Meat, a Natural Symbol

Meat, a Natural Symbol

Meat, a Natural Symbol

Meat, a Natural Symbol

Synopsis

This book is a broad-ranging and provocative study of the human passion for meat. It will intrigue anyone who has ever wondered why meat is important to us; why we eat some animals but not others; why vegetarianism is increasing; why we aren't cannibals; and how meat is associated with environmental destruction.

Excerpt

As I recall, my interest in meat arose from a vague, but distinct, curiosity deriving from various episodes in my past. I have a vivid memory of a childhood holiday in France—I must have been about six at the time—when we children befriended a calf to which we gave the name Paddington, and my confusion on learning that we might well be eating Paddington before long, once he had grown up a little. I now know that the shock I felt is something that many children experience at some stage. I have been surprised at the numbers of parents encountered in the course of this study who related the story of their offspring’s rebellion against meat, at whatever age. But, as with most children, I soon learned to accept the situation as normality.

I remember later conversations with my parents about why we call cows ‘beef’ and pigs ‘pork’ when they appear on the dinner plate—I must by now have been about 10 or 12. The precise explanation offered I do not now recall, except that it was somehow felt more polite to use these terms than their literal equivalents. This my youthful pride found difficult to accept: if we’re going to eat cows and pigs, then why not be honest about it? Why try to dress it up as something else, as if we are afraid of facing the truth? I never did receive a satisfactory answer, and took a somewhat mischievous delight in occasionally referring to meat as ‘dead animal’ in situations where well-brought up children should not have done so.

As a teenager, the memory of a geography lesson comes to mind, when our teacher passed around a photocopied sheet about world food production, and the feeling of amazement that lingered for days on learning that there was no shortage of food in the world, but that the mass-starvation of which I had long

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