Rowan Van Forest’s book “Once We Ate Animals”

meAfter all, the list of erotic tendencies for us could go on with this book. We now know that there are also vegans, people who follow a vegan diet and can only love people who do the same because everyone else is a bit better than cannibals for them. That says all the good things about this botanical handbook by futuristic Dutch anthropologist Rowan van Furst, who became a vegetarian at 16 because of her love of animals, turned vegan a few years later and now promises us in her book: “I’ll build you a futuristic dream landscape, from a world Kind to both animals and the environment.” In truth, it’s more of a nightmare than a culinary castration.

Rowan van Forest does not hide her radicalism from the first moment: for her, raising cattle is torture, torment, an unforgivable crime, one continuous brutality. She equates carnivores with slave owners, calls sodomy a “very violent ideology”, and “good animal husbandry” does not exist for her in principle, because even the most loving pig farmer is a pig because he kills animals for money. The author constantly descends into absurdities and claims, for example, that meat did not play any role in human evolution and was not at all a common food. For anthropologists, there is no doubt that the highly concentrated supply of energy only through meat gave Homo sapiens time and power to become the ruler of the world. And for Van Forest, the fact that people still drink milk at all is the result of treacherous advertising campaigns by the dairy industry.

Rowan Van Forest:

Rowan Van Forest: “Once upon a time we ate animals.”

Photo: Goldmann Verlag

The book reminds us of a sprawling intellectual garden full of kale and kale: first the tale of vegetarians and vegans from Pythagoras to Beyoncé is told at breakneck speed, then a family scene from a meat-free future in Haney and Nanny style sci-fi at its best. Episodes of an individual’s family life with a Saturday pancake breakfast ritual, including marital disagreements because the husband loves milk and eggs, alternated with lengthy statements on couples therapy and regular life support advice for partnerships with different eating habits. The stories of ranchers who converted to Islam, who were disgusted with their past actions and now grow vegetables instead of killing calves and lambs, are mixed with calls for privacy rights for animals and the condemnations of organic butchers, who are essentially no better than either the villains of the collective institutions.

Van Forest dispenses with academic seriousness, using her readers’ penetrating first name and non-stop academic vocabulary like “bad feeling,” “dirty story,” “Wurschteln,” “Ouch” or “shrinked grandmothers,” with everyone doing this consistently as vegetarians use sausage. Accusations replace arguments, episodes replace evidence, moral indignation replaces sober considerations, and selective representations replace objective representations. Quoted from a cookbook from 1612 advocating no meat, dozens of cookbooks from earlier eras are not mentioned, with nearly every recipe revolving around meat.

The world vegan system has been declared the only savior to save the climate, and it is clear that there are no other options than the servitude of a vegetable dictatorship. The infamous B-12 deficiency in a vegan diet is mentioned, but it is inadvertently banished, so I don’t mind a pill. Van Forest is unconcerned with what this entails, whether this deficiency does not advocate vegetarianism as a matter of principle, or the problem of the millions upon millions of poor farmers in the arid regions of the world who raise sheep and sheep. Goats are supposed to survive because their soil is not suitable for growing eggplant and broccoli is fine. At least a future anthropologist cares how bad our kitchen would be without fish, meat, butter, and eggs, how painful it would be, and how much it would cost to give up willingly taste for many of us—their most unforgivable delusions. Anyway, after reading this, we remain a bit more carnivorous.

Rowan Van Forest: “Once upon a time we ate animals.” Goldmann Verlag, Munich 2022. 334 p., br., €17.

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