You may think phrases like “bringing home the bacon” and “putting all your eggs in one basket” are harmless quirks of the English language, but they could be offending vegans and vegetarians, with one academic claiming they might end up being avoided altogether as a result.
As research shows more people are removing animal products from their diets than ever before, Shareena Hamzah of Swansea University says idioms involving animal products could be rendered obsolete because they are out of touch with the zeitgeist.
Writing for The Conversation, the researcher explains how meat-based metaphors are a popular staple of our everyday vernacular but that an increased awareness in the environmental and ethical issues surrounding meat production “will undoubtedly be reflected in our language and literature” and that this language may no longer be so widely accepted.
“In today’s reality, meat is repeatedly the subject of much socially and politically charged discussion, including about how the demand for meat is contributing to climate change and environmental degradation,” she continues.
“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.
“The increased awareness of vegan issues will filter through consciousness to produce new modes of expression.”
Hamzah highlights the violent imagery proposed by popular idioms such as “flogging a dead horse” and “killing two birds with one stone” and suggests we may move to kinder alternatives such as “feeding a fed horse” or “feeding two birds with one scone”.
Animal rights organisation PETA has been campaigning for more vegan and vegetarian-friendly idioms for years, urging teachers not to use phrases that perpetuate violence towards animals.
“These old sayings are often passed down in classrooms during lessons on literary devices,” a blog post on its website reads.
“While these phrases may seem harmless, they carry meaning and can send mixed signals to students about the relationship between humans and animals and can normalize abuse.
Teaching students to use animal-friendly language can cultivate positive relationships between all beings and help end the epidemic of youth violence toward animals.”
Adding to Hamzah’s list of cruelty-free alternatives, PETA suggests “bringing home the bagels” as opposed to the bacon and instead of “putting all your eggs in one basket”, why not try “putting all of your berries in a bowl”?