Sara Pascoe

Sara Pascoe


Just the Facts Ma’am

I’ve Had My Last Steak Earthdate 2017.131

It was a few weeks ago when we went out to dinner. I only eat beef outside of the house as it is. With our natural veggie tendencies, we have a few meat and fish-free days each week. I had been vegetarian for a short while when I was in university, but various relatives kept forgetting and cooking me meat when I visited, and I didn’t have the heart to reject their efforts at a warm welcome. I had always liked the taste of it, I had given it up on ethical and ecological (although I don’t think these are unrelated) grounds. Animal agriculture is responsible for a staggering 51% of global greenhouse emissions, according to a UN report. Raising livestock uses 30 per cent of the earth’s entire land surface. This includes ‘33 per cent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock’. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, compared to only 244 gallons of water to make 1 pound of tofu. And of course there is the all the animal suffering that goes on in inadequately run aspects of the industry.

Animal agriculture is responsible for a staggering

51% of global greenhouse emissions.

So there we were, in town centre, Bournemouth, on the first floor (‘second’ in the US) of a fun restaurant with a nice view of humanity milling about outside. It was a Friday night, there was a nice buzz about the place and a guitarist sang hip versions of pop songs.

To be fair, the restaurant is a steak house. So I ordered one, with a big fat jacket (baked) potato, and salad. It was brought to the table still sizzling. I was hungry.

But it didn’t taste as good as I’d anticipated. I’ve been finding this recently. When I’ve ordered a burger or steak it doesn’t taste as good as my memory says it should. I grew up in a beef-loving family, ‘Just cut the horns off!’ my grandfather used to tell various restaurant servers, with a gleam in his eye that would make you think he was about to get a lap dance. (I know, creepy, but that’s how he was about his beef.)

And then there was this. Just a few days earlier, I saw a post about a new breed of beef steer, with double the muscle mass. (It turns out it’s not new, it’s been around for at least 10 years.) I’ll warn you, you might find the video distressing. I know I did. I think the person who posted it thought it looked ‘awesome’ with all the extra muscle giggling about. But look into the beast’s eyes. I see a forlorn animal, pleading for relief from carrying this extra bulk on a normal bovine frame that he will only find with death. And it is those eyes and that face  that I saw as I ate my last steak.

Only now that I’ve lost my appetite for beef can I bear to look up anything about these double-muscling animals (or ‘DM’ as they call it in the trade) without feeling to guilty. It’s not that I know exactly what sort of animal bore the steak on my plate. But the idea that we would purposefully breed a harmful mutation in an animal for some sort of perceived ‘benefit’ to us humans horrifies me. And it turns out the DM business it is due to a mutation that has then been selected for, and just like all the weird mutations we humans seem to find attractive in dogs that we then call ‘pure-bred’, the mutation brings problems. These DM animals are ‘prone to to respiratory disease, stress and dystocia’. I looked up dystocia. It means difficult birth. With these animals, the calf is too bulky to be born easily. This is a little like the highly popular French Bull Dog, bred for their abnormally large heads to the point where they all have to be delivered by Cesarean Section (and they can’t swim – their big heads will sink them, but this is for another blog).

Nothing like a little reading to change your mind and your appetites. I’ll have the tofu burger please, with the grilled mushroom—yum!