Magazine | October 19, 2015, Issue

Gruel, Britannia

Story from the Telegraph: “Meat should be treated like tobacco with a public campaign to stop people eating it, Jeremy Corbyn’s new vegan shadow farming minister Kerry McCarthy has suggested.”

“Shadow” is not, in this context, a way of describing someone so malnourished that he appears to be a black outline on the ground. It’s a British term for someone who would have a government position if the voters wanted him to have it. Of course a vegan would want everyone else to follow her personal preferences; it’s not just a diet, it’s a moral viewpoint that refuses to masticate anything from anything that can feel pain, from the lowliest fish to a Jeb Bush pollster. It is a noble rejection of the fierce, bloody, cruel ways of nature — which is totally awesome in all other ways and must be respected, mind you, and if animals eat other animals, it’s because they’re, well, animals, and we can’t judge their culture.

More from shadowy minister: “In an interview with Viva!life, a magazine for vegans, she admitted she was a ‘militant’ when it came to clamping down on meat consumption.”

“Militant” usually means one of two things: (a) willing to use force to make others comply, or (b) chaining oneself to the dairy case at the supermarket and shouting murderer! at old ladies who came to buy some eggs. Really: A pro-chicken group whose name I’ve forgotten, mostly because I do not give a cluck, put out some YouTube videos in which they barged into a Chipotle and told a sad story about a murdered little girl, who was also a chicken. She just wanted to live. I am not in favor of killing animals for sport, as it happens, but when it comes to a nice piece of chicken with some mayo and perhaps a dash of Sriracha, that’s not morally indistinguishable from a Taliban brigade that blows up a girls’ school.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that someone who weeps for the squandered youth of a bird and rails at strangers about the moral horror of industrial fowl-decapitation facilities is also unmoved by Planned Parenthood’s selling infant fragments for experimentation, because the PETAphiles are all Scrooges at heart when it comes to humans: Best they die off and decrease the surplus population. Particularly if they’re born in the West, where some stupid woman will drive them around in a vehicle that emits planet-killing fumes. If the kid is born in Cuba, that might be okay. But only a few.

To continue: “I really believe that meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco,” McCarthy said, “with public campaigns to stop people eating it.” Those campaigns have been quite effective; almost no one eats tobacco anymore. Perhaps she also means that the state should levy heavy taxes on meat so that people are gently guided toward a daily bowl of mushed lentils, consumed in damp gray communal halls where the telescreens drone on about the increase in the choco-rations. Until it’s banned.

That’s the goal. “Progress on animal welfare is being made at EU level,” she said, “but in the end it comes down to not eating meat or dairy.” From the same people who believe a rat is morally indistinguishable from a child, a new compelling argument designed to gather the masses to their side: A piece of cheese is a cigarette.

If you point out that eating meat is part of British culture, well, that just proves why it has to go, doesn’t it? There’s nothing less compelling than one’s own culture, with all its tired familiar traditions. Basically, Dad liked his roast beef, that’s the problem. Dull old Dad. Who laughed when you came home with your hair purple. That’s when you went vegan, wasn’t it? Just curious.

What of the other members of England’s rich tapestry? Wouldn’t it be cultural imperialism to close down the halal butchers who serve the Muslim community? Probably so. Best to make an exception. Wouldn’t want to be bigots. You know who’s bigoted? People who say they wouldn’t approve of a Muslim pope. I mean, it’s all the same book. What’s the bloody problem? They’re the bloody problem.

Later, she clarified with the usual windy twaddle: “There will be different viewpoints, there will be violent disagreements, but it’s about trying to listen to the evidence, approach things with an open mind — and I am very much prepared to do that.”

Uh-huh. If there’s anything we know about people who believe they stand atop the moral high ground with the banner of Truth in one hand and of Science in the other and want to take away freedom and choice in the name of some amorphous wonderful Glory — in this case, a plate of mashed black beans — it’s that they’re open-minded and prepared to listen. Well, here’s a thought. Some smokers have switched to vaping, a cigarette substitute that trades horrible smoke for nicotine-infused water vapor. Cities are attempting to regulate or ban it, because it seems to destigmatize inhaling gas from a narrow tube. And we can’t have that.

So. Tofu is often substituted for meat. If vaping is bad because it reminds people of smoking, then tofu must also be castigated in public-relations campaigns because it reminds people of meat, and meat is killing the planet. Some militant vegans see the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and a voice screams in their head: Miami will be underwater in 16 years! In previous eras, people thus afflicted were smearing applesauce on the walls of their asylum cell; now they are appointed to government agencies.

This is how the world ends: not with a belch, but with the flatulence of the legume enthusiast.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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