Imagine fields without cattle, uplands without sheep or pigs in their little shelters. What would a stock-free future look like? If we don’t eat cattle, sheep and pigs, we don’t need to breed them. Bear with me, I know it’s difficult to imagine. Farm animals wouldn’t be grazing in fields: they wouldn’t even exist!
How would a vegan, non-violent landscape be?
It’s very difficult to imagine, and that is entirely understandable. I’ve been thinking hard about it for a while and I cannot get my head around it. Even when I talk to other committed vegans, they say they’d still like to see cows in the fields. It’s worth pondering ahimsa herds, where no animals are slaughtered in milk production (another post, another time).
In north-west Europe the culture is based on 10,000 years of mixed agriculture. After the receding of the ice, Iron Age peoples migrated from the fertile crescent. This was the area around the Euphrates and Tigris in the Middle East, and the Nile in North Africa, where animals and crops were greatly domesticated. The area is also called ‘the cradle of civilisation’. Domestication created the conditions for civilisation.
Now, much of contemporary Western society seems far removed from the land and farming, the making of hand tools and the observation of the yearly cycle of the sun. Yet agriculture is at the basis of our culture. The letter ‘A’ is a pictogram of a cattle head with horns, for instance, and there are any number of expressions and idioms related to agriculture, and we could farm them til the cows come home.
We can try to imagine a world where our meat farming roots are transcended, but the meat economy has driven the way we live. Terms like ‘capital’ come direct from the notion of wealth being measured in terms of head of cattle (capitalis – ‘head’ in Latin). Saxon towns were built as centres of agriculture and until the late last century the livestock yards at their centre saw herds brought in and sold out. The wealth generated by wool in the middle ages permitted the flourishing of monasteries and Renaissance learning, advances in breeding led to a bigger economy and the Industrial Revolution.
Dictionaries define the term livestock along the lines of ‘farm animals regarded as an asset…kept and raised for profit’. The consumption of a meat-based diet still means wealth. Many people feel they ‘need’ meat, almost as a right, and it’s not surprising as eating is our most regular and therefore ingrained habit. If you’ve eaten meat at most meals it’s going to be hard to imagine a diet without it.
I would like society to consider breaking free from this conditioning, and for each to raise our consciousness to a meat-free future. Let’s start by trying to see some of the meat society conditioning for what it is, and imagine going beyond it.
photo Kate Morsley