Saturday, 26 September 2015

On Kerry McCarthy

It's been making headlines recently that Jeremy Corbyn, as the new leader of the Labour party, has elected a vegan as agriculture minister in his shadow cabinet. Not many of those headlines have seemed too pleased by this news.

And, going on gut instinct, I didn't think it was such a great idea right away either, I understood why people were sceptical. There are a number of vegans - enough, generally, to tar veganism with a bad reputation - that act like snobs. The people who act like martyrs because they've made this decision, the people who act like they're better than non-vegans on whatever moral or healthy grounds they might choose.

But obviously not all vegans are like that. To begin with, I didn't know enough about Kerry McCarthy to say whether she was that kind of person or not. The 'treat meat eaters like smokers' line that a lot of papers are running with suggests that she might be.

Although, five minutes of reading suggests she's probably not.

In fact, in an interview with BBC's Farming Today, she spoke about how she understands that people depend on the farming industry in the UK and that what she wants for it is for it to be more ethical and to put more emphasis on animal rights. Which isn't an awful idea. Farming in the west can be pretty horrific.

When you really think about it, putting a vegan in charge of farming could be a really good idea. A vegan who understands that it is their own choice not to eat animal produce and who respects the decision of people who chose differently would be fine in that position. The choice to be vegan is not one made lightly and it's usually based on morality.

I've always thought that's kind of a strange way to go about it. I've always thought that a better way to go about changing things would be to buy produce from ethical farms and hope that, eventually, a lack of business will put the crueller ones out of business. As long as the people who care about animal welfare are refusing to buy any animal products, the people who don't care will happily buy the cheapest produce that was farmed in the most inhumane way and they might never even know.

Having a vegan in charge of agriculture suggests that the person of agriculture has thought about the moral implications of farming, of animal welfare and also of the health of the people who will be eating that produce.

I've done a little bit of reading about Kerry McCarthy as a politician. She's not perfect. But she's stood up for some worthwhile things. Generally, her political opinions tend to be based on compassion. And I think that's important.

And I'm prepared to give her a chance to improve to this country's agriculture.