For many of us of a certain age, the Smiths were more than just a band. They were something akin to our generation’s Beatles, with the creative duo of (Steven) Morrissey and Johnny Marr serving as a post-punk Lennon and McCartney, writing a soundtrack to accompany angst-ridden adolescence.

As a Gen-X vegetarian, the Smiths have a special place in my heart because of their song Meat is Murder. The song was from the album of the same name, which was released 25 years ago in February 1985. It is probably the most powerful pro-animal, anti-meat song one is likely to hear.

Consider the opening lyrics:

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

The rest of the song continues along the same lines, with the sounds of farm animals baying in the background as the band plays sad yet driving music.

When I first heard Meat is Murder, it literally brought tears to my eyes. I felt instant guilt for all the animals, to paraphrase the song, whose flesh I’d so fancifully fried. So what did I do? I chose to live in typical carnivore denial and avoid listening to a great tune that made me feel bad about myself and my eating habits. To be honest, even after giving up meat I find it a hard song to listen to, which is a tribute to its power.

A quarter century after the release of Meat is Murder, the ex-Smiths Morrissey and Johnny Marr continue to advocate vegetarian eating. For example, Morrissey bans meat from being sold at venues while he is performing, and reportedly prohibits his staff from eating meat as well. As for Johnny Marr, he was recently quoted expressing his pride in helping some people embrace a kinder diet. “I am very proud of the fact that 20 years on people tell me they became a vegetarian as a result of Meat is Murder,” he said. “I think that is quite literally rock music changing someone’s life — it’s certainly changing the life of animals. It is one of the things I am most proud of.”

Changing lives through music. What more could a musician ask for?

Photo Credit: PETA