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Opening to the prolonged sound of cattle howling and the machinery of death grinding and whirring, Meat is Murder pulled no punches. This is a difficult song for me because I love The Smiths but I also eat meat, so this song is asking me to consider a grisly reality that, frankly, I would sooner ignore. From my point of view, musing the cultural significance of music, that's very interesting. From the point of view of the cattle, it's a different story.

This playlist is dedicated to songs that express a deeply held belief about the nature of right and wrong. As I've known all along, the flaw with the name of this playlist - Music to Fight Evil - is that the concept of evil is not universal. In the case of Meat is Murder, the song challenges my own way of life.

Every culture agrees that killing is wrong, but throughout the ages even the most developed civilisations have sanctioned killings by executions or in wartime, so the definition of murder is arguably fluid enough that it allows societies to change the rules when it suits them - to permanently dispose of criminals, or dissidents, or to drop bombs on distant cities.

Most of us don't accept the definition of beef production as murder, but is that just through selfish convenience, or because we genuinely think it's okay to breed chickens, pigs, sheep and cattle for their flesh? And if we can compromise our ideals so easily, where do we, as individuals, draw the line? At what point do we allow any atrocity to be committed in our name because it suits us?

It's possible to have two conflicting ideas at work in your head at one time - what's known in the study of psychology as cognitive dissonance. If I had to kill an animal in order to eat it, I'd probably get by on a vegetarian diet. I've grown up in a society that has allowed me to get a taste for meat whilst drawing a veil over the bloodshed required to put it on my plate in much the same way that I can enjoy the water coming out of a tap without knowing how it gets there.

Steven Patrick Morrissey is a controversial and frequently ridiculed figure at the best of times but one has to respect the sincerity of his stance on eating meat, which has never been less than clear. He is not a vegetarian from the live-and-let-live school who believes that others should have the right to eat meat if they want to.

"Animal rights is now the leading social justice issue on the planet," he wrote in 2015. "Your decision is whether you support either the butcher or the butchered. It cannot be both."

Meat is Murder has doubtless converted a few meat eaters into vegetarians since its release in 1985, but the meat processing industry has not been shaken to its foundations. So you may well ask what is the point of a song like this, if it cannot change a planet-wide consensus. And the answer simply must be that if you believe something is wrong you have a duty to stand apart from it and loudly state your case against that thing. Revolutions rarely, if ever, happen from within institutions - if the diet of the human race is ever to become meat-free, that change will not begin with the people whose livelihoods depend on killing animals for food.

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About the curator: Jon Ewing

After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.

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