Thursday, 10 March 2016

Meat is murder? Look at it another way.

My Mum celebrated her 68th Mother's Day this Sunday.  She is 95 years old.  Her eyesight is failing, her hearing has almost gone but her 'little grey cells' are better now than when she was 60.  I can say that without fear of contradiction by anyone.  Her GP, her friends, her family would all tell you that her physical condition, her mental health and her memory are both considerably better now than then.

In the late 1970's Mum weighed 6 stone, her hair was dropping out, she walked with two sticks and was extremely ill both physically and psychologically.  Some years earlier, she had been diagnosed with a medical condition for which her GP had prescribed steroids: So many steroids that she couldn't sleep.  She was then prescribed barbiturates.  The combination of the two made her volatile, unpredictable and more than slightly strange. One day she fell backwards, hurt her back and was rushed to hospital. They ran some tests, discovered that she was calcium deficient but they also found that she had been misdiagnosed. Mum was dying from Pernicious Anaemia. There is no cure. She was 59.

Now when I say that there is no cure, that is a fact. It is a terminal condition. However, in recent decades a method was discovered to sustain life for those with the condition. Pernicious Anaemia is a condition whereby the body cannot absorb Vitamin B12.  Sounds stupid, doesn't it?  A human being can die just because they can't hold onto one of the thousands of vitamins and minerals that we have in our everyday diet.  The symptoms of lack of B12 are devastating. The condition has detrimental impacts on; short term memory; concentration; energy levels; muscle control and skin condition.

Every three months, my Mum has an injection of pigs blood.  It contains high enough levels of Vitamin B12 to sustain her life. And what a life she has had in the 30 plus years since she was diagnosed. She has seen all four of her own children get married. We have given her six grandsons and two granddaughters and they in turn, have introduced her to her six great grandchildren. She lived to see my father celebrate his 80th Birthday and to share with him their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

Mum came to my graduation (an incredible feat because I was 52 at the time) and she was around to see my eldest brother receive his MBE and went with him to Trooping of the Colour.  She has seen my sister's daughter compete at the Commonwealth Games and my younger brother's son win the Lytham Trophy.  I hope that she remains mentally and physically well enough to enjoy her telegram from the Queen.  Had Mum had been a vegetarian or vegan and refused the treatment, she would have died and missed out on almost half of her wonderful life.

Is meat murder? That is for the individual to decide.  All I would say is, if you make a conscious choice not to eat meat, have your B vitamin levels clinically checked on a regular basis. Also, and I appreciate that this is a big ask, but please try to live and let live on this one. You may consider that meat is murder but to some it is the giver of life.

On a different note, a song that we sang in a House music competition at school was called Donna and was a mournful story about a small calf on its way to market. As an eleven year old, it moved me to tears, just thinking about the fate of this helpless creature. I should add that there was no inference in the song that Donna would be slaughtered and eaten: Any such detail emerges only in the imagination of the audience. I wrote this week's poem during our community creative writing project Walking on Wyre inspired by the remembered song and bullocks paddling in the river at Scorton as Sand Martins put on an acrobatic aerial display.






Birdsong  

Black Angus heifers paddling in the Wyre,
St Peter’s spire and Nicky Nook
Brush-stroke a pastoral scene.
A landscape from the past,
lacking only country folk,
horse-drawn wain.

Ripples circle outwards from hooves in the
shallow ford between two luscious,
green-mile fields.
They lap contented at the tea-stained water
as it slugs along Sand Martin-pitted slopes. 

Nesting birds dash in and out,
bank left, then right,
fly-catching on the wing,
they sweep the fragrant air,
sky ballerinas in sweet Summer rain. 
 
Today they will not sing their freedom in the sky;
will not mock the beef-boys,
happy with their lot.
They see the pock-marked soil,
over-flowing with rose-tinted rain
and offer only birdsong in their wake.

Thank you for reading. Adele
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