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Will all Brexiteers become vegetarians?

December 1, 2018 8:02 AM
By Nick Eden-Green

There was an interesting series of interviews on 'Farming Today' on Saturday morning radio. Admittedly, I'm not a farmer and I'd rather have been asleep at that time of the weekend but sometimes I don't sleep too well.

It was all about slaughtering animals for meat. Perhaps not the best thing to wake up to but I eat meat and so I accept that animals have to be killed to feed me.

Most of the discussion, quite rightly, was about animal welfare standards. I was pleased to learn that a specially qualified veterinary practitioner has to be present at the abattoir to ensure animals are killed with minimal or no pain and distress. In general, I was convinced that we do things as humanely as we can so I will continue to eat meat. And just in case my doctor reads this, I do assure him I will eat it in moderation and still tuck into my 5 fruit and veg a day!

Despite the rules and regulations, slaughterhouses must be pretty unpleasant places to work in. I've never been into one and I don't want to either. So, it's unsurprising to me that they have a problem recruiting staff. Not just recruiting vets but the guys who actually kill the animals and prepare our food as well.

Evidently there are few British people prepared to do this work. Most are European nationals. Real concern was expressed in the radio interview that after Brexit our abattoirs won't be able to operate because they won't be able to get enough qualified staff.

As far as I am aware Messrs Johnson, Gove and Rees-Mogg like their roast beef. If the animals can't be slaughtered will they become vegetarian? Or will they rely on imports from Argentina or the USA with their lower animal welfare standards. I think we should be told.

Then, while wondering whether to get up early or to try to go back to sleep, I thought about our hospital. After all the K&C saved my bacon a few years ago. They've had people out scouring Europe to try to find qualified staff to fill some of their vacancies. My son works as a hospital doctor in London and many of his colleagues come from all over Europe. Will they still be allowed to come? Will they want to stay? The new rules might allow hospital doctors in but what about hospital cleaners? There's no point in having a super surgeon if the superbugs in a dirty hospital do you in.

It's the same in the care sector. It's all very well saying we want local jobs for local people or British jobs for British people but if nobody wants to do the jobs or hasn't got the right skills it all falls apart. And what about the fruit pickers? I prefer Kentish apples, not New Zealand, because I do eat fruit as well as meat. But who will harvest them? Oh dear, I just couldn't get back to sleep.

I want to eat British meat rather than American - and British fruit. Will I still be able to? It's not something I intend to start stockpiling for later next year either! As I say, I think we should be told.