Class Barriers

One of the problems we have in England is that everything is somehow related to social class. Leather, wool, cotton, meat, fish, and cheese are all somehow ‘higher class’ than artificial leather, fibres, and vegan or vegetarian food. It is considered the mark of the lowest class to wear only imitation leather or fibres.

You can practically identify an upper class, or aspiring upper class woman by her silk stockings, cotton gloves, leather shoes, and real pearls. But also, there is a weird, upper class ‘Christian’ ethic that says that it is practically heathenish to be vegetarian, because God wants us to eat meat. This is a rather silly reading of Genesis and the gospels and that ‘wicked’ vegetarian Cain’s sacrifice of vegetable produce that was rejected by God, and of course, wicked, pagan Caine murdered Abel. That’s vegetarians for you!

So rejecting meat is somehow against God, and also — in England — lower class. The upper classes like hunting, shooting, and fishing. They will happily kill the animals themselves — with their bare hands if need be. In England, it is the class angle that is the hardest to get around. You would hardly believe it, but even in these days, vegetarian or vegan is thought of as low, and even next to criminal! There is an old expression: ‘full of beans’, which comes from the fact that the peasantry couldn’t afford meat, so they only ate beans. The only meat they got their hands on was either vermin, or poached. Peasants were (still are?) considered to be little more than criminals.

There is also, practically, a sliding scale of expense against class. So meat is more upper class than legumes, but also, organic food is more acceptable because it is over-priced. These notions are rather deep in the English psyche. However persuasive the arguments may be, English people have a little voice at the back of their minds saying, “It’s beneath you, move along, nothing to see here”. And that is the sticking point where veganism is concerned.

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About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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