In the summer the new mayor Chiara Appendino – of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) – announced plans to make Turin Italy’s first vegetarian city. The exact details of Appendino’s five-year plan have yet to be fleshed out, but the city is expected to set up educational projects in schools to teach students about animal welfare and nutrition. There are also plans to create a vegetarian map of the city for tourists, and introduce a weekly meat-free day.
“Meat-free”, eh? As if it was some sort of liberation.
It’s just like going “smoke-free” with smoking bans, isn’t it? First you tell people that meat is carcinogenic, and the cause of 90% of cancer. And you get people to give up meat in increasing numbers, just like you got them to give up smoking. Then you introduce meat-free restaurants, and meat-free days, maybe even meat-free months (Vegtember, anyone?) And then you do some research to find that it’s not just eating meat that gives you cancer and heart disease, but just catching a whiff of frying bacon or roast beef does too. So then, when only about 20% of people still eat meat, you bring in the draconian-law-enforced meat bans – as a health measure, for the sake of the chiiiiildren, of course. You denormalise meat just like you denormalise tobacco or alcohol or sugar or salt. What starts out as purely voluntary gradually becomes compulsory.
I thought that M5S was something of an anarchic anti-state party. Yet here they are pushing top-down state control. Maybe all parties sooner or later become the opposite of whatever they started out as? Did I ever tell you that I used to vote for the UK Liberal-Democrat party? I thought that their name meant that they were, y’know, liberal and democratic. Silly me. They weren’t a bit like that, in the end: 95% of Lib-Dem MPs voted for the draconian and illiberal and undemocratic UK smoking ban – more even than Labour MPs.
But M5S is – rather like UKIP – the creation of a single outspoken outsider: Bepe Grillo. I don’t know whether he’s vegan. Let’s see. The title of an article in Bepe Grillo’s blog:
La dieta vegana è un diritto anche all’asilo nido
Translation: The vegan diet is also a kindergarten law
Smoking bans are kindergarten laws. And so, of course, are meat bans. That’s what Bepe Grillo seems to think. But that doesn’t seem to have deterred members of his own party from calling for meat bans in Turin.
It’s a bit like one of UKIP’s leadership candidates – I forget which one – is all in favour of smoking bans, despite Nigel Farage being an ostentatious smoker and drinker (and meat-eater, no doubt). His followers will adopt the bits of his platform that they like, and reject the rest. In time, UKIP will become the negation of everything Farage believes.
It’s probably the routine fate of any political party with a single charismatic leader. They build a party round them, and the party is initially made up of like-minded people, but it slowly fills up with people who are less and less like-minded, and in this manner it turns into the opposite of what it started out as.
And if Donald Trump wins the US election on Tuesday, the same sort of thing will happen with him. He’ll be firstly surrounded by people who don’t think exactly like him, and then by people who don’t think like him at all. And the Trump party will gradually metamorphose into something like an anti-Trump party, the negation of everything Trump actually stood for.
In fact maybe the same thing happens with words and ideas. They gradually come to mean the opposite of what they originally did. Take “liberal”. That used to mean non-coercive and freedom-loving. But now it pretty much means coercive and restrictive and controlling. And you know that when “liberals” take over your town, you’re going to start losing all the freedoms you thought you had.
And maybe it happens with churches too. Maybe churches were once noisy, fun places to meet people – a bit like pubs before the smoking ban. The founder, after all, had a happy knack of being able to turn water into wine, and must have been in great demand throughout Galilee. When Jesus came to town, it was the arrival of a travelling circus, and everyone came out with cups and jugs and barrels and amphorae filled with water for him to turn into wine. Nazareth was probably a rollicking place for weeks after Jesus came home to see his mum and get her to darn his socks. But after he’d passed through on his way to Capernaum or wherever, the pinch-faced kill-joy “liberals” would all come out of the woodwork, and start emptying the wine from the barrels, and replacing it with water. And they probably wanted him dead. What a bad example for children! And now the churches are all silent, alcohol-free, smoke-free, and empty.
But Stefania Giannuzzi, a new councillor for the environment and deputy mayor, believes there has been a misunderstanding, mainly caused by the media, about what they are trying to achieve. “It isn’t about forcing people to eat a certain way and we don’t want to clash with the meat industry. Instead, it’s about raising awareness and showing people that there is an alternative if they are interested. The vegan choice is only part of the plan to make our city more sustainable and promote environmental issues,” she says.
Yeah, sure. It’ll be no more about forcing people to stop eating meat than antismoking campaigns were about forcing people to stop smoking. It’s about “raising awareness” and “promoting sustainable environmental alternatives”, and only “if you’re interested”. And you will be interested when you find yourself having a €20,000 fine slapped on you for sitting on your doorstep eating salami and drinking chianti just like your father and grandfather and great-grandfather did before you. But then your grandfather never had his “awareness raised”, never got “educated”, and probably had no more idea that salami and meat-eating was “unsustainable” than any of his ancestors all the way back to Romulus and Remus – both of whom were shepherds raising unsustainable sheep.