Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Full text: Irony as a Trace Element in a Vegan Diet.

Full text of Karmic Carnivorism, in the Guardian Comment is Free page,

my attempt to introduce irony as a trace element into Vegan diets.

Sing the praises of vegetables as much as you like: I say animals deserve to be eaten.
Ian Williams

January 29, 2007 05:25

Last week my old colleague Ed Pearce was singing hymns of praise to vegetables, and while we agree on much, on this we have to differ. I have to confess that I am a born-again carnivore.

Brought up in post-war Britain when meat was rationed - and my parents could not afford it - I posed a challenge by refusing to eat vegetables. "If you don't eat them up, you won't grow big and strong," said my mother. Well I didn't, and grew up pretty big and fairly strong - and very politically incorrect.

When I see lambs frisking in the verdant fields of spring, my mind turns to mint sauce. When an animal welfare group sent me an press release protesting that millions of horses are exported from America every year for food, I wrote back offering my heartfelt support. "Those animals should stay here to be eaten!" I protested. They did not contact me again.

I knew whereof I wrote. I have eaten horsemeat in France and in Kazakhstan, where I ate the local delicacy, karta ("take the thick part of a horse's rectum ... clean thoroughly". Rest of the recipe available on request). I carried on appreciating haggis, even when I read the recipe that warned that, when boiling the sheeps' lungs up to make it, one should be sure that the windpipe was over the edge of the pan - so the mucus could drip outside.

In contrast, my sister was instinctively averse to meat from an early age, so at the table we could discretely shuffle respective personal taboo foods between each other. Since then, she has rationalized her early tastes and become an ethical vegetarian, albeit a fairly relaxed and non-doctrinaire specimen.

But to counter the New Ageism I do encounter, I developed what I like to call Karmic Carnivorism.

In part this was in response to discussions between vegans on such esoteric issues as whether it was permissible to swallow animal products during fellatio, or whether the bacterial content in badly cleaned plant foods would provide enough trace nutrients such as vitamin B12 to keep a pure vegan alive. In fact, fellation does indeed provide nutrients such as vitamins C and B12, according to those who have time to research such culinary esoterica.

There is a school of thought that the only reason pure vegans stay healthy is because insects and dismembered rodent bits and droppings add value to even the most sanitary vegetarian food chain. But I suppose that most of us, no more than vegans, want to dwell on the proportion of rat crap in our food, no matter how nutritious.

In any case, I thought such theologically-precise logic chopping deserved a response.

My reasoning, to keep my conscience clear as I savour lamb chops and kidneys, sweetbreads and steaks - and the occasional chewy horse bit - is that plants are innocent. Unless they are some kind of weirdos who garnish their salads with Venus flytraps, vegetarians macerate and digest innocent plant species that have never done harm to a living being.

In contrast, most of our domestic meat animals are plainly guilty of herbivorism. They eat innocent plants that have never done them any harm; so, from a karmic way of looking at it, it is only fair if they end up on a dinner plate.

However, one must not be vindictive: forgive them, for they know what they do. The fall-back position for the ethical carnivore is that the best thing that ever happened to sheep, cattle, pigs - and horses - is that our ancestors discovered that they were both tamable and tasty. Their selfish genes are now jumping for joy. There are far more of them, and they are far more widespread, than their wild ancestors could ever have dreamed of. Just look at the common chicken: once a forest-dwelling bird in South-East Asia, now a tasty snack whose genes are replicating furiously on almost every continent.

Environmentalists take note: the secret to guaranteeing the survival of endangered species is to persuade people to eat them. Would that we could persuade people to eat a far wider range of fauna - ostrich, emu, goat, buffalo, and beyond - so that their genes, too, could selfishly spread across the globe, becoming as widespread as those of the lucky animals who provide us with pork, beef, mutton and chicken.

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