Thursday, November 18, 2010


My esteemed colleague Brian Reyes earns his daily crust reporting on the news for the Gibraltar Chronicle. He is also a talented photographer and keen foodie. He has a blog – My Mediterranean Diet – which is both engaging and interesting.

Brian recently penned a series of articles first dealing with a bullfight in Algeciras and then following it up with articles on the meat as a dish. I suspect we have both bought our ‘toro de lidia’ from the same butcher in the Algeciras market and what surprised me was that beef from a prized bull is only fit for the stewing pot.

Now Brian’s first article with a graphic description and photos of the killing of his future meal has caused outrage amongst some readers of the Dscriber website that is based in the USA. I certainly think his piece has been amongst the most read and has certainly drawn probably the most comments, the majority highly critical.

Maybe Brian was brave or naive in writing the series and I do not intend to enter the fraught argument here for or against bullfighting. The only comment I will make is to those who doubt the bravery of the matador. Stand beside one of these bulls as I have and tell me he is a coward. You do not enter a field where these beasts graze or pass by one on foot if it has escaped – the chances are it will try to kill you!

The majority of the bulls that enter the ring have been bred on farms where they have roamed free and been extremely well cared for except for their final day or so. No other animal comes to the table via the ‘fiesta nacional’ but is the process they go through any less humane? I somewhat doubt it.

Anybody living in rural Spain will have come across the ‘matanza’ where the family pig is tied live to a frame, has its throat cut and then bleeds to death. The blood is used for morcilla and over the next day or so every part of the pig will be butchered and prepared in to some dish or another. It will then feed the family for many months to come. Before you point and say here is another example of cruel Spain of course the same method of slaughter is used by the Jews and Muslims as part of their dietary laws.

I have driven behind a big truck as dawn breaks as it brings in live chickens to the factory where I believe they are gassed. Some break free – the odd one escapes, others are run over by a following vehicle, some break their legs and wings and land in a bloody heap on the tarmac.

Cattle, pigs and sheep who rarely enjoy the lifestyle of the bullring bull are crowded in to trucks then shipped off to the abattoir for a humane death. They say it is quick and painless. Sorry but it isn’t.

Of course we could choose to eat fish which are pulled from the sea in giant nets and then drown – gasping for water in the air of the trawler's deck.

Now all of this is a good argument for not eating meat or fish but I do both as do the majority of people and I have no intension of changing. For when I sit down at my table or in a restaurant I eat the tasty dish that is set before me and do not give a thought on how the creature got there. Yet also I am not so foolish as to believe it was a painless end for the animal or fish concerned. We are what we eat – but the majority don’t care how we kill it!

Brian’s blog:


Tony Murphy said...

It was recently discovered that up to 80% of meat in British supermarkets is Hallal.This also applies to many large food companies who for the sake of cost effectiveness produce all their meat in the Hallal way.This is causing a major row as firstly the meat is not labelled as Hallal.Secondly the cruelty laws make exceptions to suit the Jewish and Muslim religious requirements but it was never intended to become as large scale as it is.Personally I don't eat red meat or pork,but do eat chicken,fish duck etc.I would consider myself an ethical eater and do consider how the food I buy is produced.I have recently stopped eating tuna and anchovies as they have become seriously endangered.I wont buy strawberries that have come from South Africa or Argentina.I have not eaten veal or foi gras for decades because I hate the way it is produced.I would bet that if people who do eat these products were brought face to face with the production method they might think twice.
I make an effort to buy local or at least Spanish produce.I believe we need to be much more aware of what and how we eat both for the sake of our own health, for the sake of our economy and for the good of the planet.Yes, we are what we eat but it would appear that the vast majority really dont give a damn as long as it tastes good.

Simon said...

"as long as it tastes good....."

To that I would add "and is cheap"