Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, has ruffled the feathers of British farmers by saying that meat consumption should be limited.
The vegan MP has argued that, although progress has been made in the realm of animal welfare, giving up meat is the only way to truly help animals and reduce the environmental impact of animal agriculture.
McCarthy, the Labour party’s new Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has suggested that meat be treated in a similar way to tobacco, “with public campaigns to stop people eating it.”
In an interview with Viva! Life, a vegan lifestyle magazine, McCarthy describes herself as “militant” saying:
“The constant challenging of the environmental impact of livestock farming is making me more and more militant."
"Progress on animal welfare is being made at EU level... but in the end it comes down to not eating meat or dairy.”
McCarthy, who has been a vegan for 20 years and was a vegetarian for 10 years prior, is also vice president of the anti-hunting group, League Against Cruel Sports, and has campaigned against the Government's badger cull and fox hunting.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of The Countryside Alliance, was not impressed by McCarthey’s comments, saying that:
“Kerry McCarthy’s views on meat eating and livestock farming are completely out of step with the vast majority of people. Her ideas are verging on the cranky. This appointment is only going to make it more difficult for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to reconnect with rural Britain.”
On the BBC Radio 4 programme, Farming Today, McCarthy added to her comments, saying that:
“The world is not going to turn vegan because I am in post. I have my own personal views about what I choose to eat, but I accept that we have a livestock industry in this country.”
“What I want is for the industry to have the best welfare standards possible, to be sustainable as well as economically viable.”
Criticism has erupted all over social media following McCarthy’s comments, with people taking to Twitter to vent their feelings.
What has the countryside done to deserve Kerry McCarthy? A vegan defending our meat industry? Hunting? She hates it! A calculated insult— David Reynolds (@SurferObserver) September 15, 2015
We love our meat, kerry Mccarthy , we won't stand for vegans on a power rush saying we should be treated like smokers,,,, god man really— Kerry Sharman (@KerrySharman2) September 25, 2015
Following criticism surrounding Corbyn’s decision to appoint a vegan as the minister for farming, the leader of the opposition has come out against McCarthy’s comments, saying that he does not support the introduction of anti-meat ad campaigns.
Corbyn told ITV News:
“I am a vegetarian. I personally don’t eat meat and haven’t for a very long time.
“I think meat eaters, if they wish to carry on eating meat, that’s up to them to do so.”
“I tolerate it with the normal decency, courtesy and respect that you would expect from me.”
Whether or not you choose to agree with McCarthy’s suggestions, the fact remains that animal agriculture has an enormous negative environmental impact, and our current rate of consumption is unsustainable. Additionally, reducing the amount of meat we consume has been recommended by doctors for years.