As a child I went through a period of being obsessed by what would happen to me after death. Not in a religious way; Sunday school and RE lessons had sorted that one out – at least until I hit the argumentative stage. No, it was to do with the bit they burnt or buried; the vehicle that carried me around; in short, my body.
I’m don’t intend to upset anybody with this but I quickly realised that it was a fact of life that one day I wouldn’t have any more use for the organic bit of me. And it seemed such a waste just to throw it away when at least the calorific energy contained within it could have been recovered from the chimney of the crematorium to heat nearby homes or, and I hesitate to say this, it could have been used for food.
Now I must point out that I’m not advocating eating people and age and experience has taught me that this probably wasn’t such a good idea. But as a youngster, solutions to problems seemed simpler and, what with my granny always reminding me about the starving children in Africa, letting the worms get me appeared to be such a waste.
However, it does occur to me that if, for some reason, you think that we as humans may be in danger of being eaten by someone – by whom I’m not clear but maybe some greater intelligence which I guess would have to be aliens – you stand a better chance of surviving if you can point out to them that you’re not a vegetarian. Why? Because, if you think about it, we don’t actually eat many carnivores and only the occasional omnivore.
This came about because I’d previously written about the delights of grey squirrel casserole and this prompted our head chef at Durham, Anthony Taylor, and me to talk about what other slightly unusual foods might be available to us. It’s at that point that we realised that just about all the animals that we omnivores eat are vegetarian. Or, we wondered, is it just that we only feed them vegetarian food? And the more we talked about it, the more it became a can or worms, so to speak.
Starting with the obvious, ruminants such as cows and sheep are naturally veggies. But pigs? Well it seems they’re fed a vegetarian diet even though while rooting around they must get a few bugs and the occasional worm but that could be more by mistake; a bit like swallowing a fly while out on your bike. I don’t think squirrels eat meat and rabbits eat my plants so they fit the theory.
Before the law banned it, we used to eat songbirds and the Europeans still do. We know that they eat insects on the wing – the songbirds not the Europeans that is who, particularly the French, it seems eat anything that moves. We can possibly blame the church for the demise of rook from our diet and I’m told that seagulls taste disgusting. However I’m particularly partial to pigeon and I know that in Trafalgar Square at least they eat seeds. And I also know that ducks eat sliced bread because I’ve seen it in the park.
Fish often eat fish that’s true. But so do a lot of “vegetarians” including one of my sisters so that opens up a whole new argument.
I guess that we eat mainly vegetarian-fed animals because it’s cheaper to feed them that way. If it’s farmed, it’s vegetarian. Game, fish and other wild animals may differ. After all, some people eat alligator and they don’t look very vegetarian to me.
But just in case there is something in this sentient-beings-only-eating-herbivores thing, a word of advice: it may not be relevant but if you see an alien spaceship coming into land, remember that they’ll have been away from home quite some time and will probably be hungry. So, if you are a vegetarian, if I were you, I’d make myself scarce. Otherwise the aliens might do it for you.
Originally posted April 2010