Knowing Better

I like meat. Yet one of the other lifestyle changes that seems to frequently accompany giving up smoking is giving up eating meat. And that’s another thing I haven’t given up either. Somehow or other, for me a meal isn’t a proper meal if it doesn’t contain meat or fish. It’s not that I don’t like quiche and all that, but that I somehow never feel like I’ve had a good, nourishing meal when I eat food that contains no meat. There’s a slight emptiness at the end.

It’s an intuitive thing rather than a rational thing. Because I eat intuitively. I ask myself what I’d like to eat, and something comes to mind. A few weeks back, it was bananas that came to mind one day. So I bought some bananas. Then another time I find I want whole orange juice, or grapefruit. And then a can of smoked mussels. And each time when I buy these things there’s real delight in eating them, as if they’re supplying something that my body is right out of. If I eat more the next day, there’s less pleasure. After a week or so, there’s none.

And it seems to me that the human body should know what it needs, and what foods supply those needs, and must have some way of informing the central nervous system of this. After all, simple sensations of hunger and thirst are clearly part of a feedback system. And maybe that feedback system is much more sophisticated than we think. And that’s what’s putting those ideas about bananas and grapefruit and smoked mussels in my head.

Anyway, somehow or other I seem to need meat. Not much. But definitely some. And this is is usually what I say when conversations come round to food and vegetarianism and all that.

In fact, I’m quite sure that that’s what I said when the conversation around a dinner party table some years back turned to food. The hostess had recently become vegetarian. It wasn’t because she disliked meat. It was just that she could no longer stomach eating something that had been happily gambolling around in a field until the farmer had come and taken it to a slaughterhouse. It was pretty much murder, she thought. And she wanted no part in it any more. Even though she’d cooked a nice chicken dinner for us.

At that point I would have probably come out and asked her whether she didn’t think eating vegetables was murder too. After all, plants are living things too, just like chickens and pigs. There you are, an ear of wheat, growing out on a sunny field, when along comes the farmer with a great big machine, and cuts your head off. And cuts off all of the heads of your friends around you too. Isn’t that murder as well? Isn’t it borderline genocide, in fact?

Vegetarians usually respond to this by saying that plants are ‘different’. They’re just ‘chemical processes’. Or “they don’t have central nervous systems like animals’. So, somehow or other, while it’s not okay to eat animals, it’s okay to eat plants. Ho hum.

Anyway, on this occasion, I spun in a new argument. ‘Do you think it’s okay for tigers to eat meat?’ I asked. And she stiffened up and shot back:

‘They wouldn’t if they knew better!’

They wouldn’t if they knew better. Say it slowly. They. Wouldn’t. If. They. Knew. Better.

I left it at that, but afterwards I imagined her heading out to Africa or India or wherever tigers live, and going into the forest. And how there she found a tiger. And I imagined how she explained to the tiger that it was wrong to eat meat, and that all the deer and gazelles and things it had been eating had, y’know, a right to life. And that life was sacred. And how, after listening to her for a while, the tiger might have said:

‘You’re quite right. I’d never thought of it that way. I’ll give up catching and eating deer right away.’

And then she told the tiger that he should tell all the other tigers that it was wrong to kill and eat other animals. And then, good deed for the day done, she caught a plane back to England.

And back in Africa, the tiger went round telling all the other tigers that it was wrong to eat meat. And they listened to him, and agreed. And the word spread through the forest.

But after a while, the tiger started feeling hungry. And he began to eye passing deer. But he resolutely refused to succumb to the urge to chase them and catch them, now that he knew better, and had given up meat. All it needed was will-power.

And the deer became puzzled at the tiger’s strange behaviour, and one of them came up to the tiger, who was sitting under an oak tree, and asked him why he wasn’t chasing them any more. And the tiger explained. And the deer said,

‘Hey, do you mean it’s wrong for us deer to eat grass and leaves?’

‘Well, they have a right to life too, don’t they?’ the tiger replied. ‘Yet you and your friends come along and tear green bits off them all the time.’

And the deer said, ‘But plants are just chemical processes. They haven’t got a central nervous system like us. They don’t feel things like we do.’

And at this the oak tree above them piped up and said, ‘Waddya mean? How do you know? All I can say is that when you deer and antelope start browsing my foliage, it’s Ouch Ouch Ouch the whole way. But you never listen.’

‘See?’ the tiger said to the deer.

‘I see what you mean,’ the deer said. ‘I hadn’t looked at it that way before. I’ve been very inconsiderate. I’ll stop eating leaves. And I think I’ll tell all my friends to stop too.’

And so all the deer stopped eating grass and leaves, now that they knew better too. And after a while one of the trees asked one of the deer why they’d stopped eating their leaves. And the deer explained about how trees had a right to life, and life was precious, and they shouldn’t have their leaves ripped off by deer and cows and pigs.

And the trees started talking to each other about how they were greedily sucking sunlight out of the sun, and water and carbon dioxide out of the sky. And how they should stop eating the sun and the sky that way, because it was such a mean and inconsiderate thing to do. And because the sun was a living thing too, although they weren’t quite sure.

‘We’re killing the sun,’ they said. ‘And we’re killing the sky.’

And then, because they’d had nothing to eat for weeks, all the tigers started dying one by one. Because eating meat was what kept them alive. And then all the wolves and the jackals died too, because it was the same for them. And then the deer started dying. And the antelopes. And the mice. Because they’d all sworn to stop killing and eating other living things, and they were true to their word, and they had a lot of will-power.

One by one all the animals died. First the meat-eaters, and then the plant-eaters. And then all the sun-eating plants too. Until a few months after my missionary friend had arrived in Africa with her high moral values, everything there was dead. And it was a wasteland and a desert.

And that was the only possible outcome. Once you declare that all life is sacred, and preach this as a universal truth, you just end up killing everything.

But there was an island just off the coast of Africa, separated by a narrow strait from the mainland, which somehow or other hadn’t got the memo about how killing and eating other living critters was wrong. And on this island the trees carried on growing, and the deer kept on eating the leaves on the trees, and the tigers kept on catching and eating the deer.

And when they noticed that all the animals on the other side of the strait were dead, and all the trees too, they swam across. And gradually they repopulated the whole of Africa. Or maybe it was India. And soon it was once again full of trees and deer and tigers, all eating each other without a care in the world.

Which only goes to show that the more you try to stop life killing and eating things, the more it carries on doing exactly that.

And one day, one of the deer was talking to one of the oldest tigers about this and that, and she asked:

‘Do you know why all the trees and animals around here died a while back?’

And the tiger said, ‘Well, I think it was a disease they all got. An epidemic. And it killed them all one by one. Either that or it was another one of those man-made environmental catastrophes we keep having.’

‘So why didn’t we get the disease too on our island?’

‘I’m not sure,’ the tiger replied. ‘But there was a strange thing that happened back then, which probably had nothing to do with it all. One day a tiger swam across the strait from the mainland, and came up and said he wanted to talk to me. And I listened, and he came out with this long palaver about it being all wrong for tigers to catch and eat deer. And how it was an antisocial addiction or something.’

‘Good for him!’ the deer said. ‘I wish there were more tigers like that. I’ve had it up to here with tigers chasing me. Anyway, what did you say?’

‘Well,’ the tiger said. ‘I thought about it for a bit. But after a while I just said to him: No way never. I like meat.’

About Frank Davis

smoker
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22 Responses to Knowing Better

  1. Anonymous says:

    ‘But plants are just chemical processes. They haven’t got a central nervous system like us. They don’t feel things like we do.’
    This probably explains why vegetarians are happy to eat their prey alive.

  2. Anonymous says:

    ‘But plants are just chemical processes. They haven’t got a central nervous system like us. They don’t feel things like we do.’
    This probably explains why vegetarians are happy to eat their prey alive.

  3. Anonymous says:

    As a can’t-drink-alcohol vegetarian, if I gave up smoking I’d resemble the absolute zenith of lifestyle righteousness. Except the difference is I regard all three as a matter of personal choice. I miss alcohol, but no longer regard animals and fish as food. However, if it was a choice between eating flesh and snuffing it, I would eat it. Although there are many humans I would prefer to consume under those circumstances before I started on the furred and feathered.
    PT Barnum

  4. Anonymous says:

    As a can’t-drink-alcohol vegetarian, if I gave up smoking I’d resemble the absolute zenith of lifestyle righteousness. Except the difference is I regard all three as a matter of personal choice. I miss alcohol, but no longer regard animals and fish as food. However, if it was a choice between eating flesh and snuffing it, I would eat it. Although there are many humans I would prefer to consume under those circumstances before I started on the furred and feathered.
    PT Barnum

  5. Anonymous says:

    Chuckles
    Minor pedantry Frank, she must have been very convincing, as there aren’t any tigers in the wild in Africa…
    ‘Brucie’ in ‘Finding Nemo’ is a good example of the system in action – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX9-EMn5tsk&NR=1
    And always remember,
    1. ‘If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?’
    2. ‘I didn’t get to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables.’

  6. Anonymous says:

    Chuckles
    Minor pedantry Frank, she must have been very convincing, as there aren’t any tigers in the wild in Africa…
    ‘Brucie’ in ‘Finding Nemo’ is a good example of the system in action – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX9-EMn5tsk&NR=1
    And always remember,
    1. ‘If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?’
    2. ‘I didn’t get to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables.’

  7. Anonymous says:

    Do you know how long a potato takes to die?
    20 minutes at a rough guess.
    I watch the sap bleed from the carrots as I scrape off the skins.
    I am very aware of the harm I do and the suffering I cause.
    “Most animals let out a cry when they are wounded. But plants, without a voice to scream, instead let out a smell.
    When plants are damaged, they emit a fragrance called green leaf volatiles, or G.L.V.’s. Most people have gotten a whiff of it — it is the smell of freshly cut grass.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/science/31obbug.html?_r=1&=
    But hey, I’m a predator and I do those kind of things.
    I accept it,I have nice sharp teeth for rending meat as well.
    I learnt not to philosophise over food when I was pregnant, and you are quite right Frank, you crave for what you need.
    Rose

  8. Anonymous says:

    Do you know how long a potato takes to die?
    20 minutes at a rough guess.
    I watch the sap bleed from the carrots as I scrape off the skins.
    I am very aware of the harm I do and the suffering I cause.
    “Most animals let out a cry when they are wounded. But plants, without a voice to scream, instead let out a smell.
    When plants are damaged, they emit a fragrance called green leaf volatiles, or G.L.V.’s. Most people have gotten a whiff of it — it is the smell of freshly cut grass.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/science/31obbug.html?_r=1&=
    But hey, I’m a predator and I do those kind of things.
    I accept it,I have nice sharp teeth for rending meat as well.
    I learnt not to philosophise over food when I was pregnant, and you are quite right Frank, you crave for what you need.
    Rose

  9. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Chuckles
    there aren’t any tigers in the wild in Africa…
    Well spotted. And they can’t talk either. ;)
    Frank

  10. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Chuckles
    there aren’t any tigers in the wild in Africa…
    Well spotted. And they can’t talk either. ;)
    Frank

  11. Frank Davis says:

    Do you know how long a potato takes to die?
    20 minutes at a rough guess.
    Which is how long it takes to boil them, I suspect.
    you crave for what you need.
    And you override that craving at your peril, I also suspect.
    Frank

  12. Frank Davis says:

    Do you know how long a potato takes to die?
    20 minutes at a rough guess.
    Which is how long it takes to boil them, I suspect.
    you crave for what you need.
    And you override that craving at your peril, I also suspect.
    Frank

  13. Anonymous says:

    I suppose your hostess fondly believes that no animals are killed when a field of grain is harvested.
    The best take on vegetarianism I’ve ever read is The Naive Vegetarian at http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/vegetarian.html
    I was a vegetarian for about 6 or 7 years, many years ago. I wish I knew then what I know now – wouldn’t have had to endure all those nut roasts.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I suppose your hostess fondly believes that no animals are killed when a field of grain is harvested.
    The best take on vegetarianism I’ve ever read is The Naive Vegetarian at http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/vegetarian.html
    I was a vegetarian for about 6 or 7 years, many years ago. I wish I knew then what I know now – wouldn’t have had to endure all those nut roasts.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I find when travelling for a long time ie holidays, my
    need for a cig can be eased by eating a very large ,very bitter grapefruit. Unfortunately as I am an heavy smoker
    the excessive consumption of the fruit creates another
    embarrassing situation,I spend most of the vacation
    shitting,farting and puking
    Smoking Carnivore.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I find when travelling for a long time ie holidays, my
    need for a cig can be eased by eating a very large ,very bitter grapefruit. Unfortunately as I am an heavy smoker
    the excessive consumption of the fruit creates another
    embarrassing situation,I spend most of the vacation
    shitting,farting and puking
    Smoking Carnivore.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Chuckles
    ‘Well spotted.’
    No, that would be the leopards, tigers have stripes.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Chuckles
    ‘Well spotted.’
    No, that would be the leopards, tigers have stripes.

  19. Anonymous says:

    According to my doctor at the time, the reason women were told to give up smoking when pregnant, was because doctors were worried that young women would carry on living on a diet of coffee and cigarettes and the baby would be small and undernourished.
    On being told that I was eating like a horse, I was given a free pass.
    Things have developed since then, but this study would tend to support my doctor’s words.
    Damage to unborn baby from smoking ‘negligible’ in the first five months
    “Smoking in pregnancy is far less damaging to the unborn baby than commonly supposed, detailed analysis suggests. If women give up smoking by the fifth month of pregnancy, the effect on the baby is negligible, the study found.
    And even if they do not, the effect on birthweight is surprisingly small.”
    “Middle-class women suffer almost no damaging effects, the analysis suggests, even if they continue to smoke throughout pregnancy.”
    “The findings, published as a report by the centre, will not be welcomed by anti-smoking groups, whose message to young women is intended to make them feel guilty about damaging their babies.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3365637.ece
    Rose

  20. Anonymous says:

    According to my doctor at the time, the reason women were told to give up smoking when pregnant, was because doctors were worried that young women would carry on living on a diet of coffee and cigarettes and the baby would be small and undernourished.
    On being told that I was eating like a horse, I was given a free pass.
    Things have developed since then, but this study would tend to support my doctor’s words.
    Damage to unborn baby from smoking ‘negligible’ in the first five months
    “Smoking in pregnancy is far less damaging to the unborn baby than commonly supposed, detailed analysis suggests. If women give up smoking by the fifth month of pregnancy, the effect on the baby is negligible, the study found.
    And even if they do not, the effect on birthweight is surprisingly small.”
    “Middle-class women suffer almost no damaging effects, the analysis suggests, even if they continue to smoke throughout pregnancy.”
    “The findings, published as a report by the centre, will not be welcomed by anti-smoking groups, whose message to young women is intended to make them feel guilty about damaging their babies.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3365637.ece
    Rose

  21. Anonymous says:

    How much better it would have been to simply tell pregnant women who smoked, not to skip meals even if they didn’t feel like eating at the time, and why.
    Maybe we could have avoided this.
    1979
    “Donovan’s most interesting remarks related to smoking and pregnancy . He admitted that he couldn’t explain how or why smoking harmed the fetus but suggested that, instead of worrying about such fine points, women should be told that all unborn children of smoking women will be hurt .
    Donovan urged every participant to go back to their countries and publish estimates of the lethality of smoking and pregnancy based on the number of pregnant smokers .
    He urged this as an effective method to get women to stop smoking .”(p.14)
    “Julian Peto – brother of Richard Peto who collaborates with Sir Richard Doll – challenged Donovan on his smoking and pregnancy remarks .
    He said that Donovan couldn’t establish how many pregnancies are harmed by smoking and that it is unscientific to estimate this simply estimating the number of pregnant smokers.”
    http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=ini30f00
    These days, I daresay, doctors won’t know the real reason why the advice to stop smoking while pregnant was given in the first place.
    Rose

  22. Anonymous says:

    How much better it would have been to simply tell pregnant women who smoked, not to skip meals even if they didn’t feel like eating at the time, and why.
    Maybe we could have avoided this.
    1979
    “Donovan’s most interesting remarks related to smoking and pregnancy . He admitted that he couldn’t explain how or why smoking harmed the fetus but suggested that, instead of worrying about such fine points, women should be told that all unborn children of smoking women will be hurt .
    Donovan urged every participant to go back to their countries and publish estimates of the lethality of smoking and pregnancy based on the number of pregnant smokers .
    He urged this as an effective method to get women to stop smoking .”(p.14)
    “Julian Peto – brother of Richard Peto who collaborates with Sir Richard Doll – challenged Donovan on his smoking and pregnancy remarks .
    He said that Donovan couldn’t establish how many pregnancies are harmed by smoking and that it is unscientific to estimate this simply estimating the number of pregnant smokers.”
    http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/action/document/page?tid=ini30f00
    These days, I daresay, doctors won’t know the real reason why the advice to stop smoking while pregnant was given in the first place.
    Rose

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