Roanne van Voorst’s book Once We Ate Animals

IAfter all, the list of erotic tendencies for us has lengthened with this book. Now we know that there are also vegansexuals, people who follow a vegan diet and can only love people who do the same because everyone else is little better than cannibals to them. That says all the good things about this veganism pamphlet by the Dutch futuristic anthropologist Roanne van Voorst, who became a vegetarian at the age of 16 out of a love of animals, converted to veganism a few years later and now promises us in her book: “I will build a futuristic dreamscape for you , from a world that’s kind to both animals and the environment.” In truth, it’s a nightmare of more than just culinary castration.

Roanne van Voorst makes no secret of her radicalism from the very first moment: for her, keeping livestock is torture, torment, an unforgivable crime, a single continuous cruelty. She equates meat eaters with slave owners, describes carnism as an “extremely violent ideology”, and “good animal husbandry” does not exist for her as a matter of principle, because even the most loving pig farmer is a pig because he kills animals for money. The author constantly descends into absurdities and claims, for example, that meat played no role in human evolution and was never a common food. For anthropologists, there is no question that only the highly concentrated supply of energy through meat gave Homo sapiens the time and strength to become the ruler of the world. And for van Voorst, the fact that people still drink milk at all is primarily the result of perfidious advertising campaigns by the dairy industry.

Roanne van Voorst:


Roanne van Voorst: “Once we ate animals”.
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Image: Goldmann Verlag

The book is reminiscent of a wildly sprawling thought garden full of cabbage and turnips: first the story of vegetarianism and veganism from Pythagoras to Beyoncé is told at breakneck speed, then a family scene from a meat-free future in the style of Hanni and Nanni science fiction at its best given. Episodes from one’s own family life with the ritual of the Saturday pancake breakfast, including marital disputes because the husband likes milk and eggs, alternate with lengthy statements on couples therapy and banal life-support tips for partnerships with different eating habits. Stories of converted ranchers, disgusted by their past actions and now growing vegetables instead of murdering calves and lambs, mingle with pleas for granting privacy rights to animals and condemnations of organic butchers, who are basically no better than them either bad guys from the mass establishments.

Van Voorst dispenses with scientific seriousness, who obtrusively addresses her readers on a first-name basis and nonstop uses academic vocabulary such as “shitty feeling”, “shitty story”, “Wurschteln”, “Ouch” or “shriveled grandmothers and grandfathers”, with all of this as consistently as vegans use sausages. Accusations replace arguments, episodes replace evidence, moral indignation replace sober considerations, selective perceptions replace objective representations. A cookbook from 1612 is quoted that advocates not eating meat. The dozens of cookbooks from earlier eras, in which almost every recipe revolves around meat, are not mentioned.

Global veganism is declared the sole savior of saving the climate, and there are obviously no other options than slavery to the vegetable dictatorship. And the notorious B-12 deficiency in a vegan diet is stated, but casually pushed aside, so be it, there are pills. Van Voorst is just as uninterested in what follows from this, whether this deficiency does not call veganism into question as a matter of principle, or in the problem of what the millions and millions of poor farmers in barren regions of the world who keep sheep and goats are supposed to live on because their soil is not suitable for growing aubergines and Broccoli is good. Least of all does the futuristic anthropologist care how poor our cuisine would be without fish and meat, butter and eggs, how painful, how enormous the price of willingly forgoing taste would be for many of us – the most unforgivable of their delusions. In any case, after reading this, we remain all the more carnivorous.

Roanne van Voorst: “Once we ate animals”. Goldmann Verlag, Munich 2022. 334 p., br., €17.