For centuries, meat has been considered the most important component of any meal. Meat was more than just food, it was the most important and expensive food item. Because of this, he was seen as a symbol of public power.
Historically, meat was reserved for the tables of the upper classes, while the peasantry ate mostly plant foods. As a result, meat consumption was associated with the dominant power structures in society, and its absence from the plate indicated that a person belongs to the underprivileged segment of the population. Controlling the supply of meat was like controlling the people.
At the same time, meat began to play a prominent role in our language. Have you noticed that our everyday speech is filled with food metaphors, often based on meat?
The influence of meat has not bypassed literature. For example, the English writer Janet Winterson uses meat as a symbol in her works. In her novel The Passion, the production, distribution, and consumption of meat symbolizes the inequality of power in the Napoleonic era. The main character, Villanelle, sells herself to Russian soldiers in order to get a supply of valuable meat from the court. There is also a metaphor that the female body is just another kind of meat for these men, and they are ruled by carnivorous desire. And Napoleon’s obsession with eating meat symbolizes his desire to conquer the world.
Of course, Winterson is not the only author to show in fiction that meat can mean more than just food. The writer Virginia Woolf, in her novel To the Lighthouse, describes the scene of preparing a beef stew that takes three days. This process requires a lot of effort from the chef Matilda. When the meat is finally ready to be served, Mrs. Ramsay’s first thought is that she “needs to carefully choose a particularly tender cut for William Banks.” One sees the idea that the right of an important person to eat the best meat is undeniable. The meaning is the same as that of Winterson: meat is strength.
In today’s realities, meat has repeatedly become the subject of numerous social and political discussions, including how the production and consumption of meat contributes to climate change and environmental degradation. In addition, studies show the negative impact of meat eating on the human body. Many people go vegan, becoming part of a movement that seeks to change the food hierarchy and topple meat from its pinnacle.
Given that fiction often reflects real events and social issues, it may well be that meat metaphors will eventually stop appearing in it. Of course, it is unlikely that languages will change dramatically, but some changes in the vocabulary and expressions we are used to are inevitable.
The more the topic of veganism spreads around the world, the more new expressions will appear. At the same time, meat metaphors may begin to be perceived as more powerful and imposing if killing animals for food becomes socially unacceptable.
To understand how veganism can affect the language, remember that due to the active struggle of modern society with such phenomena as racism, sexism, homophobia, it has become socially unacceptable to use certain words. Veganism can have the same effect on the language. For example, as suggested by PETA, instead of the established expression “kill two birds with one stone”, we can start using the phrase “feed two birds with one tortilla.”
However, this does not mean that references to meat in our language will disappear all at once – after all, such changes can take a long time. And how do you know how ready people will be to give up the well-aimed statements that everyone is so used to?
It is interesting to note that some manufacturers of artificial meat are trying to apply techniques due to which it will “bleed” like real meat. Although the animal components in such foods have been replaced, the carnivorous habits of mankind have not completely abandoned.
But at the same time, many plant-based people object to substitutes called “steaks,” “minced meat,” and the like because they don’t want to eat something that’s made to look like real meat.
One way or another, only time will tell how much we can exclude meat and reminders of it from the life of society!