“Bringing home the bacon”, “killing two birds with one stone” and “let the cat out of the bag” are all phrases people have been using for generations.
In most cases, the phrases are used as metaphors and aren’t intended to cause offence or harm. But an academic from Swansea University in the United Kingdom claims the terms infused in daily speech could soon go out of fashion or even be banned, to avoid offending vegans and animal lovers.
Writing a piece for academic website The Conversation, Postdoctoral Researcher Shareena Hamzah explained that while an array of authors throughout history including Jeanette Winterson and Virginia Woolf have used meaty metaphors in their literature, they could soon be a thing of the past. Hamzah said that meat is about more than metaphors and is the subject of socially and politically charged discussions.
She pointed out that the demand for meat is contributing to climate change and environmental degradation, while other studies show that eating meat can have a negative impact on the human body.
“When concerns about animal welfare are added to the broth, the growth of vegetarianism and veganism threatens to dethrone meat from its position at the top of the food hierarchy,” she said. “Given that fiction often reflects on real world events and societal issues, it may very well be that down the line powerful meat metaphors are eschewed.”
She said that terms like “chopped cabbage” won’t overtake existing terms like “chopped liver”, but that some shift in language change is inevitable. In fact, Hamzah believes the increased awareness of vegan issues will cause people to create new modes of expression.
Changes in animal and meat metaphors is something that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been hoping to implement for quite some time. The organisation says that popular phrases such as “kill two birds with one stone”, “take the bull by the horns”, “be the guinea pig”, “hold your horses”, “beat a dead horse” and “open a can of worms” are offensive.
Instead, the group suggests using helpful and animal-friendly phrases such as “feed two birds with one scone”, “take the flower by the thorns”, “be the test tube”, “hold the phone”, “feed a fed horse” and “open Pandora’s box”.
Still, Hamzah said it will take a while before meaty descriptions vanish completely, mainly because it takes language a long time to change.
“And who is to say that even those who choose a vegan or vegetarian diet even want to do away with the meaty descriptions?” she concluded.
It’s not the first time the PC debate has made headlines recently. A British mother recently divided opinion when she claimed the childhood fairy tale Sleeping Beauty encourages sexual assault.
Sarah Hall said at the time that the story was sending the wrong message to children because Sleeping Beauty did not give consent for the prince to kiss her.
“Tell you what, while we are still seeing narratives like this in school, we are never going to change ingrained attitudes to sexual behaviour,” she tweeted, alongside a photograph of her child’s book.