Meat Is Murder


If Morrissey’s animal rights activism has sometimes seemed histrionic – walking away from high-profile big paycheck gigs because the venues insisted on serving meat, etc – it has also been effective. He began his activism in the early 80’s, years before the idea of the conscientious consumer became mainstream. For many people, it was Morrissey who introduced the idea that their diet might have ethical repercussions. Moz has not been an ideal activist; he’s said a lot of misguided things, and myopically continues to support PETA, a deeply problematic organization, to say the least. He’s pissed a lot of people off, both within and outside of the animal rights community. However, he has to be admired for his sheer dedication. The real miracle is that he’s only written one didactic dirge about it. He really said everything he had to say with this song; you can’t top this polemic, and he’s been smart enough not to try. He still performs it regularly, and since the low-tech Smiths days, he’s taken to projecting gruesome slaughterhouse videos to really hammer the point home. Although I suspect he’s probably just preaching to the choir at this point, it’s bound to be have a doubly powerful impact on anyone in the audience who remains unconverted. It’s also a very remarkable thing to witness, the power of a performer who would grind his show to a halt while a packed audience watches horrific death footage in utter silence. There really is nothing that compares to Morrissey’s intense rapport with his flock; when he brings everyone to a standstill with his dead piglet videos, it feels like a moment of religious communion. Especially given that Moz is the only act I know whose audience routinely includes entire families from grandparents to small children, all decked out in Oscar Wilde T-shirts. (He’s also the only elderly white guy with an audience that isn’t 90% white.) Many others with a similar ability to enthrall have used their charisma to acquire political might and go about eliminating everyone they don’t approve of; Morrissey just wants you to lay off the chicken nuggets. Is that so bad?

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