Is it possible to be an Ethical Carnivore?

21st October 2016
We should all know exactly where our meat comes from. But does an ethical carnivore exist? What if you took this modern day maxim literally into your own hands? What if you only ate animals you killed yourself?

Fed up of friends claiming to care about the provenance of their food, journalist Louise Gray decided to live out the argument in its extreme and only eat meat she has killed herself for a year.

As she reconnects with nature, she begins to question modern attitudes to the meat we eat in an effort to answer the question: How did we end up eating so much meat, with no idea how animals are raised and killed on our behalf?

Louise Gray on trusting small farmers, provenance and only eating meat she killed herself for a year.

Louise Gray in the field during her Ethical Carnivore journey


How did we end up eating so much meat, with no idea how animals are raised?

Are you a vegetarian? A vegan? A flexitarian? A feastarian? Or an ecotarian? Or just an ordinary person fed up of being labelled for the simple act of eating? Me too.

In fact, I got so fed up of trying to explain my position on food, I took the radical act of only eating animals I killed myself for a year. It seemed a more honest approach than constantly having to explain that yes, I eat meat, I would just like to know, for my own conscience, where it comes from.

This way I knew exactly where the meat came from, including the moment of death. As soon as I stared on my journey, I realised how much I needed to learn. I began with game and fish. Although it was upsetting, I found learning the skills of the countryside and taking responsibility ultimately empowering. I also explored how commercial livestock is farmed on our behalf. I found investigating factory farmed pigs and chickens shocking, but learning to trust small farmers who take responsibility for the whole life of their animals convinced me there is a humane way to eat meat.

It ended up being two years as I needed time to not only learn to fish and shoot, but to organise and process psychologically visits to abattoirs.

Does an ethical carnivore exist?

Does an ethical carnivore exist?

It also ended up being a book, The Ethical Carnivore, as I realised so many of my friends also wanted to know exactly where their meat is from. The conclusion is not that everyone needs to kill animals themselves – that would be ridiculous – but we do need to understand how animals are raised and slaughtered in order to make better decisions.

I hope my book has enabled many people to feel they now have that knowledge. The next step is to find suppliers who can provide the kind of meat you want to eat. This is where Farmdrop steps in. I featured two farmers who supply Farmdrop in the book and was impressed by their innovative approach to connecting consumers with farmers.

I realised early on that the farmers I met were not bad people. In most cases I would argue they are better people than me. I respected their hard work and dedication. I wanted to go further and celebrate them and their part in not only providing nutritious food, but in maintaining the British landscape we know and love.

If you accept an animal must die for you to eat meat (and I don’t see how you can deny that without becoming a vegan) then you must accept responsibility for how it has lived and died. Access to books and the internet means we now all have the power to make better decisions. It shouldn’t take a label to show you care.

Below is a very short extract from the end of Chapter three, when I consider the difficulty of where our meat comes from. Roly is a farmer in West Sussex, who I have visited on a number of occasions. Henry is his favourite ewe.

I phone up Roly to see how this year’s lambing is looking. The sheep have just been scanned. ‘Henry’s having triplets!’

The first she’s had since she started lambing six years ago. We chat for a while about the book. I am still struggling to find a way to explain, to make sense of the journey of meat.

‘It’s always difficult, it’s difficult.’ I imagine Roly in his overalls by the phone, his hands grimy with work, thinking about his sheep. ‘I don’t know how you’re going to do it,’ he says. There is a pause. ‘When I go to the abattoir, which is just down the road, when I’m waiting with the livestock trailer to let the lambs out, I’m always struck by the amount of birds and wildlife in the hedgerows right next to…’

He can’t quite say the words: where there is life, there is death, especially in farming.

The Ethical Carnivore: My Year of Killing to Eat, by Louise Gray is published by Bloomsbury, RRP £16.99


The Ethical Carnivore Terms & Conditions

1. Farmdrop is a limited company whose registered office is at The Biscuit Factory, 100 Drummond Road, London, SE16 4DG, registered with company number 08111929

2. To enter the competition you will need to answer our question before midnight on 13th November.

3. The winner will be drawn at random and notified by latest 31st November 2016.

5. The prize is a copy of the book The Ethical Carnivore: My Year of Killing to Eat by Louise Gray.

6. Prize has no cash alternative, is non-transferable and non-refundable.

7. Open to UK residents aged 18 or over, except employees of Farmdrop, and their immediate families, or anyone professionally associated with this promotion.

8. Farmdrop reserves the right to cancel any participation to this contest.

9. The winner will be notified by email prior to 31st November 2016. The prize will then need to be claimed with 5 days of notification otherwise we will choose another winner.

10. The Promoter does not accept any responsibility for technical failures which prevent entry into the promotion.

11. The winner may be required to participate in publicity accompanying or resulting from this promotion with no recompense.

12. The Promoter reserves the right to disqualify incomplete, illegal, fraudulent, misdirected, delayed or corrupted entries whether due to error, transmission interruption or otherwise.

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15. By entering the draw, entrants agree to be bound by these terms and conditions and by any other requirements set out in the promotional material.

16. The Promoter’s decision is final and binding on the entrants in all promotional matters. No correspondence will be entered into by the Promoter.

17. Any question concerning the legal interpretation of the rules will be based on English law and the Courts of England will have exclusive jurisdiction.

18. The Promoter reserves the right to vary, amend or temporarily suspend this promotion in the event of any unforeseen circumstances or technical reason outside its reasonable control, with no liability to any entrants or third parties.

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21. By entering the competition you are accepting these terms and conditions. Entries which are not in accordance with the terms and conditions will not count. Farmdrop’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

PROMOTER: Farmdrop The Biscuit Factory, 100 Drummond Road, London, SE16 4DG, registered with company number 08111929

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