The Meat Elite
As you'll know if you've read my novels, I do like to explore alternative, dystopian futures on occasion. I have all sorts of ideas, often inspired by current affairs, that don't make it into print as they aren't substantial enough to make it into a full novel. So they sit on the backburner.
What I'd like to do is explore some of these through short stories, so here is the first of what may become a series. Here, I imagine what might happen if future people in power looked back at what happened over 2020-2021 and used it as a template to pursue other objectives.
Addendum (May 2022) - A year after I wrote this story, I am now halfway through writing my next novel which is going to explore this world in more detail. What you see here will be adapted into the new book, so this is now a preview of what's to come.
It's interesting looking back at what I wrote a year ago and seeing what has transpired during that time. What I wrote as fiction now feels more like it could become reality every day.
The Meat Elite - by Jason Ayres
As Jenny pushed the swing doors that led back into the kitchen, the unmistakable smell of sizzling steak assailed her nostrils.
How long had it been since she had tasted meat? It must have been getting on for two years now. As the chefs scurried around in their white shirts and check trousers, she felt an all too familiar craving, one she would have to suppress. For she was not one of the privileged few.
There were plenty here tonight that were. The exclusive members club where she waitressed was hosting a party for a group of senior government officials and selected friends. The occasion was a senior cabinet minister’s fiftieth birthday. Such gatherings were technically illegal under the 2025 Infectious Diseases Act, but the attendees tonight considered themselves exempt from that.
It was all strictly top secret. To work tonight, Jenny had been required to sign a non-disclosure form with the threat of an instant reduction to a rating of three should she break it, effectively excluding her from society, her home, and life as she knew it.
These rules also kept journalists away, who would suffer the same fate should they even hint any such events had taken place. The Government had learnt its lesson after the Partygate and Beergate scandals of a few years before and wanted to ensure no repetition.
The birthday boy was the Government’s health secretary who had been in the position since the 2024 general election. Whilst serving, Jenny had recognised some senior medical professionals she had seen standing at the podiums during Downing Street press conferences. Several senior media types were also present. As she had served them their starters, they had been laughing and joking like they didn’t have a care in the world.
They had ignored her, of course, but then she barely even registered as a human to them, hidden behind her mask. The mask was black and decorated with the same logo as seemingly everything else in the world these days – three intersecting circles in the shape of a Venn diagram.
It was a condition that citizens rated below eight were required to wear face coverings in all times in the presence of the elites. Failure to do so, like every other infraction, earned a rating deduction. The rule had been in place for years, ostensibly to protect the elites from a pandemic that by now was long over. The masks persisted, purely as a mark of subservience.
It would soon be time for her to take out the main courses. She watched as one particularly flamboyant chef tossed a steak in the air like a pancake before it landed back in the pan with a flash of flame.
When she was growing up, she could never have imagined a world where eating meat would have become the preserve of the super-wealthy. Her father had been a traditionalist who insisted that the family came together for Sunday lunch every week. She recalled the joints of meat now; gorgeous, rare topsides of beef, with Yorkshire puddings cooked in the dripping. Then there had been the succulent legs of pork, with perfect, crispy crackling. No one had been able to make crackling like her dad.
Gosh, she still missed him so much. It had been six years now, and she still couldn’t believe he had left her the way he had. Seeing these establishment types here tonight brought it all back. Most of them weren’t the same people who had been in charge at the time, but no matter. They were all the same in her eyes.
Her father had retired in 2019 and poured his life savings into opening a lovely little family restaurant in their hometown. It had thrived, quickly gaining a loyal following of local devotees.
All that changed in 2020 when the pandemic came. The business survived the first lockdown and struggled through the second. They had been all ready to bounce back at Christmas, but then they were forced to close again. As 2021 wore on, with one reason after another given for restricting their business, eventually it was no longer viable to continue. Her father lost everything, and not long afterwards took his own life.
Slowly, the world had returned to normal. But then, in the summer of 2024, shortly after the general election, news of a new pandemic swept the globe.
This time, the virus was spread by animals. It started, as always seemed to be the case, in China. It began slowly, with rumours of a new strain of flu in chickens before spreading to cattle. Before long cases were being reported on every continent.
The predictable media frenzy soon began, with experts warning that eating contaminated meat could spread the virus to humans. A computer model from a prominent London college suggested that five million could die in Britain if all meat consumption did not cease immediately.
Overnight, all meat products were pulled from supermarket shelves. Those who had seen it coming and stocked up their chest freezers were not sitting pretty for long. Draconian fines were introduced for even being in possession of any meat, with police given powers to enter any home to carry out a search. Keeping food animals, even chickens, carried a jail sentence.
For their own safety, the people were put under lockdown again. Other restrictions, such as face masks, were reintroduced for all. Many deaths in hospitals were connected to the supposedly infected meat. Those who did their homework came up with good reasons to question whether the public was being told the truth. Certain things simply didn’t add up. Their reward was to be ridiculed and ostracised from society.
All livestock was slaughtered. The meat industry was up in arms, but the farmers were sated by massive handouts from the Government to either permanently convert their premises or retire and hand over to someone else who would. There had been huge advances in the technology for producing vegan food and the choice between financial security or utter ruin was not a difficult one for most to make.
The same scenario was being played out worldwide, with the source of cash being used to bankroll these huge changes never being identified.
The crisis dragged on for the best part of a year, during which many climate campaigners stepped up, declaring this had been a blessing in disguise for the planet. They had long stated that intensive farming had been disastrous for the climate’s carbon footprint, and welcomed this opportunity to enact permanent change.
Social media joined in of course, with those in favour cheering on the cause. Opinions polls showed 75% in favour of a permanent ban on meat. Jenny found these figures hard to believe.
She had never had a problem with vegetarians or vegans. She felt that everybody had the right to make their own choices on these issues. But those on the other side of the argument didn’t see it that way. Anyone who offered even the hint of an opinion that they disagreed with what was happening was denounced and discredited.
All of this took place against the backdrop of a growing financial disaster. Most of the western world, already reeling from the aftereffects of the earlier pandemic, simply went bankrupt. Inflation spiralled out of control, as did interest rates, rendering all currency worthless. Starvation was starting to look like a real possibility, and then salvation came.
A global relief movement came, spearheaded by three organisations acting in unison. The World Economic Forum, World Health Organisation and World Bank had united in what was being hailed by the media as a new holy trinity. With their new logo, the three circles of the newly created One World Order, they stepped in to save the world.
Currency and property ownership were abolished for all but the rich, with a new social credit system established. Massive tower blocks were going up in their thousands, almost overnight in every major city, to house the people. All you had to do was sign up to the new philosophy and they would take care of you.
With most people bankrupt and starving, it wasn’t a difficult offer to accept. The people, spurred on by a wildly enthusiastic media, practically bit the NWO’s hand off. As the main TV channels constantly reported, people now owned nothing, but they were happy.
That’s what they were told. But were they? Jenny wasn’t but wisely kept those thoughts to herself. She couldn’t risk asking other people if they felt the same. Not with the way the social credit system worked. She had heard rumours of an underground movement, a group of people referred to as libertarians, but she had no idea how to contact them.
Now, over two years after the outbreak had started, a tiny amount of organic farming was permitted again under strict guidelines. The total production was less than 1% of what it had been before and only the elites were allowed to consume it. The staple diet of most other people was Schwab’s ready meals, adorned like everything else with the branding of the OWO. She was sick of the sight of that logo.
Yet here she was, serving the very people who she felt were responsible for all of this. The people who had screamed for the slaughter and the restrictions. The people who had told her it was all for her own good. Well, it wasn’t good enough. She had reached breaking point and simply wasn’t going to take it anymore.
It was time for the meals to go out. She was handed a plate and gazed lovingly at the juicy, perfectly cooked meat in front of her. It was for the health secretary, who liked his steak rare. Dripping with blood was how he had ordered it. This was the very man who a few years before had given the order to kill every cow and sheep in Britain.
When she had served him his starter before, she had felt incredibly uneasy in his presence. The man seemed to give off an aura of pure evil. The mouth smiled, but the eyes seemed dead and emotionless.
Her eyes had been drawn to a strange pendant he wore around his neck. It contained a red stone, that seemed to almost glow with its own luminescence as she looked at it. It looked like a ruby, but she wasn’t sure. It was certainly an odd thing for a man to adorn himself with. She had seen him many times on television and he was never without it.
A second plate was handed to her. This was for a daytime TV presenter who for years had jumped on every bandwagon going. This woman had never shut up about the need to convert to a vegan diet after it had become all the rage. Yet here she was, about to tuck into a steak. What a hypocrite!
Jenny pushed through the swing doors that led out into the corridor, but instead of going straight across into the dining room, she turned right. She walked to the end and around a corner, where she would be out of sight at the foot of a staircase.
She sat on the stairs, removed her mask, and picked up the rare steak by hand. Then she gorged on it, stuffing the meat into her mouth like an animal gorging on its prey. As she did, rivulets of bloody meat juice ran down her chin. Instinctively, she wiped her chin before the blood could drip onto her white uniform, staining it with blood that would likely never wash out. Not that it would matter if she did. Her mind was made up. She wouldn’t be using it again after tonight.
The first steak was demolished in a couple of minutes, and then she started on the second. She had heard people talking about having experiences that were better than sex. As she savoured every precious mouthful, she knew exactly what they meant. It wasn’t even the taste she was getting off on. It was the sheer adrenalin rush of the defiance. She was well and truly sticking two fingers up at the state. It was exhilarating.
Finished, she left the plates on the stairs. Then she looked up and saw the CCTV camera trained directly upon her.
No matter. What could they do to her now that they hadn’t done already? Her father was gone, she had no boyfriend and now her rating would plummet through the floor. She would be out of a job, and a home. But she simply didn’t care. There was no point living life as a slave. And tonight, for possibly the first time since her father’s death, she felt incredibly and wonderfully alive.
She got up, ripped off her mask, and pushed the bar marked emergency exit on the doors opposite the stairs. Then she walked out into the cold night air.
THE END (OR IS IT?)