A Christmas Meditation

“You have dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)


For even a moderate meat eater, the idea of doing without some sort of meat over Christmas produces a vague sense of guilt and apprehension, as though they were breaking an ancient taboo. Why is this, and from where does this idea originate?

The pre-occupation with and consumption of large quantities of flesh foods at Christmas time can be traced back to the medieval European church. In “The Heretic’s Feast – A History of Vegetarianism”, Colin Spencer points out:

“From November to April there was no pasture; the little hay that could be cut had to be saved for the oxen, the war horses, and the breeding stock. The slaughter of hogs began in September, while cattle were killed on The Feast of St. Martin, Martinmas.

On this day, as it could not be preserved, the offal was cooked and eaten, so chitterlings, tripe, black puddings, pasties of liver, and dishes of kidneys were all consumed with great gusto, in the knowledge that such dishes in such profusion would not be available for another year.

This feast and annual slaughter was called Yule. The Church managed to move the date towards Christmas, and unite the two.”

The spirit of ‘good will to all men’, the catch-cry of all pious folk does not extend to the millions of unfortunate chickens, pigs, cows and sheep that are victims of the gastronomic carnage that is called Christmas.

And still, for all the adoration of meat that pervades the Christmas season, the majority of meat-eaters would prefer to remain ignorant of the reality of flesh foods. They would still rather keep their illusion and continue to think of meat as an inert substance. Think again.

Posted by Kurma on 3/12/10; 10:15:39 AM

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