Why Eating Meat-Shaped Vegetarian Food Is Like Having Sex with a Blow-up Doll


We’re living in a time when you can eat fake meat that tastes so real you’d swear an animal had to die for it.

It’s not meat, but it looks like meat.

It’s not meat, but it tastes like meat.

It’s not meat, but it feels like meat.

It’s not meat, but the more it looks and tastes and feels like meat, the more eating it is like having sex with rubber blow-up dolls: Both are the simulacra of primal adventures for which we are born and built. For very different reasons, in each case we choose the version without flesh and blood.

One skill that sets apart our species from all others is counterfeiture: We excel at fashioning imitations, simulations, analogues. Whatever we don’t or can’t — or tell ourselves that we don’t or can’t — possess, we make a fake to replicate. We are so good at this as to have changed the very meaning of reality. So just as sex with blow-up dolls — and, to be all-inclusive, latex rods — is sex, and sounds and feels and looks (just squint) like sex, fake meat is real. It’s real fake meat.

When we quit eating animals, why keep eating what looks/tastes/feels like animals? What is it that we still yearn for from meat, about meat, in fake meat? Lifetimes of barbecues and baseball games and beach parties and holidays have programmed our nostrils to flare at the sweet-salt smell of seared fat before our consciences kick into gear and holler No. When bacon curls, our salivary glands perk up unbidden, just like being publicly aroused in middle school. When we choose fakes, what battles rage inside our bodies and our heads?

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