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In my fictional country, you are not allowed to be a vegetarian. Meat eating is recommended and mandatory.

The law prohibiting vegetarianism was created somewhere around 1780-1850.

The question is:

What could cause a country to frown upon or even outlaw vegetarianism and make meat eating mandatory?

EDIT: Assume this is our earth. Northern Eurasia. A realistic country, not a group of survivors.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an Idea Generation question, which would be off-topic. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 May 31 '15 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ Why did a certain country make drinking alcoholic beverages illegal? (Not that that stopped anyone, of course?) Why does most of that same country make smoking marijuana illegal? Mass hysteria and politicians looking for scapegoats, of course. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 31 '15 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Or the women's temperance movement and general racism against Mexicans, respectively. $\endgroup$ – 458 May 31 '15 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ In general, any laws about that would not actually have anything to do with that. Your story would have to have some sort of ridiculous political history that led to the laws. How the laws are enforced is probably the interesting part you want to focus on. $\endgroup$ – 458 May 31 '15 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ @fredsbend: The women's temperance movement was an example of mass hysteria. The racism thing is, to be honest, IMHO just plain wrong. If not an example of an attempt at inverse scapegoating, by claiming that something you don't like is racist. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 1 '15 at 1:54

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If vegetarianism were one of the tenets of a religion or ideology that has been overthrown by the present rulers then it might be outlawed as part of the package of laws against the forbidden belief system.

I don't know whether your world includes actually existing religions, but if it does, most schools of Buddhism, some schools of Hinduism and the Jain religion are all vegetarian, so you could assume one of these religions had gained substantial numbers of converts at some point in the past of your Northern Eurasian country. Later on there was a reaction against them and the religion was banned, but still continued to be practised in secret by some. Alternatively you could posit that a vegetarian sect of Christianity (e.g. the Seventh Day Adventists) was more influential in your world. Or of course either or both of the vegetarian subversives or their persecutors could be followers of a non-religious ethical system. Conflict might be particularly bitter if one group was and the other group was not a religion - either way round is possible, although the persistence of a taboo even in the face of persecution is particularly characteristic of religious taboos.

Vegetarianism could easily come to be seen as the defining characteristic of the enemy group, even if it were not actually their main doctrine, because willingness to eat meat is something that can be used as a test of loyalty. The police would demand that suspected believers eat some meat to prove their innocence.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this. Despite Jainism's peaceful nature, Jains are regulated quite strictly by their beliefs. A particularly intolerant and aggressive government might see Jains or a similar sect as a kind of "peaceful extremists", and lash out at anything which resembles their tenets. Such action could perhaps be caused by fear that rising numbers of converts would damage support for bellicose government policies. $\endgroup$ – recognizer Jun 2 '15 at 20:43
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  1. Plant based alternatives are an issue.

    To have a sustainable vegetarian diet, you need access to plant based protein - legumes, avocado, etc... If that requirement is a problem, that's the root of prohibition on veganism (non-vegan vegetarianism is not affected as they can use milk or eggs). E.g.:

    • An epidemics killed off all of protein-rich plants

    • Said plants have "more important" uses - e.g. they are needed for military purposes. Going on a really long limb, legumes are used for producing foul-smelling human-produced gases for chemical weapons :)


  2. People mentioned religion, but hand-waved why that would be the case.

    Specific religious roots could be:

    • "Heathen cultures around us were/are vegetarian".

      This is an argument justifying a TON of rules on how conduct one's life - including diet restrictions - in Judaism. E.g., the rule isn't "God said don't do XYZ because it's bad" - it's "Don't do XYZ because all he heathens around you do it".

    • Non-religious secular reasons being codified into religious law.

      Again, going with Judaism as example, many people have a scholarly opinion that some of the kosher laws are merely Judaism's version of FDA. They were memetically added to the religious practice because people practicing such rules were healthier and thus that meme had a higher chance of surviving and propagating.


  3. Same reason anything happens in Earth politics. Interest groups/lobbying.

    Someone in Big Animal Agriculture (or whatever passed for it in your country at the relevant time) paid a hefty bribe/donation to law-making entity, to ensure a captive market.


  4. Similar to #2a, but in geopolitical instead of religious context.

    The country was in a major war with Luftisia. Luftisians are avid vegetarians. The war was nasty, long, and anyone who in any way shape or form can be accused of Luftisian influence/sympathies is in for a rough time.


  5. A country had a massive influx of (probably illegally arrived) immigrants from a vegetarian country/culture (being Earth before 20th century, probably India?).

    The powers that be wish to discourage said culture from existing - either by driving adherents away, or making them assimilate ASAP.

    For a modern example, see prohibiting circumcision all around Europe.


  6. Cattle used for "fluoride brainwashing"

    So... you wish to brainwash your populace via use of a chemical that we'll alludingly call a "fluoride".

    Except... you don't have a way to "fluoridize" the central water supply in 1700s the way you do in 1800s. Nor can you poison every farmer's plants.

    BUT... you CAN more readily disperse the chemical to the cattle! (I can offer specific ways but that'd be a separate question :)

    So, to ensure people don't avoid the brainwashing, we are prohibiting vegetarianism. Probably, along with hunting wild animals.

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    $\begingroup$ Pretty good answer. But since you mentionned circumcision: That is being discussed because people do it to other people. And such actions would be a punishable crime anyway (unless you claim you suffer from religion and therefor have to cut off bits of baby's penises so your big imaginary friend should smile on you). $\endgroup$ – Burki Jun 1 '15 at 7:44
  • $\begingroup$ An expansion of #3 might be that cattle need a lot of vegetables to grow, and we really want to eat meat, so we can't afford to eat too many vegetables ourselves. $\endgroup$ – o0'. Sep 19 '15 at 9:55
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The first thing that comes to mind is a religious mandate to eat meat in a theocracy (or a government with a strong religious foundation, even if it isn't technically a theocracy). Why the religion would demand that people eat meat is up to you. Perhaps certain animals are thought sacred, and souls are strengthened by members of the flock eating them regularly.

Alternately, maybe there just isn't a lot of produce available in the area and it needs to be rationed. Since vegetarians have to eat a lot to get the calories they need to survive, vegetarianism is outlawed to stop them hogging all the vegetables. It doesn't have to be an outright ban either; if vegetables are rationed, it might simply be impossible to live as a vegetarian.

A public health argument is possible. If the health care system is government run and they believe vegetarians cost more money to care for than people who eat meat, it's completely believable they might outlaw vegetarianism or discourage it with taxes or fines.

Perhaps there was a very active eco-terrorist movement of radical vegetarians in the past that caused lots of problems, and vegetarianism was outlawed as part of the government response. Vegetarians are now looked on with extreme distrust and assumed to be the spiritual descendants of the eco-terrorists of the past.

It really just depends on the social context of your fictional country. Many of the laws we live under exist not because the things they prohibit are bad in and of themselves, but because society has decided they shouldn't be allowed for whatever reason. Given that, if you lay the right groundwork practically any justification for outlawing vegetarianism will do.

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    $\begingroup$ Your 2nd paragraph doesn't make much sense: You need a farming industry to feed your lifestock industry. Feeding the grain and vegetables to humans directly is far more efficient than first feeding it to animals and then getting the calories back by butchering the animals. A lifestock industry requires much more farmland than a vegetarian industry to feed the same number of people. $\endgroup$ – Philipp May 31 '15 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ However, it could be made working when most crops which are edible for humans are almost impossible to grow due to environmental circumstances, but crops which are only edible for lifestock can be farmed easily. It might then be economically sensible to convert most farmland to produce animal-food and use it to feed a lifestock industry. $\endgroup$ – Philipp May 31 '15 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Philipp What is actually efficient/useful/healthy/economic and what the general population thinks about those things are often very different. $\endgroup$ – 458 May 31 '15 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Phillipp - Sorry, but in 1780-1850 cattle were not fattened on grain. Instead, they were pastured, and grass and hay are not suitable for human consumption. Generally, the land given to cattle was not suitable for cropland. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast May 31 '15 at 22:58
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The easy way out - If you want to stretch the imagination, you could prepare an argument that a fungal disease that affects only humans, yet benefits bovine, etc., has spread along the fauna.

Historical precedent - In one case (I looked for a source, but only got some shocks via google - do NOT google it), in an area of China, I recall they were ordered off vegetation, because the use of human feces as fertilization for plants had created a disease epidemic. They were restricted to meat.

(faulty) Scientific argument - It's been argued that homo-sapiens advanced because the proteins in meats allowed the brain to evolve further. I understand that our genes were developed when we were enthusiastic meat eaters. Perhaps a religious or scholarly leadership would shape the legality of what is allowed to be eaten as a (faulty) strive for greater mankind.

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As a Vegetarian, the first reason which springs to my mind is this: Meat eaters often react aggressively to people who are vegetarian for moral reasons (yes I speak from experience and no of course that doesn't apply to everyone, I wrote "often"). This is because there is an implied "You are behaving amoral" in telling a meat eater that you don't eat meat for moral reasons. This behavior is currently becoming less frequent as vegetarianism is becoming more accepted. But imagine the time when the law was made: If there was some sect or other minority group which advocated vegetarianism, publicly, this would offend a great lot of people. From this starting point I can imagine various chains of events which could lead to a ban of vegetarianism, choose/imagine your own.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's a similar reaction if you tell people you don't drink. Smoking used to be like that, but so many more people have stopped smoking that the ones left are the ones content to deal with the scarlet letter. $\endgroup$ – 458 May 31 '15 at 22:16
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I think that the most realistic way this would occur would be via economics. Say that in 1750, or some other time prior to truth in advertising laws, a pig farmer began creating scary ads about a neighboring corn farmer's products, like hiring a town crier to shout about how their ailing mother was struck with dissipation after eating too much corn gruel, then claiming that after one of her sows ate the corn and she ate the sow, she got better. The farmer might then say that his pigs filter out the heinous poisons in corn. Then, he goes to the corn farmer and says listen, nobody is going to buy your corn, but if you sell it to me for my pigs, I can guarantee you steady orders.

All the stuff about religion and mythology could then arise therefrom. For instance, the farmer might tell the local church that if they stop saying that pigs are unclean and start talking badly about corn, he'll give them one out of every five pigs he slaughters for free.

Eventually, the original farmer might be forgotten, but in order to compete, others would likely adopt his business practices until the ideas they promote about anti-vegetarianism became widespread in your society.

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You need a workforce that can do extremely hard labour.

A diet of meat (not steaks, rather stews, casseroles) and beer (low on alcohol compared to modern standards) could give you the calories needed to build canals or railways (The London - Birmingham railway has been said to involve more work than building of the Great Pyramid of Giza, taking about 20,000 men 5 years compared to 100,000-300,000 men about 20 years to do the pyramid (Those calculations are only mentioned to show the scale of hard work, not be considered accurate)).

So your country needs to build canals, bridges, roads, prams, ships and wagons fast. Very fast. To be able to defend itself from an enemy you know is coming.

You need every hand on deck, from before dawn till after dark, very short meal breaks. Drinks should give the workers energy as well, and some pain relief.

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Safety first, of course. The same reason no one goes beyond the wall, past the river, or into the forest: safety. If the local flora - all the local flora - is poisonous or otherwise harmful to humans, it would make sense to ban the consumption of local plants. Supposing humans have been in the area for their development, this would be known and the normal would be to not consume plant matter. The country's law would, in essence, be a formal wording of a social norm.

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  • $\begingroup$ Something like this could still work even in the light of MedwedianPresident's clarification that these events happen on our Earth, if we assume that a plague or mutation had contaminated the local staple crop so that it was inedible (or at least difficult to digest) for humans, but, for some reason connected with their herbivorous digestive systems, cows could still safely eat the crop and then they could in turn be safely eaten by humans. Then what was once just an emergency measure to deal with this plague became fossilised into law as Frostfyre suggests. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance May 31 '15 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoter: care to explain your vote? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 31 '15 at 22:41
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Make it a practice of a religious group that is persecuted. Making anything associated with or especially required by that group ilegal is exactly the kind of thing that "concervative" groups would do.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance already suggested this idea and with more information. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 1 '15 at 1:23
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Vegetables can be processed into nutrient paste with 20x times the nutritive value of baseline vegetables.

As such, eating non-processed vegetables is like eating 20 shares of food.

Add some small natural disaster, and to feed everyone, you want to ban any vegan diet.

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Panic over a disease

Recently, there have been a lot of health scares regarding food-borne illnesses. For example, a large amount of Romaine Lettuce was found to be infected with E. Coli. In response to the threat, the news repeatedly warned the public not to eat contaminated lettuce.

You can use that force of panic. If multiple news outlets report that a large amount of vegetables are contaminated, it will send people into a food panic (it's like a food coma, but with panic). People will throw out all their veggies to be "better safe than sorry". Even more effective, if the vegetable producer alerts news outlets that its food is contaminated, outlets will take their word for it because no one wants to lose money over a fake health scare.

If you can create enough panic, you can start claiming that the disease is spreading via the crops themselves, even if they aren't eaten. Report fake casualties and start burning fields. Eventually, people will give up on plants and go back to meat. Every few years, report a story about some unfortunate soul who decided to eat a vegetable and ended up in a coma. Now, when you pass your anti-veggie bill, no one will care. Besides, all the veggies are infected anyway, right? I bet vegetables doesn't even taste good.

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