Read it from start to finish you will understand why i posted this. Or download the story from here.
Food of the Gods. (Arthur c Clarke)
It’s only fair to warn you, Mr. Chairman, that much of my evidence will be highly nauseating; it involves aspects of human nature that are very seldom discussed in public, and certainly not before a congressional committee. But I am afraid that they have to be faced,; there are times when the veil of hypocrisy has to be ripped away, and this is one them.
You and I, gentlemen, have descended from a long line of carnivores. I see from you expressions that most of you don’t recognize the term. Well, that’s not surprising-it comes from a language that has been obsolete for two thousand years. Perhaps I had better avoid euphemisms and be brutally frank, even if I have to use words that are never heard in polite society. I apologize in advance to anyone I may offend.
Until a few centuries ago, the favorite food of almost all men was meat-the flesh of once living animals. I’m not trying to turn your stomachs; this is a simple statement of fact, which you can check in any history book…
Why, certainly, Mr. Chairman, I’m quite prepared to wait until Senator Irving feels better. We professionals sometimes forget how laymen may react to statements like that. At the same time, I must warn the committee that there is very much worse to come. If any of you gentlemen are at all squeamish, I suggest you follow the senator before it’s to late…
Well, if I may continue. Until modern times, all food fell into two categories. Most of it was produced from plants-cereals, fruits, plankton, algae and other forms of vegetation. It’s hard for us to realize that the vast majority of our ancestors were farmers, winning food from the land or sea by primitive and often back breaking techniques; but that is the truth.
The second type of food, if I may return to this unpleasant subject, was meat, produced from a relatively small number of animals. You may be familiar with some of them-cows, pigs, sheep, whales. Most people-I am sorry to stress this, but the fact is beyond dispute-preferred meat to any other food, though only the wealthiest were able to indulge this appetite. To most of mankind, meat was a rare and occasional delicacy in a diet that was more than ninety-percent vegetable.
If we look at the matter calmly and dispassionately-as I hope Senator Irving is now in a position to do-we can see that meat was bound to be rare and expensive, for its production is an extremely inefficient process. To make a kilo of meat, the animal concerned had to eat at least ten kilo’s of vegetable food –very often food that could have been consumed directly by human beings. Quite apart from any consideration of aesthetics, this state of affairs could not be tolerated after the population explosion of the twentieth century. Every man who ate meat was condemning ten or more of his fellow humans to starvation…
Luckily for all of us, the biochemists solved the problem; as you may know, the answer was one of the countless byproducts of space research. All food-Animal or vegetable-is built up from a very few common elements. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, traces of sulphur and phosphorus-the half-dozen elements, and a few others, combine in an almost infinite variety of ways to make up every food that man has ever eaten or will ever eat. Faced with the problem of colonizing the moon and planets, the biochemists of the twenty-first century discovered how to synthesize and desired food from the basic raw materials of water, air and rock. It was the greatest, and perhaps the most important, achievement in the history of science. But we should not feel too proud of it. The vegetable kingdom had beaten us by a billion years.
The chemists could now synthesize and conceivable food, whether it had counterparts in nature or not. Needles to say, there were mistakes-even disasters. Industrial empires rose and crashed; the switch from agriculture and animal husbandry to the giant automatic processing plants and omniverters of today was often a painful one. The danger of starvation has been banished forever, and we have a richness and variety of food that no other age has ever known.
In addition, of course, there was a moral gain. We no longer murdered millions of living creatures, and such revolting institutions as the slaughter house and the butcher shop have vanished from the face of the earth. It seems incredible to us that even our ancestors, coarse and brutal though they were, could ever have tolerated such obscenities.
And yet-it is impossible to make a clean break with the past. As I have already remarked, we are carnivores; we inherit tastes and appetites that have been acquired over a million years of time. Whether we like it or not, only a few years ago some of our great-grandparents were enjoying the flesh of cattle and sh