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Meat Is Murder: The Song Which Launched Countless Vegetarians

Heifer whines could be human cries
Closer comes the screaming knife
This beautiful creature must die
This beautiful creature must die
A death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder

And the flesh you so fancifully fry
Is not succulent, tasty or kind
It’s death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder

So begins the song “Meat Is Murder” by the Smiths. If there was one song to encourage vegetarianism, no other hits the chord harder than this.  Although it was never released as a single, this is one of the band’s most infamous tracks due to its heart-wrenching message, disturbing lyrics, and haunting melody. Released in 1985, “Meat Is Murder” is the title track of their second album which was the only Smiths to reach number one in the UK charts not including compilations/best of packages.  It also featured their best-known song, “Now Soon Is Now”, a dance club smash which gained popularity in the U.S. thanks to MTV. It was also the theme for the TV show Charmed throughout its eight-year run. While the band’s follow-up album, 1986’s “The Queen Is Dead”, is considered their best by fans and critics, the song “Meat Is Murder” could be the one song which turned a generation of music listeners vegetarian.

The song was written by band frontman Morrissey, who had been veggie since he was 11 years old, along with guitarist John Marr, who went vegan around the time of the album’s release.  Within the 26 years since the song’s release, Morrissey remains an outspoken animal rights advocate and has often found himself the center of criticism for his comments.  In 2006 he refused to tour Canada in protest of the country’s annual seal hunt and in 2009 walked off the stage during a Coachella performance because the smell of cooking meat from the nearby food stands was making him sick. (He returned later to finish the set.)  Most recently he was declared a racist after he described Chinese people as a “subspecies” for their inhumane treatment of “skinning animals alive” for the fur trade. (Incidentally, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor – who is not veggie – narrated a horrific video for PETA in 2007 about the cat and dog fur trade in China.) In 2005, PETA honored Morrissey with the Linda McCartney Memorial Award for his contributions to animal rights.

Here is a video clip from the documentary “The Importance of Being Morrissey” filmed in 2002 in which the man speaks against the meat industry.





And, here is the video for “Meat Is Murder” featuring concert footage interlaced with images of animals in slaughterhouses. Warning, it’s a rough clip to watch, even for I’d think a meat eater. Personally, the song alone makes me weep, and to be honest, I as of yet have not been able to make it through the entire clip.




Download the track at amazon.com
Buy the album at amazon.com

Steve Vai: A Spiritual Journey Through Vegetarianism

Virtuoso Steve Vai is one of those rare gifted guitarists whose style is unclassifiable and talents are far-reaching, allowing him to cross over several musical genres with ease. The three-time Grammy Award-winning musician began his professional career with Frank Zappa while studying at the Berklee College of Music and has been feted by guitar aficionados and journalists alike since he released his first solo album Flex-able in 1984, while the public at large know him best from his time playing with Alcatrazz, the David Lee Roth Band and Whitesnake throughout the Eighties. The Long Island native continues to dazzle fans nearly three decades later as a solo artist, producer and composer, having released seven more solo albums, guested on countless albums, completions and soundtracks, toured on his own as well as with the G3 tour and started his own label called Favored Nations. Beyond his prolific music work, Steve keeps busy with various music-related charities; in 1998 Vai founded the Make A Noise Foundation, whose goal is to provide funding for music education and programs for those unable to pursue music-related activities due to limited resources.

Perhaps one aspect of his life that many fans may not know about is his vegetarianism. In this interview, Steve speaks about going vegetarian first for health reasons, then later discovering its life-changing results. Watch for a future post about Steve’s beekeeping, a hobby which brought him media attention as well as controversy from several animal advocates.

What kind of vegetarian are you?
I don’t eat meat, fish, chicken or eggs or anything made with those ingredients, so I’m not vegan. I would never pour myself a glass of milk, but I do like cheese, I eat ice cream occasionally along with yogurt, cottage cheese, but I don’t eat eggs.

So you are not quite vegan…
I think everyone has to find what’s right for them. I don’t judge anybody for what they eat. That’s their world and everybody has to find what resonates with them. The kind of diet that I eat is based on a lot of different things, some soul searching and just reaction. There is a certain moral value to the reason I eat the way I eat. I have great respect for vegans, but it’s hard being a vegan and just doesn’t work for me on a convenience level.

What made you go vegetarian?
When I was younger, I could stuff five Big Macs in my mouth. I probably ate meat three times a day. I was constantly sick, there was always something; I had bad digestion, I had awful skin. I used to suffer from what they call hereditary migraines, which were so powerful and so bad that they laid me out. I would throw up occasionally, and it just got to the point that I was feeling so unhealthy. What happens is everything that we put in our body has everything to do with our mental and physical equilibrium. It’s all part of the same thing. And you really have to find what‘s right for you. I went into a very, very deep, dark depression when I was between 20 and 21 years old and was suffering from severe anxiety. It was a very dark period for me. I didn’t know what it was or why it was, but I was in bad shape. I had always been a seeker for spiritual truth and I wasn’t getting it, plus I think I was eating so bad… I had to make a change. A friend gave me The Complete Illustrated Book Of Yoga, and within it the Yogi talked about the benefits of vegetarian living. I had to make a change. I never really enjoyed eating meat. There was always something about it that didn’t resonate with me, and I became a vegetarian.  I started exercising and cut out all crap food. I stopped eating processed salt foods and sugar, although these days I still eat salt and sugar, but not like I used to. My life changed completely. I can’t even tell you the dramatic change in my life. This happened on my 22nd birthday, and for about six months, I just slowly went up up up with my mental and physical outlook and started feeling happiness. And you know, I can count on one crippled hand the amount of times I’ve suffered from a migraine since that day. If I threw up once in five years it’s because I had a terrible flu or something as opposed to once a month. I never get diarrhea unless I drink the water in Mexico. The only time I get a headache is if I eat too much popcorn with salt. It was a dramatic change, and it changes our mind and the way we think. Heavy foods excite the passions and dull the intellect, and I noticed that when I stopped eating heavy foods.

I can relate with the migraines. I used to get painful ones as well, and they stopped when I went vegetarian. I can’t remember the last time I had one.
It’s like a well kept secret but you can’t tell people that. And I’ve noticed there was a time — and we are talking for me over 25 years ago — if you told people you were a vegetarian they thought you were really weird, and in some places it’s still like that. I don’t talk about it because it doesn’t matter and usually if I am talking to someone about vegetarianism, it’s either because they’re inquisitive because in their heart of hearts they are not comfortable eating meat, or they just want to argue with you about it. So I only engage in conversation with people who are genuinely interested because it resonates with them.

“One of the things which makes total sense to me, just as plain as one-plus-one equals two, is being a vegetarian.”

I find it sad that some people can argue with you that you’re not vegetarian enough.
Part of the reason why some people become vegetarians is for the non-violent nature of it and that resonates with me very strongly. I never felt good about the idea of eating meat because when I think about it, it is completely, absolutely repulsive. For years I couldn’t even sit at a table if somebody was eating meat. I never told anyone, I would just try to tolerate it, but through the years you just develop this tolerance, but it’s hard because I connect the two things.  I connect the fact that eating meat is a violent thing, and I just don’t want to be part of it. Then there are the practical reasons. The human anatomy is not built to be meat eaters; we are herbivores. You can tell by the way our teeth and the way our digestion system is built and the enzymes that we secrete. All these things point to being an herbivore, but go tell that to a truck driver in Texas. But usually when I talk to people who are vegetarian, if they are doing it for health reasons, most of the time they go back to eating meat, but if it’s for non-violent spiritual reasons, they usually never go back because they really connect the two.

I have found that as well. I always sensed you have a spiritual side….
Well, everyone has a spiritual side. I have been a seeker of spiritual truth my whole life, and I have a very scientific approach in a sense that I can only understand things that make sense to me. I don’t follow folklore and weird ritualistic things or miracles or any of that stuff because some of it doesn’t make sense as being possible. And there are a lot of things about the spiritual realm that makes sense to me and that is what I follow. I only believe things that I experience with my own kind of conscious sense of abilities, and one of the things which makes total sense to me, just as plain as one-plus-one equals two, is being a vegetarian.

How has being vegetarian affected your music?
It has affected my music in a way I believe that what we put in our bodies has a reflection on the way we think. And the way we think has a reflection on what we create. So I can’t tell you consciously how being a vegetarian affected my music but I’m sure it has.

Is it hard to keep this lifestyle when you are touring?
I’m not finicky at all. I’ll eat a baked potato and be very happy, but it’s hard to find a baked potato in some places that’s not stuffed with meat so I carry food with me sometimes. It is tough. One of the things that happens to me when I’m on tour is I lose a lot of weight, and I have to be really careful because I can lose too much and start getting sick. I go to sit down, and I have no ass.

Well there is always peanut butter.
Almond butter. It’s really good for you!

Are the rest of your family vegetarians?
My wife [Pia] was vegetarian for many years and then she started eating fish, but she still doesn’t eat meat or chicken. I have two boys and through their whole lives they were vegetarian, they did not eat any meat, fish or chicken, but they did eat eggs and dairy. When they became teenagers my older boy [Julian] started eating meat but later went back to being sort-of vegetarian, more than not. And my younger boy [Fire] started eating fish but never started eating meat.

Well, you can’t force them…
Like any parent, I just feel it’s important for me to do my best to give them what I feel is right, but they reach an age where they have to make up their own minds about stuff. I don’t want my kids to not eat meat because I tell them not to. I want them to understand what it is, what they are putting in their mouths and the effect it has on their body, their mind and their soul; and let them make the decision for themselves. I don’t judge or criticize anyone for what they eat.

Well I think that is why a lot people get turned off by some vegetarians because they come across as being too preachy. I try not to unless it relates to a health issue, as you mentioned with the migraines. I suggest they try going veg for a month as it worked for me…
What is the response?

They usually say they like meat too much.
A lot of times when I see people getting on their holy horse and beating other people up it’s usually that they are doing that to convince themselves of what they are doing because they are not really secure in their ways. If you are secure, you don’t care what anybody else is doing. People are saying ‘What about the rights of animals?’ And if your desire is to preach the rights of animals, well God bless you. I think that that is wonderful, but you also can be pissing people off and they don’t care. For me, the best way to preach is by my own actions, by setting an example the best that I can. That is the best example you set.

External Links:

Steve Vai Official Web Site
Favored Nations (Steve’s label)
Digital Nations
Steve on Facebook
Make A Noise Foundation
Steve Vai on Amazon.com

WTF is… Gelatin

In this section of Veggies-Rock, we will explore vegetarian and non-vegetarian food products and additives. You may discover a new food you may wish to try, or discover something about one you may never want to eat again. The first installment may fall into the latter category.

I often tell people that if you knew what Jell-O is – or how its key ingredient gelatin is made – you may never eat it again.  I too was shocked to find out it was not only derived from animals, but the unused parts a butcher throws away such as the hooves, organs, skin, bones, and hides. (Sorry for that graphic image.)  My awakening to this came from a TV show called “The Straight Dope,” which was a short-lived program on A&E based on a long-running newspaper column of the same name. It aired in the mid-’90s when I was turning vegetarian, so it was perfect timing when I discovered it . Who would think this colorful concoction my mom made me would have such an unpleasant source. Unfortunately, I can’t find the clip anywhere, but the gory details are available at the Straight Dope website, where you will also find years of archived information from their columns and books. (Proceed with caution – inquisitive minds could spend a long time there.)

According to the Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America (yes, there is such a thing) the earliest records of gelatin production trace to the 1600s. It is basically an end product of the collagen, proteins and other elements which have been extracted from the aforementioned animal parts. Strong acids, lime and other chemicals break down the animals’ tissues, and it is then boiled, filtered, dried and ground into a powder. This compound melts when mixed with water and heated, but becomes a solid as it cools. It is tasteless and colorless, so other ingredients or chemicals may be added during its powder form depending on what it will be used as.

While you may now run from a bowl of Jell-O, the truth is that it is quite difficult to avoid gelatin completely. As it is fat-free and not expensive to produce, it is used as thickening agent in many foods such as candies, marshmallows, soup and yogurt as well as the being the digestible casing for vitamins and pharmaceuticals.  It is also a component in countless everyday products including photographic film, cosmetics, glue and the colored gels used in lighting rigs.

There are vegan alternatives, but since they are more expensive to produce they tend to cost more. Kosher gelatin may or may not be vegan; it only means it did not come from pigs or animals slaughtered by kosher standards. It can also be made from fish bones. Vegan gelatin desserts are made with agar, which comes from seaweed. You can buy them in Asian food stores.  Oddly enough, Jell-O brand desserts contain gelatin while Hunt’s Snack Pack (and others) are vegan.

But rest easy, non-veggies. Consumption of gelatin is as harmless as any foodstuff, if not safer as it has been refined and sterilized during the production process. But in the end there is no question where it comes from.