Civilized Decadence?
An Animal Rights Article from


Mary T. Hoffman
December 2002

Frank and I have been rearranging the books and magazines in our library and "stacks."  It is tempting to sit and peruse some long-forgotten magazine. One such publication, a February 1978 Gourmet caught my attention. I remember having picked up a couple of Gourmet magazines from a "freebie" pile kept at the public library in a nearby town. I doubt that I had ever even opened it before, and now I, a vegan for many years, took a curious peek inside this old magazine.

What was the first article I opened to?  "Memories of Malaga" by Jay Jacobs. And what was the illustration just above the title?  An etching by Francisco Goya of what else, but a bullfight!  This cruel "entertainment" is one of Jay Jacob's evil pleasures.

Interspersed amid history-related anecdotes are descriptions of a market: "Goats hung in a stairwell, various stalls were festooned with sausages, pheasant, rabbits, and cheeses." There are paragraphs describing a myriad of sea animals offered for sale, for example: "…spiny lobsters glared malevolently at the housewives who would do them in at dinner."  It is obvious from his choice of words ("do in") that he knows it is murder, and yet he makes a joke of it. A vegan’s nightmare for sure!

The writer’s wife talks him into having a "civilized" lunch in "civilized" surroundings.  The author raptures over his lunch of "a splendid fish soup garnished with slivers of hard-boiled egg" and "the piece de resistance" of "an enormous heap – and an incredible array - of Lilliputian sea creatures; whole sole the size of guppies; angulas (eel spawn) the size of bean sprouts; squid no larger than almonds; inch-long whitebait; whole anchovies no longer than matchsticks…."  He ends that paragraph with, "…I’d rather have eaten that dish than written a Scarlatti sonata, which it very much resembled."

I couldn’t help but wonder about the effect such wholesale destruction of the sea’s immature animals might have on the environment.

At least three times the writer refers to "creatures" that cause him to salivate so.  "After dismantling an unconscionable number of the creatures (which were gloriously undercooked) and twice as many gambas of an almost indecent succulence, we polished off a couple of racions apiece of squiggling-fresh cockles…."

He comments on the "bemused gaze of the regular customers" who "didn’t try to make a banquet of mere hors d’oeuvres," and adds, in parentheses, "In some ways the Spaniards are still a backward people, practicing a brand of self-denial perfected four centuries ago by the joyless Philip II."

He jokes about his wife’s "champagne hangover" and paying "five pesetas for a tumbler of good local wine drawn straight from the cask." Note Isaiah 5:20-22:

22 Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine,
And valiant men in mixing strong drink;

The writer ends his ode to evil on a note that leaves no doubt as to his smarmy character: his avowed love of bull fighting, as though anyone with a scintilla of compassion needed convincing of his deficiencies.

I found in this article, whose author’s pomposity and gluttony are exceeded only by his and his wife’s insensitivity and cruelty, an example of the world’s pervasive evil that lurks and mocks under a very thin veneer of so-called "civilization."  A world in which "good" is considered "evil" and "evil," "good," as Isaiah 5:20-21 says:

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And clever in their own sight!

This is the world that uses the adjective "decadent" as praise of the highest order, when its true meaning is "marked by decay or decline."  A world that at once applauds gluttony and then derides those whose indulgence manifests itself in corpulence. How many heed the advice in 1 John 2:15-17?

15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

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