The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


Gummer's (un)holy attack on vegetarianism

From the Sept/Oct '90 edition of Agscene - journal of Compassion in World Farming:

In an astonishing speech to the International Meat Trade Association on the 1st May, Agriculture Minister John Gummer MP said "I consider meat to be an essential part of the diet. The Bible tells us that we are masters of the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, and we very properly eat them...If the Almighty had wanted us to have 3 stomachs (like grass-eating cattle), I am sure He could have arranged it, but He chose to make us omnivores instead". (But actually, Mr Gummer, cows have 4 stomachs.) He went on to attack "those who encourage children to become vegetarian on grounds which have nothing to do with truth and everything to do with prejudice".

Well, we couldn't let him get away with that. So we wrote to The Times which had broken the news and had our letter published. We circulated a more detailed version of our letter to the press in general, and were pleased to see it published in dozens of local papers. We reprint it here:

"Has 'mad cow disease' spread to the Ministry of Agriculture already? We understand that John Gummer MP, Minister of Agriculture, has declared that 'the Almighty' has designed mankind to eat meat, that only meat eaters are 'sensible' that vegetarians and the like are using food as a 'religion substitute' and are 'deeply undemocratic food faddists".

(Speech reported in The Times, May 5, 1990.)

"What ignorance! What insensitivity! Has Mr Gummer never read the British Medical Association's 1986 Report on Diet, Nutrition and Health? This declares: "Vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders, and cancers and gall stones".

"In spite of his apparently intimate knowledge of the designs of "the Almighty", Mr Gummer has ignored Genesis 1.29 in which that same Almighty tells man to eat "every herb bearing seed...and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat".

"Worst of all, Mr Gummer has shown his total ignorance of the main reason why people become vegetarian - because they can no longer tolerate the thought of pregnant sows being chained to the floor, of the 35m broiler chickens a year dying in their crowded sheds before they even reach slaughter weight at six weeks old, of thousands of farm animals improperly stunned or not stunned at all and conscious of choking to death in their own blood in our ramshackle slaughterhouses every week. All these scenarios are tolerated by Mr Gummer's own Ministry.

"Compassion in World Farming hopes that if Mr Gummer cannot be sensitive to humans, he could at least be sensitive to the sufferings of the farm animals for which he is ultimately responsible, and act boldly to ban the cruelties of the factory farm and the slaughterhouse."

Back in the House of Commons, Labour's agricultural spokesman, Dr David Clark MP, said Mr Gummer's remarks were insulting and claimed "Most vegetarians are kind, Christian, intelligent people and Mr Gummer demeans his office by bringing in his religious zeal".

Tony Benn MP, a staunch vegetarian, claimed the remarks were disgraceful and the Speaker, Bernard Weatherill MP, another vegetarian, admitted he had written to Mr Gummer "giving him a quotation from Romans (C.XIV 19-21) which I think should put the matter in its proper perspective".

Outside the House, respected food journalist Derek Cooper claimed Mr Gummer was perhaps unwise "to drag God into his defence of animal farming and animal slaughter and meat eating" and praised CIWF's stand against factory farming. (Scotland on Sunday 13.5.90.)

Anne Halliday of the British Nutrition Foundation was quick to point out "Meat is not an essential part of the human diet...If you take baked beans and toast together, they are just as good as meat". (Daily Express, 3.5.90)

May we suggest that someone gives Mr Gummer a present of "Food for a Future" by Jon Wynne-Tyson (an Athene Trust trustee) - surely the ultimate book giving all the scientific and philosophical arguments for vegetarianism?.

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