Vegans call for butcher shops to be outlawed
Norfolk vegans are calling for butcher shops to be outlawed to encourage people to switch to a meat-free diet.
The comments came from the chairwoman of the Norwich Vegans organisation, at a time when the tide appears to be turning in favour of plant-based food.
Meat-free products are being devised - including Greggs' vegan sausage roll - and supermarkets such as Sainsburys are even opening vegan 'butcher' shops.
But farmers and butchers have hit back, saying the move would drive them out of business and would actually harm the environment.
They also refuted claims that the profession is cruel, citing Norfolk abattoirs such as HG Blake, which has implemented a welfare protocol for animals.
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But Penny Franiel, founder and chairwoman of Norwich Vegans, who lives near Dereham, said: "The butcher trade should be outlawed.
"I ask people 'do you understand animals experience fear?' People don't believe it and say 'once they're dead, they're dead.' But when they are in those trucks crammed in, going to the abattoir, they can smell death, they are queuing up, they can hear it, they fear it, it's unbearable."
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She said in the UK people did not have to eat animals, and said she understood that in elsewhere people would starve if they didn't eat meat.
"I am against the people who slaughter animals for a living, I understand they have to do a job, but it's a certain type of person who can do that," she said, adding that a plant-based diet is "healthier" and "cheaper".
Ms Franiel, who runs a sanctuary with 68 rescue animals, has been a vegan since her teens and said her family disagreed with her views.
She said the Norwich Vegans had grown from just 10 people five years ago to a membership of 2,500 on its Facebook page.
"It's really good that a lot of companies are bringing out meat-free products and there's a demand - Norwich market has several vegan stalls and you can now get vegan fish in batter. I asked the stall holder how sales were going and he said it had been amazing," she said.
Tony Bambridge, former Norfolk president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and managing director of award-winning B&C Farming at Marsham, said: "The situation we have is a perfect storm, if we get a new deal with Brexit which sees meat allowed in to this country without tariffs, I think people will question more where meat comes from and may decide to go to a plant-based diet.
"At the moment I don't think we are at the level of livestock farmers going out of business. Norfolk and Broadland has been built over the last 500 to 600 years from livestock grazing the meadows and actually we as farmers are pointing the finger at journalists who are misreporting the facts, especially from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which actually said rice was very damaging to the planet."
Sam Papworth, a butcher with the Papworth Farms family firm of shops in Fakenham, North Walsham, Swaffham and Sheringham, said: "Dare I say it but veganism is a bit trendy, but a lot of people can't afford it as meat-free products tend to be more expensive. I monitor what is on the supermarket shelves and the vegan products are always the ones left on the shelves.
"We are a meat eating nation, particularly in this county and in fact, meat consumption has gone up. Vegans are in a minority but there is a huge industry which relies on meat. We were designed to eat meat and it's an important part of our diet."
David Harriman, a member of the Norwich Vegans and a nurse from Costessey, has been vegan for 27 years.
He was inspired to make the change after working in an abattoir in Leicestershire in 1980, before animal welfare standards were introduced.
"They were slaughtering cows and sheep and I walked out after three weeks," he said. "I'd believed the slaughterhouse myth that animals were killed humanely but I had to use electric prods in their genitals to make them go into the pens to be killed and they were afraid, you could see it in their eyes. It was harrowing."
He said he did not wish to put anyone out of a job, but said butchers needed to evolve.