The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.
- Neal Barnard, MD
by Brian Aldiss
"Thank goodness, the cow is now extinct!" said Coriander Avorry, in the final year of this millennium.
Avorry was speaking at the Peterborough Ecological Crisis Management Conference, late last century. He had recently assumed the presidency of the ECM Association. Although his announcement roused a deal of applause, there were many delegates who thought that the final extinction of the cow - and of 99% of the world's sheep - had come about too late.
"For too long," Avorry continued, "motives of profit and high yield dominated agriculture. Biotech took over compassion. Industrial agricultural practice has slowly broken the so-called developing, actually decaying, nations. Now our greed has brought the First World to disaster."
It was then that the bomb exploded. It had been planted under the dais. Many in the hall were injured, some fatally, including Avorry.
His daughter, herself slightly wounded, ran to his aid. She threw herself down by his side, weeping to see his terrible injuries.
Who planted the bomb? It could have been the Meat-Eaters on the one hand or, on the other, the Undead.
Consider their cases dispassionately, if possible. The Undead had as their objective the ruination of the First World. Fortress Europe had previously been breached with the aid of H-bombs manufactured in India and Pakistan. Although the Undead were a comparatively small unit, their fanaticism knew no reason or compromise. They were perennially reinforced by members of the Third World.
Although Third World debts had been rescinded and placatory loans paid over, "ransom money!" cried the throats of Africa. The Undead came from a dislocated world. There, literally billions of people lived and suffered on starvation's edge. They were landless. Powerful companies had bought up the land, farming it - raping it - with fertilisers and pesticides and inappropriate monocultures. So the landless and uprooted could obtain food only by payment. And when they could no longer pay - well, the improvidence of the poor was well-known. They died of it, unwanted and unwashed.
And where did the food grown on their land go?
Take India. According to the Undead's campaign statistics, 40% of arable land was devoted to growing fodder for animals which were killed and exported. Other acreage grew soya beans - exported to feed the cattle of the First World. The old India, frugal as it was, had died. Its poor farmers had once relied on cattle for dung and for pulling and carrying-power. Now prices had soared beyond their reach. Such farmers and their families were now dead - or building bombs.
Such was the background of most of the Undead.
Now consider the case of the Meat-Eaters. Their claim was that if they ceased to market beef, the entire world economy would collapse. At this time, this claim had a grain of truth in it, since collapse was imminent in any case.
The Meat-Eaters' anodyne picture of the world depicted cattle grazing placidly on green pastures. This had become fantasy long before the end. The truth was that sentient creatures - not only cattle, but sheep, pigs and fowls - were no longer animals but mere meat-production units, destined to make the journey into the greedy stomachs of the West as quickly and cheaply as possible.
To keep these meat-production units healthy in their short lives, they were stuffed with penicillin. So antibiotics became increasingly ineffectual in the task of curing an increasingly sick population. Their meat-gorging habits accelerated the rate of illness.
So the Meat-Eaters, as dedicatedly as the Undead in their different way, set the stage for global disaster.
What finally tipped the balance? The threat posed by the incursions of the Undead had caused the rural populations of Europe to withdraw to increasingly policed cities. In the neglected forests and woods, wild boar multiplied. Their numbers were estimated at two to three million in France, Germany, and Poland alone. Cases of CSF - Classical Swine Fever - were frequent, and spread to domesticated pigs. A stage of thought had been reached whereby it seemed indecent that any animal should roam unchecked in the wilds.
The German and French governments took it upon themselves to develop a genetically controlled virus which was unleashed on wild herds as, a century earlier, myxomatosis had been spread among rabbit populations. Biotech-shy neighbouring governments protested, to no avail.
Wild boar died in their thousands and hundreds of thousands. Their dead bodies lay in forests, copses and fields. The virus mutated and infected sheep. And from sheep a trans-specific variant spread to human beings.
Not since the Black Death had such devastation befallen the human race. Their dogs and cats, as well as their livestock, died with them. Their over-populated cities made ideal breeding grounds.
The Third World had its moment of triumph before it too was hit. Amongst the undernourished populations, CSF spread rapidly.
The world economy collapsed, crumbling like an old man without teeth.
Such survivors as there were had to make do in a different world. It was an even harsher world than the one preceding it. But one thing was certain: all men were now perforce vegetarians. Their cattle had been wiped out.
Coriander Avorry had been a vegetarian all along.
So who was responsible for his death? The Meat-Eaters, busy trying to re-establish the old order? Or the Undead, busy trying to destroy the remnants of Western civilisation?
The world was too chaotic for the crime to be solved.
One thing was certain, as his weeping daughter declared. Avorry was dead.
So were the cows.
Meat Makes You Ill. It Has Made the Whole Planet Ill.
Source: Supertoys Last All Summer Long and Other Stories of Future Time
This page last updated on: Sunday, 18 January 2004
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