I want to talk about our beef and where it comes from… 13



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Meat eaters give livestock life. Their lives exist only because they are raised for human consumption, the question is what kind of life do they lead? Being resident in a French farming village I can testify to a good quality of life for the cattle, sheep and paltry raised here – but of course they hardly feed many people and I am aware that industrial livestock farming exists in France as in other countries.

Now it’s autumn the village farmers are bringing their cattle in from the fields and because the calves and their mothers have been separated from one another, for the first two days the sound of plaintive calls between them can be heard. But all of us leading the Western way of life have experienced the same separation the first couple of days of going to school and the calves settle into the new set-up just as we did. However the Charolais bull next to the mother and calf in my photograph experienced one separation too many that autumn in 2009, when moved to a field on his own he became so aggressive he had to go to the slaughterhouse. The meat on his old body was so tough it could only be used for burgers the farmer told me, but at least his death wasn’t in vain, he had served his purpose for being given a life: he fathered calves and in the end provided good tasting burgers for people who normally couldn’t afford good quality Charolais beef.

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For the calves the slaughterhouse is a year or so away, after winter shelter they will have summer grazing in the fields, rejoining their mothers (nursing newborns once again) and the cattles’ lives will be as if out in the wild. But it’s the milk cows’ calves I feel sorry for, they don’t get to spend months with their mothers, let alone weeks, only about 10 days, then they are separated and I feel sorry for the cows too, not only undergoing separation from their calves year after year but existing only to produce milk, I bet that they’re only used for dog’s food at their end. In the evening when I take my dogs to walk them up at the wind turbines and drive by the milking parlour, if the person doing the milking is late arriving, the cows are queuing at the entrance to go in wanting the relief of having their bloated udders emptied. I remember ‘expressing’ milk for other babies in the nursing home because I had more milk than my baby daughter needed and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I suppose the cows get used to it having it done.

I’m glad I don’t drink cow’s milk, at least I’m not contributing to their unfortunate life. I stopped taking milk in my tea because I learnt that cow’s milk can cause mucus. When I stopped, the only time I had a problem with mucus after that was when I caught a cold. Fortunately this lactose allergy doesn’t apply to goat’s milk cheese (unpasteurised) or sheep’s milk yogurt and fortunately such animals lead a better life than cows, but I suppose they too get early separation from their young.

As regards factory farming, thankfully Brigit Bardot’s intervention caused an EU law to be passed for factory raised chickens to be provided with bigger cages and hopefully more laws will be passed to give factory farmed animals a better quality of life. They are the ones who perhaps wish they’d never been born. That said, I hereby declare that from now on I will only shop for meat that has come from free-range animals, it’ll mean eating less meat of course, but vegetarians manage to get their proteins without meat consumption. Anyone going to join me?

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Susan Gabriel-Clarke

UK born, Susan, an interior designer, worked as a kitchen planner and arranged two conversions of historic old houses into hotels and in 1989 bought a small hotel in France. She sign-painted advertisements for it and supplemented her income teaching English. Now retired, she and her companion, Pierrot, rent out a holiday home.

  1. I don’t think it would be much fun being a cow but on the other hand we consume meat and the alternative would to be out there hunting and eating our native animals and that is not something I would be prepared to do

    1 REPLY
    • Hello Rosalind, actually we only need to eat 2 portions of meat a week, other foods give us protein, so we can opt for free-range raised animals to give us our food. for a start, sheep are free range, so no problem there.

  2. I don’t eat much beef these days,prefer fish, chicken or pork. I notice here in NZ the trend is to encourage farmers back into dairy and beef,maybe for export. Depends on how the economy Is geared I suppose.

    1 REPLY
    • David, I do hope you are making sure the chickens and pigs were free-range. All the best, Susan.

  3. No! I won’t stop eating meat, although we don’t eat near as much as we did when we had our own. And of course, we are older and don’t feel the need. We have bred commercial cattle and stud cattle. Our cattle were very well looked after. They ate improved pasture, strong fences kept them safe, medication kept them healthy, vaccines prevented many illnesses. The calves were injected to prevent illness, same as we inoculate our children. They stayed with their mothers until they were weaned and another calf due to be born. The stud calves were sold other breeders to improve their herds, the commercial calves and any culls from the stud were sent to market to provide meat in the shops. If there was a difficult birthing, we would assist ourselves, or the vet would be called. Sometimes the cattle would get ‘pinkeye’ and we would apply patches to give relief and hopefully cure. I feel no guilt about our farming practices. It was our way of life. There is a demand for quality beef and lamb; we met that demand. If all the people in the world were vegetarians, there would be no need for cattle. They would all have to be killed and fed to cats and dogs. It just makes no sense to me to object to people who choose to eat meat. I’ve heard the animal activists, I’ve listened to the passionate and emotional, I want to say rants, but that might be a bit unfair. So, we didn’t rip the babies away from their mothers, that’s a dairy issue. We have never eaten veal, the thought of it makes us sick. And by the way, have you ever picked up a can of dog food that said succulent horse!! We are told old horses or damaged horse end up in pet food! I seen labels that say tender beef, country lamb or succulent chicken, but I’ve never read one that said canned horse! So, tell me, why is it different! I love horses, should I object to them being used as dog food? No, because I have a good dose of common sense.

    1 REPLY
    • I’m with you all the way there, Mary. You endorsed what I wrote in my article.

  4. I would like to inform you Australian beef is free range they range in the northern territory and Queensland, New South Wales , Victoria , South Australia , Western Australia.

    1 REPLY
    • I’m very glad to hear it, wish it was that way everywhere.

  5. I am a vegetarian and very proud of it

    1 REPLY
    • My daughter was a vegetarian for many years, then went a step further to be vegan. She missed her leather Doc Martin boots though, said substitute leather or canvas ones weren’t as good. Eventually she returned to ordinary vegetarian then gradually allowed herself meat. I couldn’t give up meat entirely but since writing my article, I’ve only bought free range animal meat, costs a lot more, so I buy less, go in for smaller portions, at meal times with lots of vegetables and then there’s fish, not farm-raised fish though, of course.

  6. It is interesting, I can understand someone buying factory farmed meat if they’re really broke and have many mouths to feed but otherwise people should consider the misery they’re inflicting on other creatures. I’ve been concerned about this for many years and cheerfully cough up the extra money for free range meat and eggs. Obviously one can’t practise this in restaurants or if one buys ready meals but I rarely eat meat I haven’t cooked from scratch.

    I have some sympathy for our bovine friends but at least they don’t belong to the Maasai who enjoy a blood and milk mixture, carefully making an incision in the cow to let out just enough blood not to cause the animal serious distress and they do this regularly, as indeed they milk them regularly, but it must be most unpleasant for the beast.

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