Kerry McCarthy: a vegan at the centre of the opposition

Kerry McCarthy is the Labour MP for Bristol East and has held that position for almost a decade. Ms McCarthy is credited with being the first vegan MP, and is currently an ambassador for The Vegan Society and has given talks at many of the Vegfest events around the country.

Following Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory for the Labour Party, he revealed his shadow cabinet and announced Kerry McCarthy as the new Shadow Environment Minister. This immediately set a collision course with the Animal Industrial Complex (1), which went up in arms over the appointment of someone who is vegan; that is someone adhering to a philosophy and lifestyle which represents to them the antithesis of the exploitation, suffering and brutality they espouse. So it is no surprise they remain a little upset. The Animal Industrial Complex (AIC) could also be viewed as primarily conservative, given the financial privilege they obtain from exploiting non-human animals, and the desire they have for maintaining that system, it is unlikely they would prefer a Labour government under many given circumstances.

The result is that Labour doesn’t need to appease the farming industry, but instead can provide an alternative to the animal and environmental destruction at the heart of that industry. So perhaps he sees McCarthy as the possible solution, and that would suggest some fairly radical thinking. When farmers do not need to be appeased, we can begin to consider what sort of farming practices we require in England, and it might be the case that many of the large landowners in particular, will finally be considered the liability they truly are.

The problem here though, is that on one side there is the Animal Industrial Complex and on the other, the animal rights movement. Whilst the contemporary animal rights movement is no stranger to equivocation, with seemingly endless appeals to welfare (within the industry) and ‘mainstreamness’, there are still others that would counter significant equivocation from Kerry McCarthy with criticism, and in turn they would no doubt be criticised for speaking of the principles within veganism and animal rights. Yet it may turn out that the most vociferous are the farmers that would deride a vegan for equivocation, highlighting that Ms McCarthy has hidden away those vegan principles (2), and seek to denigrate in a way that portrays both uncertainty and double standards. Success as unlikely as it would seem, is likely dependent on walking a fine line of integrity; a fine line within an institution which is not particularly versed in candour.

(1) ‘Anthropologist Barbara Noske first identified the animal industrial complex as the accumulation of interests responsible for institutionalised animal exploitation.’ Reference.

(2) Separating those ‘private’ beliefs from the public arena.


‘Beyond Boundaries: Humans and Animals’. Barbara Noske (1997).

‘Revealing the “Animal-Industrial Complex” – A Concept & Method for Critical Animal Studies?’ Richard Twine (2012)

By orcas and animals

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