Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

futures without meat? January 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:56 pm
Tags: , , ,

I read a lot of science fiction & fantasy. Occasionally in these books, we’re shown societies that don’t eat any animal products. I’ve found they tend to fall into two categories.

In the first, the vegan thing is part of a larger, governmentally-imposed ban on certain foods. This is generally seen as a bad, nanny-state, Big Brother sort of thing. For example, in Kage Baker‘s Company novels — which I love, btw — meat is banned, as are alcohol, chocolate, & other such substances. No one seems happy to be avoiding meat, & in fact, they sneak the banned stuff whenever they can.

In the second, not eating animals is just seen as normal. It’s not enforced by the state, it’s just tradition, & in fact, eating flesh is seen as barbaric. I’m blanking on specific titles right now, but I know several years ago when I was doing some research in grad school on feminist science fiction that some women’s SF featured such societies. Some of them were, in retrospect, rather embarrassingly hippy-dippy (earth mother second wave feminist sort of stuff) — not because of the vegan stuff, though!

Have any of you read any science fiction or fantasy w/meatless worlds? What were they like? What about any other novels dealing w/animal rights issues more generally? Naomi Novik‘s Temeraire books feature dragons that are as intelligent as people, & who begin to agitate for better treatment from the humans they work for/with. All the humans still eat meat, & from an animal rights standpoint I think it’s dangerous in reality to advocate for rights for certain animals based on an intelligence cutoff (no one in the books suggests that, say, cows should have rights). But I still think it’s an interesting thing to come up in the books.

There are science fiction/fantasy anthologies on the most random & sometimes bizarre themes these days (Vampires & birthdays! I also heard there is a werewolves-&-Christmas one coming out too!). Has there ever been one about veganism/animal rights? That would be fascinating — particularly if the contributors tended towards being happy vegans, & not folks convinced that big government is out to take all our freedom away.

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17 Responses to “futures without meat?”

  1. Royce Drake Says:

    There was a SciFi series that defined my childhood, Animorphs, where there were four main alien races: the parasitic yeerks, who were the main villains, the cannibalistic and carnivorous Taxxon who willingly submitted to the Yeerks so they could have access to more flesh to eat, the herbivorous Hork Bajir who were peaceful and forcibly conquered, and the Andelites who absorbed nutrients from grass through their hooves. I seriously think that series impacted my young mind in regards to food.

  2. Chris Says:

    That first group sounds like the U.S. during WWII… I am curious to know if you’d be interested in being part of a testgroup to try 4 new vegan PROBAR flavors. E-mail me at probarfeedback [at] Gmail [dot] com. Thanks

  3. vegansofcolor Says:

    Royce — Hee! That sounds awesome. I love looking @ stuff like that in cartoons. In US society they may just be “kid stuff” (altho’ I think w/Cartoon Network & nostalgia & irony & plus the fetishization of Japanese stuff as cool, that’s changing) but there’s a lot of interesting stuff in there. Not on a vegan note, but I was watching Justice League Unlimited a while ago & they were making some sharp comments on the curtailing of freedom supposedly to protect freedom (in an episode called “Patriot Act,” no less).

    Chris — Huh. During WWII? All I’ve heard about is stuff like the renaming of sauerkraut as “liberty cabbage” (precursor to freedom fries!). Will have to look that up more.

  4. GLT Says:

    I liked the Animorphs but I hated that at the end of the book where they morph into cows and are almost slaughtered, one or most of them (was it just Marco?) scarf hamburgers and only Cassie finds this the least bit horrifying.

    I need to point out that Vulcans (from Star Trek) are vegan. I just saw an episode of Voyager where Tuvok didn’t actually eat eggs but he seemed to be going to. It’s possible Tuvok just has to eat whatever Neelix makes so long as it’s not actually poison to his biochemistry, but I’m thinking continuity error. (Of course, most if not all animal products consumed by humans on Star Trek are replicated. Keiko O’brien was grossed out by the idea of cooking with real meat.)

    Come to think of it, I got an old scifi novel from the used shelf called Cat’s Gambit, where the felinoid aliens are almost completely vegan, but ultimately I think it’s portrayed as their trying to be hypercivilized to counter the dark parts of their nature. It’s open to interpretation though. It was still a nice change from the cat aliens always being bloodthirsty carnivorous warriors.

  5. vegansofcolor Says:

    Thanks for the mention of the Vulcans (I’ve only ever been a lazy, half-hearted Star Trek watcher). That’s pretty cool, & probably the widest pop-culture dissemination of the idea of veganism… @ least that I can think of!

    That’s really interesting re: the Cat’s Gambit book. I like the idea of being vegan as a way of being civilized, heh. Curious that it’s felinoid aliens, tho’, given the obligate carnivore status of cats on Earth, hehehe.

  6. Alex Says:

    The narrator of H.G. Well’s _The Time Machine_ finds himself in the frugivorous future society of the year 802,701. This society, composed of the “Eloi,” is seemingly utopian; the narrator surmises that mankind has so efficiently adapted that they needn’t do any work at all.

    However, he later discovers that the Eloi are actually only one half of the evolutionary story – the other half being the laboring carnivorous Morlocks of the underground. In an ironic lesson in sustainability, the narrator realizes that it is the Morlocks that maintain the fruit-filled food supply of the Eloi, and the Eloi’s flesh that maintain the food supply of the Morlocks.

    While the frugivorous diet is here associated with a frail laziness, Well’s makes a distinct contrast to the “cannibalistic” carnivorous diet of the Morlocks, which he considered to be an ultimate regression of humanity.

  7. GLT Says:

    Yes, the vegan cat aliens were a change from the more common ferocious carnivorous warrior cat aliens. I think they had advanced faux-meat technology though.

  8. GLT Says:

    Oops, I totally repeated something I already said in my other comment. D’oh.

    Regarding Star Trek, I think the creators sometimes forget that they condemned real-meat-eating early in The Next Generation and that Vulcans are vegans and other veg-positive settings, because they don’t think it’s important. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sisko’s father’s restaurant uses real shellfish and ooooh, it’s all gourmet because it’s not replicated. But I can’t picture Earth in the Trekiverse slaughtering mammals for flesh. (But apparently it does happen now and then according to what O’brien said.)

    That early TNG episode involved a race of aliens that would only eat real, freshly-slaughtered animals. They were shocked and horrified when Riker explained that the meat they saw the Enterprise crew eating was all replicated and that humans no longer used animals for food. One of the aliens said it was “barbaric!” which I do believe was meant to be humorously ironic because killing is obviously more barbaric than replicating. But the reaction of many omnivores to the idea of in vitro meat is disturbingly similar. Anyway, those aliens were denied Federation membership because they couldn’t control themselves to the extent of not murdering and eating delegates of other alien races while aboard the Federation flagship. However, I’m sure the Klingons still use real Targ meat all the time, and many Starfleet officers have been shown eating Klingon gagh, which is live worms. Because otherwise they would be wimping out!

  9. [...] interesting article Futures without meat deals with such a notion.  The discussion developing there is quite [...]

  10. GLT Says:

    Uh oh, I think the title may have been Cat’s Pawn rather than Cat’s Gambit. Did I make that title up or did I confuse it with another book?

  11. Heather Says:

    Jim Munroe’s Angry Young Spaceman has a future society without meat eating. Also considering the man character goes to this other planet to teach English, has the potential for lots of discussion about cultural imperialism and such.

  12. rift Says:

    Hi People! Great topic!!

    The Wess’har War series by Karen Traviss has aliens who are vegan for ethical and environmental reasons and this is an important part of the story line. The fourth book in the series was short listed for the Tiptree award in 2006. I highly recommend!!

    Speaking of feminist sf, I recently finished Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the 20th Century. A story by Pat Murphy, “Rachel in Love” touched on some animal rights themes because the main character is a chimp with a human girl brain. I would be interested in the “hippy-dippy” books you researched, if you care to list them?

    Thanks!

  13. vegansofcolor Says:

    It is totally exciting to see folks suggesting all this stuff in here, yay! Thanks for everyone’s comments.

    GLT — the stuff about the replicated meat reminds me somehow of how omnivores say accusingly to veg*ns, “But you eat all that FAKE meat stuff!” Like, okay, why not just go ahead & eat the real thing, since you’re obviously craving it… ? I am so not up to speed on anything Trek (like I said, I was a pretty casual viewer — though more of TNG, although that was in high school in the early ’90s!), but I wonder if there’s something to be dug up re: aliens that eat meat (like the Klingons) & (perceived) masculinity/aggressiveness/etc. & race? Last year @ WisCon there was a panel on mixed-race characters in SF/F (which I suggested, hee) & some of the discussion centered on how alien races are often a metaphor for race. Eh, like I said, I am so not versed in Trek-stuff, but it’s a thought that could be applied to other works that feature alien races that are either vigorously veg or vigorously carnivorous too.

    Heather — ooh, interesting. Am I right in guessing perhaps that was a Think Galactic book? Sounds like it would be a great discussion.

    Rift — Are you a WisCon person? Perhaps you & Heather & I know each other, heh. Anyway — I may have to check out the Traviss, although her name is pinging a warning bell in my mind & I don’t remember why. But that series sounds really interesting. I’ve read “Rachel in Love” but it was a few years ago & I don’t remember much aside from “chimp w/girl brain,” heh. I should reread.

    & as far as the “hippy-dippy” books — hm. I think maybe Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground was one of them? (in trying to google that, I see that apparently Joan Slonczewski’s A Door into Ocean features a vegan!) Also, is the future society in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time vegetarian? I can’t remember, augh. I was pretty steeped in feminist sf/f academically for a while (I wrote a master’s dissertation on it, hee), but my brain has lost the titles.

    (& it’s not the feminist content that made me call them “hippy-dippy” — it’s just they seemed so dated, & also I think I have a limited tolerance for earth-mother-type stuff, like I don’t really think women have a closer connection to the earth b/c women are somehow inherently nature-linked, etc.)

  14. vegansofcolor Says:

    Oh, & Alex, thanks for mentioning the Wells book… if only because now I know where the X-Men got the name Morlocks from, hahahaha. The relationship between the Eloi & the Morlocks sounds totally creepy, augh!!

  15. [...] — johanna @ 7:57 pm Tags: books, intersectionality, race Some of you may remember this post on futures without meat, as expressed in science fiction & [...]

  16. Anika Says:

    Yes, Woman on the Edge of Time… not totally vegetarian and not vegan, they eat yogurt and honey, but definitely no slaughterhouses there. A few people still eat meat but they have to hunt it themselves and a main character says she thinks they’ll give it up soon :) I don’t know if that book counts as “hippy-dippy” but it’s so good!

  17. Ian McDonald Says:

    This is really interesting. I’m researching an episode of “The Vegan Option” internet radio show about animal issues and science fiction, and the Wess’har keep turning up. Johanna, is there a way to contact you directly?


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