Meat : a natural symbol
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In Britain, and in cultures around the world, meat's significance extends beyond what might be anticipated from its nutritional utility. By looking at the academic and popular literature, and through a series of looselystructured interviews, this study investigates the range of ideas that people hold about meat in modern Britain for evidence as to what it is that makes animal flesh such an esteemed foodstuff. The principle conclusion is that meat's pre-eminence derives from its being a "natural" choice for human societies to use to express their control over the natural environment — a value which has long been important in Western culture. It is for this reason, for example, that we commonly relate the origins of "civilised" humanity to the beginnings of hunting or of farming, and this is likewise why meat has been a symbol of affluence, strength, and virility. Our proscription of cannibalism, our unwillingness to eat pets, and the common reference to meat in sexual symbolism, are all shown to conform to this analysis. The principle of environmental control is also shown to be a significant factor underpinning our more usual explanations of trends in the meat system. Economics; health and nutrition; ethical and religious influences; and ecological concerns, are all shown to have a significant symbolic component in addition to their overtly practical meaning.