Plato wrote a dialogue between two characters, Socrates and Glaucon, in which they discuss the future of their cities. Socrates says the cities should be simple, and the citizens should subsist on barley
and wheat, with “relishes” of salt, olives, cheese and “country fare of boiled onions and cabbage,” with desserts of “figs, peas, beans,” roasted myrtle-berries and beechnuts, and wine in moderation. Socrates says, “And thus, passing their days in tranquility and sound health, they will, in all probability, live to an advanced age …. ”
But Glaucon replies that such a diet would only be appropriate for “a community of swine,” and that the citizens should live “in a civilized manner.” He continues, “They ought to recline on couches … and have the usual dishes and dessert of a modem dinner.” In other words, the citizens should have the “luxury” of eating meat. Socrates replies, “if you wish us also to contemplate a city that is suffering from inflammation …. We shall also need great quantities of all kinds of cattle for those who may wish to eat them, shall we not?”
Glaucon says, “Of course we shall.” Socrates then says, “Then shall we not experience the need of medical men also to a much greater extent
under this than under the former regime?” Glaucon can’t deny it. “Yes, indeed,” he says. Socrates goes on to say that this luxurious city will be short of land because of the extra acreage required to raise animals for food. This shortage will lead the citizens to take land from others, which could precipitate violence and war, thus a need for justice.
Furthermore, Socrates writes, “when dissoluteness and diseases abound in a city, are not law courts and surgeries opened in abundance, and do not Law and Physic begin to hold their heads high, when numbers even of well-born persons devote themselves with eagerness to these professions?”
In other words, in this luxurious city of sickness and disease, lawyers and doctors will become the norm.
Plato, in this passage, made it perfectly clear: we shall eat animals only at our own peril. Though it is indeed remarkable that one of the greatest intellectuals in the history of the Western world condemned meat eating almost 2,500 years ago.
How did Plato predict the future so accurately? He knew that consuming animal foods would not lead to true health and prosperity. Instead, the false sense of rich luxury granted by being able to eat animals would only lead to a culture of sickness, disease, land disputes, lawyers and doctors. This is a pretty good description of some of the challenges faced by modern America!