Here is PETA’s Senior Vice President of Media Campaigns Dan Mathews’ interview with Morrissey from September of 1985. Morrissey was known to give interviews sparingly, but when approached with the animal rights topic he was most cordial and willing—even though it was 3 a.m.!
Dan Mathews: Thanks very much for chatting at this hour.
Morrissey: Sure. I don’t usually give interviews, especially on this tour.
DM: In the interviews that you do in England, is the animal rights subject often discussed?
Morrissey: Oh, yeah. It’s very much accepted as a major issue in England.
DM: When did you write “Meat Is Murder?”
Morrissey: Back in October 1984.
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DM: Did you get any problems from your record company, Rough Trade, about such a shocking title?
Morrissey: None whatsoever. As soon as we had decided on that as the title track, it made the headlines in the British newspapers and got very wide attention. That whole subject is very controversial over there and so ‘Meat Is Murder’ was an extension of it. The big crime of the whole matter was that the title song did not get any air play on the daily radio. The album entered the charts at number one but they never played the title song!
DM: Are you aware of some of the other songs dealing with animal abuse?
Morrissey: Certainly. Howard Jones has a song called ‘Assault and Battery,’ and Captain Sensible also does one called ‘No Meat.’
DM: You’ve heard the mini-e.p. ‘Their Eyes Don’t Lie,’ haven’t you?
Morrissey: Yes, that was heartwarming.
DM: How long have you been a vegetarian?
Morrissey: I became a vegetarian when I was about 11 or 12 years old. My mother was a staunch vegetarian as long as I can remember. We were very poor and I thought that meat was a good source of nutrition. Then I learned the truth. I guess you could say I repent for those years now.
DM: So it was your mother who first interested you in the animal rights movement, or did you find out about it on your own?
Morrissey: I would definitely say that my mother started me. She’s very active. She often goes on anti-hunt rallies in the U.K. She has influenced me very much.
DM: Do The Smiths do many benefits for the animal rights groups in England?
Morrissey: We get literally swamped with requests to do benefit shows, but it’s very difficult. There is a load of ridiculous fighting that goes on between some groups, and so if you do a show for one you can find yourself in trouble with the others. I think we contribute a great lot to the animal rights movement in that it is our main theme. We really get a lot of people thinking and talking and help keep the issue going strong, at least in England. It’s our big platform and we use it, and I think that’s as effective as doing benefits. We were in Scotland not long ago and were interviewed on a TV news show. The show was at 6 o’clock in the evening, right at dinner time, and we were able to get some vile slaughterhouse film footage on the air to get people to think about what they were really eating. That made a huge impact.
DM: What kind of reaction do you get from your fans considering your stand on animal issues?
Morrissey: That’s an interesting question. We get endless positive response, generally. Something strange happened at a show once, though, in Stokes, a city in England. It was unfortunate. While we were playing the song ‘Meat Is Murder,’ somebody in the audience threw a heap of sausages onto the stage, and oddly, they hit me in the face and part of them got in my mouth. They were a good shot, but they really missed the point. It was horrible. I had to just run off the stage and heave! I really vomited. Eating meat is the most disgusting thing I can think of. It’s like biting into your grandmother.
DM: That response doesn’t sound too positive.
Morrissey: It was clearly an isolated case. I get lots of mail every day from people all over saying how glad they are that someone is finally saying what we are saying. From Americans especially, we get a tremendous response thanking us for ‘Meat Is Murder’ and telling us that they have become vegetarians and all. It’s wonderful! When we played in Madrid, it was a great high point as well. We did an open-air concert in front of 350,000 people and it was televised to all of Spain. During ‘Meat Is Murder,’ they translated the words on television. It was ‘Carnes Es Asesinato’ or something like that. That was great. Then the next night, we played in Barcelona and they did the same thing again. And Spain uses all the meat, too. And they do that horrible bullfighting! We were hopeful that they learned something from our shows there.
DM: What do you think of the Animal Liberation Front? Did you know that in April, they raided a lab in California and freed hundreds of animals?
Morrissey: No, I hadn’t heard about that. That’s great. Yeah, I think they do really important work. I’m happy that they are active in America also.
DM: So you’ve just toured Europe, and now you’re playing in America.
Morrissey: Yes, and a bit of Canada, too. We love the audiences here. Everyone’s really excited.
DM: Is it discouraging to you to think that while everyone is singing along with “Meat Is Murder” at a concert, they may very well go out and have a hamburger after the show?
Morrissey: I don’t think that at all. The amount of letters I get from this country keeps me from getting discouraged. Every day, I read letters from fans saying how they have really been changed by our album and that they no longer eat meat. Now, it may not be the same impact as we’ve had in England, but I’m happy nonetheless. Things are fine here. It’s much more difficult finding vegetarian restaurants, and it makes me ill to see so many dead animals on the roadways, but otherwise, things are great. The tour is going quite nicely.
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