew that this was nothing more than over optimistic ‘spin’. The simple fact is that once you strip the oil from your calculations, as it will be, when it dries up in approx 25 – 40 years time, then Scotland’s true GDP would look much closer to somewhere like Greece or even Albania and certainly a long way short of the rest of the UK. Then what would happen? Ask for another referendum to be allowed back into the United Kingdom? Well I am sorry it just doesn’t work like that Scotland, because despite being allowed the best of both world for far too long within the Union, the other members would more likely just slam the door in your face and tell you to maybe go try Iceland?!

This Vote has cost everyone in the UK, not just Scotland, somewhere in excess of £15 Million, money which would have been much better spent on other essential services. Put this together with the relative cost of the last referendum and that’s a cool £30 Million gone up in smoke. This despite, many people on the ‘Yes’ campaign having now declared that the ‘Referendum’ will effectively become a ‘Neverendum’. This is presumably just in case someone in Whitehall tries to say ‘No’ to something the ever restive Scots (and it seems to take very little to make them feel wronged and restive nowadays, like a child who has been raised without the parents using the word No!) Well fine – go ahead have yourself a Referendum once a year if you really want to, but you – as in the people of Scotland must pay for it. Then let’s see just how keen your politicians, or rather the people, who hold the politicians and their parliament accountable are, when other essential services are cut only in Scotland just to foot the bill, rather than as usual the rest of the UK having to pay most of it. This way if any future politicians should want to try and immortalise themselves, in the same self serving way that the outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond has done in both referenda, you can tell them to do it with their own money not the money of hard working tax payers.

Of course, as we have seen with the pledges squeezed out of Westminster last week, what is actually happening every time there is a vote on Independence, is that the Scots get even more concessions to the point that the people of Wales, Northern Ireland and England, who all pay the same level of tax, all end up losing just to keep people North of the border with a better standard of living. Indeed, one of the countless numbers doing the rounds last week was that every single person in Scotland gets somewhere in the order of £1,600 a head more in services, subsidies and hand outs than the rest of us… why? And now they expect even more, although less than 36% of the eligible population actually voted for Independence. To me that is quite wrong – as a tax payer I expect an equitable return for my hard earned cash not this creeping sense that the rest of the Union is actually getting less than the Scots simply because we are not making enough noise.

Finally, the spectre of nationalistic agitation was never far away from this vote. Although no politician would be stupid enough to use it as a platform, the rhetoric, language and cultural imagery of the strife of the poor Scots was always in the subtext. That may be fine for old dyed in the wool anti-unionists, who possess a knee jerk hatred of anything English, but now the ‘Yes’ campaign is turning all of its focus and energies onto the young. Impressionistic 16 and 17 years olds, who were incidentally, only allowed to vote for the first time at the referendum because the SNP believed the kids would carry the ‘Yes’ vote over the victory line. However, all that is likely to be achieved by targeting this group, is to cloak bigotry and hatred with an air of respectability because it’s about ‘politics’, but if you look close enough it’s mostly about perpetuating old hatreds that should really have been buried centuries ago.

Photo by Betsy Weber

Scotland the time to change the same old overplayed record is long overdue. Yes things may not have always been fair or equitable in the Union but you have actually been part of it and enjoyed it’s protection and prosperity for more than 300 years now. The last great battle between England and Scotland took place more than 250 years ago, almost 20 years before the American War of Independence, although the way history is regurgitated at the service of the anti-unionists you could almost believe it was only a few decades ago.

I am not denying that Scotland has a rich, varied and yes sometimes violent history, with characters such as William Wallace, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce who still permeate the fabric of society. But this is the 21st Century – not the 13th, so perhaps these characters who are constantly invoked at the service of the Nationalist cause can finally be retired, so they and their images and stories can do what they have always done best for Scotland: help sell whiskey and bring in thousands of curious tourists, who are only too eager to spend their holiday pounds to explore that proud history or just to enjoy the beauty of the highlands and the lowlands.