For the latest in my Tuesday Ten series, I’ve dug back into my notes to resurrect another that I’ve been thinking about for a while. It turned out that there wasn’t a great deal in my collection on the subject, either, so this was one that I opened out to my readers and friends, and got a whole lot back.
The idea of vegetarianism goes back a long way (apparently it goes back nine centuries), and indeed the practice is prominent in a number of religions. But despite that, it still gets a bad rap in many cases.
I should note here: I am a meat-eater and have never had the desire to change, but my wife is a lifelong vegetarian, and I’ve dated other vegans and vegetarians in the past. It’s their choice, not mine, much as I wouldn’t expect to be told to change my choices for someone else’s benefit.
Oh yes, it’s a personal preference, folks.
The other thing that became notable while sifting through the list of suggestions to pick the final ten – although perhaps understandable, with the media caricature of vegetarians that persists – is how confrontational so many songs on this subject are. This is a subject that invokes anger and defiance.
There are a few notable artists who didn’t end up in the final list. Carcass‘ grisly, detailed songs of death and torture came from devoted vegetarians, while Cattle Decapitation write songs of human suffering that often provide comparison to the suffering of animals (and originally all members weren’t meat eaters, although I understand that this is no longer the case).
Then there is Paul McCartney. His vegetarianism and activism go back decades, and was certainly with his first wife Linda McCartney one of the most prominent animal rights activists, not to mention Linda’s range of vegetarian foods that continue to this day.
But, they don’t feature below. Here is the ten that do.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Meat Is Murder
/Meat Is Murder
“I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia. They are both rape, violence, murder.” source
Morrissey has never been one in recent years to avoid making some controversial, headline-grabbing comment on one subject or another (as I discussed on /197/Bigmouth Strikes Again), but it’s not as if he wasn’t signposting his views a long time ago. Stories abound of him forbidding his bandmates from being photographed eating meat in the eighties, and their second album went under the oh-so-subtle title of Meat is Murder. The closing title track, a slow, lengthy dirge, is pretty much the archetypal preachy vegetarian being holier than thou:
“And the flesh you so fancifully fry
Is not succulent, tasty or kind”
“And the calf that you carve with a smile
And the turkey you festively slice
Do you know how animals die?”
Actually, yes, I do, and personally? I can deal with that.
/Church ov Acid
Bryan Erickson has long been a strident, vocal vegetarian and animal rights activist, mentioning the subject frequently and, at least once, as I recall, as donated money from releases to relevant causes. The subject hasn’t turned up in his searingly intense, hard-edged electro-industrial, though, for some time. Perhaps because he said all that he needed to say back in the mid-90s, with early track Dead Flesh, where he expounded on his world-view through unusually clear, untreated vocals. He details first that he doesn’t watch TV constantly, he doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t wear leather, which is fine, but then he succumbs – like many others – to the cliches of animal testing, even if they weren’t particularly current then, never mind now.
/The Sexual Politics Of Meat
Agree or disagree with Consolidated’s strident political music, it’s hard to disagree that they weren’t ahead of their time in many ways. Questioning of racism, sexism, violence and white male dominance, they were asking questions most other bands still ignore now. Back on Friendly Fa$cism, well beyond twenty-five years ago, they handed the microphone over to author Carol J. Adams, who wrote the book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory and read excerpts from it over a rolling rhythm that is very much of its time. The reading, though, is rather more advanced – as the title suggests, it brings in a link between the treatment of women and the treatment of animals, suggesting that eating meat is another way of the male dominance of the world.
/Let’s Get Free
I’m unaware of any other rap act covering this subject, but then, dead prez was never exactly like other acts in their realm. Fiercely political and anti-commercial, they were willing to say things other acts would rarely if ever, say, and needless to say – they never reached the level of success other, less scrupulous acts did. But listening back to this, it’s hard to see why. This song – another detailing a lifestyle, but this is less confrontational, more just explaining why they do what they do. A strictly meat-free life, one more attuned to nature and suggesting that there was a great deal of thought put into what they do. This wasn’t about selling records, this was simply documenting what they did.
/Meat Means Murder
/It’s Time to See Who’s Who
Anarcho-Punk, needless to say, has quite a bit to say about eating meat – or more to the point, not eating it. London-based Conflict were one who released a number of songs on the subject, but this one perhaps says more, particularly as it isn’t just about eating your greens. As befits such a political band, the hypocrisy of avoiding fur, or the slaughter of animals for sport, is highlighted as a comparison, in their view, to people eating meat without any qualms. There is lots of grim imagery in the lyrics, but I guess that’s the point.
/Ah Don’ Eat Meat Bitch!
One of the striking highlights of the first Cocksure album was this pummelling industrial-dancefloor track, that had a retro feel musically, but was rather more up-to-date lyrically. On the surface, this was something of a fair direction explanation of why Chris Connelly prefers the vegetarian lifestyle (and thus doesn’t eat meat), although in Talk Show Host: 016 Chris Connelly suggested other reasons, but with his sense of humour, I’ve no idea where the truth ended and the jesting began…
/In Defence of Our Earth
Only the second recipe I can remember featured in song (the other being the very different Die Eier von Satan by Tool), here more anarcho-punks in the form of Oi Polloi shows a rather more light-hearted take on their music than many of their peers. In three minutes, the band blast through a surprisingly informative vegan pie recipe in great detail, while along the way offering occasional political comment and also sly nods to their musical style…particularly in the form of the, umm, Crust.
/The Ice Cream Man Cometh
/Straight Outta Hardcore
Not every hardcore band is deadly serious, despite the image that the scene sometimes portrays. Good Clean Fun is one that bucks the trend, with humorous songs on a number of subjects, including a few relevant here. Beat the Meat pokes the hornet’s nest of “militant vegans” and has some fun with it, while this track sees a load of kids reject the (dairy) ice cream van, and set-up their own, dairy-free, vegan-friendly ice cream van instead. The whole thing, of course, is then a metaphor for pressing wider societal change…
Anyway. Anyone for ice cream?
/Cows With Guns
/Cows With Guns
I must confess that this was a new one on me. Apparently a very famous song, and the folk singer who released it is a noted environmentalist, this is something I’d never heard, or heard of. At all.
It’s actually a pretty funny song. Imagining a world where cows have sentient, political thought and decide to fight back (“Cow-Tse-Tung”! Ho-ho – the puns are amazing), choosing not to be fodder for human food anymore, and looking for “bovine freedom” instead. I’m also now going to have the damned thing in my head all day. So, er, thanks for the suggestion, K.
/Vegetarian Mumbo Jumbo
Another band who’ve written a lot about vegetarianism and animal rights are the fiercely independent punk band NOFX, who have been around even longer than I thought (since the mid-80s), and this song dates from back in the late-80s. It starts out as an acoustic lament, before ripping into the familiar punk sound, and the lyrics take the piss out of being told by (presumably well-meaning) friends to stop eating meat. The band’s response? We like eating meat, so leave us the fuck alone. Interestingly later songs (You’re Wrong and Clams Have Feelings Too, among others) take a more nuanced look at the subject, and suggest that this song was a bratty, petulant response to overbearing advice…
As always, though, it’s your call. You make your own choices, hopefully, informed ones.