There’s lot of reasons not to eat lamb, writes Geoff Russell. One of the best reasons is that Sam Kekovich thinks you should.
We vegans should be grateful to Sam Kekovich for his Australia Day ads. After all, prime time exposure in mainstream media is expensive and Sam’s lamb industry mates have paid the bill.
Not only has Sam put vegans front and centre, his images and particularly his promotion of those images are priceless.
The face of eating lambs in Australia is wrinkled, red-faced, boorish, militaristic and pretty clearly one flight of stairs away from a heart attack; while the face of vegans is cool, bearded, young, and slim.
I could have written about that duality and sent it to every major Australian newspaper and nobody would have touched it.
The cameo from SBS’s Lee Lin Chin, was the blueberry on the tofu cake; it has permanently robbed any meat advertisers for the next 20 years of the opportunity to play the scrawny vegan card.
But I’m guessing Sam’s advertising agency has been infiltrated by some cool, bearded vegans and the joke is on Sam and the whole revolting industry he represents. I hope they got paid mega bucks.
It used to be that the sheep people ate had spent most of their post-mulesing life out in paddocks growing wool and being shorn. Not that life was all beer and skittles back in the day; who remembers tooth grinding?
This sorry saga erupted during the 1980s when some moron reckoned you could get an extra couple of seasons out of sheep by sharpening their teeth with an angle grinder.
More than a few sheep farmers actually believed this garbage and given that they were used to slicing chunks of the backside of un-anaesthetised animals with sheers, going at their teeth with an angle grinder seemed pretty straight forward… so they did… even after research showed it didn’t work.
The procedure has only recently been officially banned in Victoria. And lambs? They’ve always starved by the million every year in Australia.
The crash of the wool industry in the early 1990s bought the industry to its knees and change was inevitable. That crash took Australia’s sheep population from 170 million down to the 72 million it is today.
But even before the crash, the industry was in trouble. In 1990, the consumption of sheep meat in Australia was just 22.8kg per person per year. Twenty years earlier it had been 37kg. Fast forward to now and it’s dropped even further, down to about 11kg.
Now you can understand why the industry clings to the live export trade like a drowning man to an eski.
There have always been sheep farmers who won’t sell to the live export trade, and who won’t stick an angle grinder into the mouths of their animals. But their lambs still starve, their sheep end up in trucks, their product causes cancer and heart disease and they’ve never been able to control the dark side of their industry.
But it’s all academic: when the world gets serious about climate change, there will be little or no ruminant farming and a proper price on methane will deliver the coup de grace. But this is an industry with form, and it won’t go quietly.
A humane phase out could reduce both animal suffering and farmer suicides, but that’s not the way sheep farmers, or our Government, do things.
Instead, the sheep industry has adopted a strategy that’s proved remarkably successful in the chicken industry; it’s shifted the focus from eating adult animals to eating babies.
Lamb used to be a small part of that 37kg of sheep meat people used to eat, now it’s almost half of the market. Wrap anything in glad wrap and plenty of people will forget where it comes from.
Foodies, in particular, seem to have a penchant for simply not caring and many delight in gourmet cruelty; the more bizarre the better: white veal and fois gras for the Europeans, shark fin soup and dogs for the Asians.
Eating little lambs fits right in. Interesting how “lamb” and “lambs” conjure up very different images… it’s easy to divorce the product from the beautiful playful creatures that are plucked from their mothers and trucked terrified to a slaughterhouse.
Sam won’t ever show you the truth about this industry; he’ll hide behind his buffoonery and pretend it’s all a grand joke. And this will appeal to others of his tribe – there is, after all, no shortage of red-faced, big bellied yobbos in this country who enjoy dominion over animals and revel in wet-dreams of hunting and dismembering.
But there’s a new breed of young person with principles and compassion and they’re out to change the world one meal at a time.
They’ve woken up about the protein myths; and if you haven’t, then here’s what you need.
They’re also creatively forging a new compassionate culinary world; they’re making meat look-alike meals for dietary luddites who want things to look familiar. But beyond that there is a wondrous new world of compassionate eating, both genuinely new and drawn from traditions all over the world. Here’s a quick tour.
You may not be able to teach old dogs new tricks, but the world doesn’t belong to Sam and his mates any more.
They are a throwback to an age where tradition was revered no matter how brutal.
But the new breed of vegans aren’t so gullible. They have rejected romanticised farm yard mythology and are doing their best to forge a new and kinder world.
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