Wednesday, 5 October 2011

What to eat? Meat or veg or both? Or a green wafer called Soylent Green?

While idly checking out aspects of dieting, I strayed onto the website of the Vegan Society.

I gave it a little time, but the idea of living exclusively on vegetable matter, including wearing only vegetable-based clothing and footwear, seemed unappealing. I did note the positive effects of being a strict vegetarian, but it still didn't hook me in.

Many of the real-life vegetarians that I've encountered (whether vegans, or rather less strict than that) have had a thin, under-nourished look to me, as if they have taken the whole thing a bit too far. Of course, that may have been exactly how they should have looked, and they had in fact achieved the difficult and highly laudable goal of having the correct BMI for their age and height. If so, there is nothing I can say against their eating regime.

But I still wouldn't join them.

Some reasons come to mind. First and foremost, I like food in all its forms. I like its different textures and flavours and colours. All of them. Well, maybe not slimy things like oysters! But it would be a nightmare if I had to exist wholly on pills or bland reconstituted pap, however nutritious. (Does that eliminate me from the eventual manned mission to Mars and back? Oh dear) On a less extreme plane, I'd hate to live on a monotonous diet of baked beans on toast every day, or fish and chips every single night, or nothing but burgers, whether prepared at the Savoy Grill or at the Burger King on the corner.

I want variety. I like nearly everything. Vegetables are delicious, and I eat them in quantity, but I want meat and fish as well, to give me the full menu. After all, when I last checked, homo sapiens was regarded as an omnivorous animal, not just a plant grazing one.

But then, what about the suffering and death of animals, fish and birds caught up in the human food machine? The Vegan Society made the very good point that even if a food animal is reared in highly pleasant conditions, it still faces separation from its companions and a sudden, frightening death when its time for the slaughterhouse arrives, quite apart from not living its full lifespan. Who is to say that a given pig, or cow, or chicken, or turkey, or salmon, or trout doesn't experience a horrible moment of terror or despair when killed, however obscurely felt? Is this however a good reason to give up eating flesh?

Perhaps naively, when young - you ponder death often then - I always used to wonder what wheat or grass or potato plants or lettuces or apples felt when cut down or picked. Surely they felt something. Why didn't anyone complain about their treatment? Yes, I knew they had no brains, but they were still life forms, and not minerals. I felt there was a shortfall of logic here, but I didn't have the mental equipment to take the matter further.

And then there's the economic angle. Plants are cheap to grow, and you can easily increase harvests if you apply enough money, and do scientific research, and use factory methods. It's clearly the answer if world starvation looms. Animals on the other hand are expensive to rear, use up land, and people frown on genetic meddling and intensive factory methods, never mind the gassy anal emissions. Poor folk might be able to afford seed for their crops, or market produce if town-dwellers, but meat has always been a luxury and, throughout history, beyond the financial reach of most on this planet. Is it right to continue with farm animals when you could grow crops instead on the same land?

Big questions.

The resolution of them will of course be taken out of our hands by world events. If world population explodes much further, or climate change makes the amount of viable agricultural land shrink to a critically low level, we will all have to adapt to a veggie diet, whatever we feel about it. I just hope not in the circumstances depicted in the 1973 film Soylent Green ( It's set in 2022, just eleven years ahead. And there's an ingredient in that green wafer you'd definitely not want to know about.


  1. Careful, Lucy. Soylent Green is people. PEOPLE!!!

  2. Shhhh! Spread the word, but watch out! People get bumped off for whistle-blowing like this!



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