This was a promotion by a supermarket, heard recently in a TV ad break. With a great deal encapsulated in very few words, it’s a cynical bit of mind-bending although there was a time I wouldn’t have realised; that’s the art of the media advertisers whose brainwashing expertise is relied upon to normalise practices that, by rights, should make us retch. Let’s take a closer look.
Well what else would we expect? Any phrase that seeks to make a virtue out of what we all have been schooled to regard as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’, tends to make me curious. We see it used about so many different species; ‘grass fed beef’, ‘corn fed chicken’, ‘pasture raised’ this, and ‘free range’ that. The cynic in me decided to look further, quite frankly not because I have the slightest interest in how this affects the ‘nutritional quality’ of the resultant corpses (although there’s a lot of self-serving stuff online about this very thing), but rather because I was curious to know more about the truth behind the propaganda, driven by an industry that is working extra hard to prevent consumers realising exactly what it is that they do to fulfil their demands.
Apparently there is (surprise, surprise) very little regulation regarding the term ‘grass-fed’ and the vast majority of our UK ruminant victims whose natural diet would be grass, are ‘finished’ on a diet of grain. ‘Finishing’ is yet another euphemism used by the industry. It sounds so cosy, a mere technicality, doesn’t it? ‘Finishing’ relates to the 80 to 90 days immediately prior to the slaughterhouse ordeal that we inflict on every victim, and it’s done for the purpose of fattening our victims in order to get a ‘good conformation of carcass and a favourable price’.
Finished. Like adding the final touches to a new garment, plumping cushions in a newly decorated room, except that we’re not talking about garments or decorating rooms. We’re talking about the premeditated killing of defenceless young individuals, mere infants in most cases, and the focus is on maximising the profit that can be made from the selling of their corpses and body parts.
So let’s get back to this lamb. A spring lamb (also called early or summer lamb) is 3 to 5 months old when he or she is slaughtered.
I did consider that possibly the ‘grass-fed’ description is a subtle suggestion that this infant has been weaned, i.e. no longer nursing from his or her mother. However ‘weaning’ for our victims is not the same as it is for humans, who tend to use the word to indicate the time our infants stop being completely reliant on breast milk and switch to solid food. Of course by continuing to consume substances that masquerade under the blanket description ‘dairy’, many of us continue to participate in cross-species breastfeeding. But that’s a separate issue.
Those who have provided sanctuary to ewes who have given birth, know that although grass will form an increasing component of the infant’s diet, a lamb will continue to nurse with decreasing frequency for a period of up to about six months. Lactation will diminish during this time but the mother and child remain bonded. We see this same activity in human mammals with both mother and infant finding comfort in the contact breastfeeding provides. In the industry however, ‘weaning’ is a verb, a verb that does not describe a natural process involving a mother and her baby as with humans, but rather an enforced activity with the aim of maximising profit, initiated by the farmer about 8 – 14 weeks after birth.
Navigating through all the ‘if’s’, ‘but’s’ and ‘maybe’s’ that comprise the regulations and guidelines, it’s difficult to determine what the term ‘grass-fed’ actually means, used in relation to this lamb who was chained upside down by one leg in a slaughterhouse to have the arteries in his throat hacked open when he was 12 – 20 weeks old.
Does it actually mean anything at all? But it sounds good, doesn’t it? There was a time the descriptor would have made me think of rolling green pastures with happy creatures enjoying life, gambolling in the spring sunshine. And I think that’s exactly what it’s meant to do.
Well isn’t everyone looking for a bargain?
This issue is one that I have discussed before in a piece entitled ‘The price of a life’. Every item, commodity, resource or service that we buy, is making a profit for someone. In the case of the defenceless and terrified individuals who are our victims, there are very many pairs of hands involved in the breeding, incarcerating, mutilating, transporting, processing and selling of lives and bodies, who each take a cut from the amount of cash that is raised from the sale of their breast milk, eggs and ultimately, their corpses. At the very bottom of the list, we’ll find the cost of the food and the shelter that was provided for our victim. All of these costs have to be covered in the most economically advantageous way – and profit added on top. This is just basic economics, not rocket science and as I say so often, all we need to do is follow the money.
So, ‘half-price’, how do they manage that? To be honest, I don’t know. However I do know one thing. What springs to mind, centres on a frequent justification used in support of harming other animals; namely that we all believe they should be ‘humanely treated‘. How often do we see claims that whatever is done by others, the practices that we support personally are somehow an exception?
The fact that we’d eagerly snap up body parts at bargain basement prices rather shoots that claim in the foot. Given how many humans have taken a financial cut from the proceeds, how could we possibly claim that any defenceless individual had a great life if the price of their corpse is so pitiful? Well we could claim that, but only if we don’t think it through. For our victims every penny-pinching moment of their entire existence is financially optimised. We are deluding ourselves to consider otherwise
And the final point that needs to be made is this. That piece of dismembered infant may be obscenely touted to the rapacious consumers of our species for ‘half price’, but it was very far from that. For a terrified lamb, taken from their mother and subjected to the clanging stench of a slaughterhouse at only a few weeks old, ‘half price’ is meaningless. Our ‘bargain’ cost that baby all he had, all he will ever have, and we didn’t even need to do it.