The Smiths ~ Meat is Murder
link to mp3

by Alka Chandna

Before the band Consolidated drummed out the "Veggie Beat Manifesto"; before Sarah MacLaughlan sang of 20 million turkeys "Basted in Blood"; before Kurt Cobain and Nirvana lamented about trapped animals ("Something in the Way"), there were The Smiths.

UK music magazine SELECT had the following to say about The Smiths: "It must be funny being U2. Imagine. You're the world's biggest group. Your every move receives the full glare of public scrutiny, your every utterance is scanned for meaning and import, you can sell out concerts across the globe, get world leaders on the phone and have millions queue to buy your records. And yet in your heart of hearts you know you weren't a patch on The Smiths. And this doesn't only apply to U2. It goes for R.E.M., Guns 'N' Roses, Nirvana, Bruce Springsteen and every other colossus of modern rock. Each in their own way have good things to offer but, let's be serious, they weren't The Smiths, were they?"

Lofty praise, to be sure. But to most fans of The Smiths, it would seem well deserved. "Meat is Murder," released in February 1985, was The Smiths' third album. Brilliantly successful, the album occupied the number one position of the UK mainstream charts for 33 weeks, and the number one position of the UK's alternative charts for an unprecedented 64 weeks!

What's more, the album's title track opened the eyes of full nations of youth to the violence and brutality of animal-based food choices. "Meat is Murder" mournfully laments the unnecessary deaths of sentient beings:

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 reason is MURDER.

But the lyrics are also angry, as they place culpability for the murder of innocent animals squarely on the plates of those who eat them:

and the flesh you so fancifully fry
is not succulent, tasty or nice
it's death for no reason
and death for no reason is MURDER
and the calf that you carve with a smile
and the turkey you festively slice
do you know how animals die?
who hears when animals cry?

The British pop magazine Melody Maker ran an interview with The Smiths' Morrissey, conducted by a panel of fanzine writers. An excerpt from the March 1985 interview follows:

DEBRIS: How explicit is the link between personal violence in the home - or 'Rusholme' - and institutionalised violence like the meat industry and war?

It's completely connected. It all weaves in and it's all kind of embroidered to make one overall foul image. From the time that you get hit when you're a child, as covered in a song called Barbarism Begins At Home, violence is the only answer. Conversation is pointless. And it continues through school. Certainly if you go to a working class school.

EYF: Are you equating human violence towards fellow humans - 'Barbarism,' The Headmaster Ritual - with violence towards animals? Are you saying it's all the same thing?

Yes, it is. Because violence towards animals, I think, is also linked to war. I think as long as human beings are so violent towards animals there will be war. It might sound absurd, but if you really think about the situation it all makes sense. Where there's this absolute lack of sensitivity where life is concerned, there will always be war. And, of course, there will always be war as long as there are people willing to fight wars in armies. Which is quite another matter, which I must cover one day on a B-side...