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The Meat Problem

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Ahh, the classic age-old worldbuilding question for Pokefic authors. While it used to be grounds for a metaphorical barfight back in the fanfic discussions of old, I've noticed that modern Pokefics tend to have a much more variable take on the issue. So how do you all handle it?

Some preliminary questions to answer if you don't already have an essay ready to go~
  1. Are all Pokemon sapient?
  2. Do Pokemon eat Pokemon?
  3. Do humans eat Pokemon?
  4. Do meat alternatives exist? Are these alternatives widely available?
  5. Do animals exist? Are they part of the wild ecosystem, or exist only in captivity?
  6. How does the food chain function?
If you have any additional worldbuilding not covered by those questions, feel free to include it!
 

NonAnalogue

Losing her head
Location
Yes
Pronouns
she/her
If nothing else, the answers to 2 and 3 are both definitively yes - the Pokedex mentions that Pidgeotto preys on Exeggcute, for example, and that Gumshoos eats Rattata. Likewise, Moon's Pokedex entry for Slowpoke mentions that their tails are often cooked into Alolan cooking. The anime touches on humans eating Magikarp and Farfetch'd, too.

As far as non-Pokemon animals, I'm less sure what to think about that. There's the fish in the Cerulean Gym in the anime and Gastly's Pokedex entries specifically namedropping Indian elephants, so I guess *technically* they must exist, but they show up so rarely that I wonder if they're not trying to forget that ever happened.
 

windskull

Member
I already answered most of this in the discord, so I'm going to bring that over here and add to it. As a reference, my fic is PMD so some things, like the question of Humans eating pokemon, don't apply. My PMD world is set in a very low-tech world. To compare it to the real world, it would be very early bronze age. So this brings up the following:

1. Is there a meat substitute?
At this level of technology, there are no good substitutes for meat. There are certain things that obligate carnivores can eat as a "temporary substitute" of sorts. Something to fill their stomach. But in the long term, these things would not be viable and lead to malnourishment. Think of it like when your dog eats bread. It's a treat, and might fill them up in an emergency, but your dog cannot survive off of bread. To top that off, climate plays a factor in available food sources, as has been mentioned briefly (nip mentions that it's hard for oran berry bushes to flourish where he's from, making them a valuable commodity, where as they have fields of them around Theran Village) and will be expanded upon later.

2. Sapience of "feral" pokemon.
What brings a hiccup to this, is that all pokemon have some level of sapience. In some areas, some pokemon might be a bit more "civilized" for lack of a better term, than others, but even the "feral" pokemon have some sapience. Something that comes up later, is the fact that where Nip is from, herbivorous pokemon haven't really had the chance to band together, flourish, and build their own communities. You might find some herds of single species, but they haven't had the opportunity to develop further. This is different from the village the first half of the fic revolves around, where the climate is more forgiving and all pokemon have had time to flourish and build up towns and communities. These two areas are geographically separated by a dangerous mystery dungeon, which has limited how much interaction the groups have had.

3. Since obligate carnivores are a thing, but all pokemon are sapient on some level, how are things worked out?
So I actually took a cue from Fledglings when I figured out how things work around the village, and had scavenging be a thing. If someone happens across a body in the woods, they bring it back to a scavenger (or the scavenger themselves go out searching) and if it happens to be fresh and healthy enough, the scavenger processes and sells it. The village is small enough that scavenging covers things... for the most part.

Animals do not exist in this world.

And one last thing I'll mention is that in my world, even in the areas around the village, being attacked by a hungry predator pokemon or a territorial pokemon isn't unheard of, which is why no one leaves the village alone (lowering the chances of being attacked), and even the most peaceful of pokemon have some battle skills.
 

Negrek

triple wekness for rock-type
Staff
Some good questions here! I tend to be flexible in my canon interpretations based on what the story calls for, though after some reflection I guess I've pretty much always treated the food question the same across my stories.

Canon has seemed to do its best to pretend like it never mentioned mundane animals (though like NonAnalogue said, mentions absolutely were made), but there are very clearly plants (loads and loads of references, up to and including things like farfetch'd's leek), viruses explicitly exist (pokérus), and I'm way too lazy to look, but I bet there's been some mention of known bacterial illnesses in there, too. And there are mushrooms, given paras/parasect. So we have confirmed representatives of almost all the domains/kingdoms of life (even ignoring early installment weirdness, you still have mundane animals in humans!), and I'm supposed to think that there just aren't any animals (besides humans)? When pokémon, as far as we can tell, haven't even colonized a fraction of the niches that would open up as a result? Nah, man. Mice shooting lightning bolts out of their faces I'll accept, but I draw the line at ecology that doesn't make a lick of sense!

So animals exist, they're both wild and domesticated. The food chain functions more or less as normal. The pokémon world is advanced enough to have meat substitutes available for people that desire them. Nevertheless, humans do eat pokémon, and pokémon do eat pokémon. It's just that pokémon don't play a major role in their diets. It really doesn't make sense to go after them on a regular basis when there are so few of them relative to things like rabbits and when they are far, far harder to subdue than things like rabbits. Pokémon generally have a better shot at killing other pokémon than humans have for the vast majority of history, so they're also more likely to eat each other than humans are to eat them. Humans are more likely to scavenge dead pokémon than actively hunt them, and when there's hunting involved it's often for some sort of ritual purpose, rather than a common thing.

PMD is interesting to me because it usually has to make at least some nod at a dichotomy between pokémon who hang out in towns and build cute huts and the ones that jump you in dungeons. Are they fundamentally different? Is this just some weird cultural thing? Are dungeon 'mons not even real pokémon at all? I've seen all kinds of different answers to this question, and where the author goes with it can really color the fic.

I still think mundane animals exist in the PMD world! Because otherwise nothing makes sense! But town-pokémon don't eat other town-pokémon here. They can survive on berries and squirrels, it's fine. However, mundane animals don't last long in mystery dungeons, and the pokémon there are trapped by what the town pokémon call the "dungeon curse," a strange delirium that turns them feral and essentially non-sapient. They will attack, kill, and eat the unwary mon that wanders into the dungeon (as well as each other), which is why you really need to be rescued if you end up in a dungeon without the proper equipment.

Windskull mentioned Fledglings, and I've got to throw a shout-out out there for the worldbuilding surrounding the food in that story. In particular I love how gummis are special magical food items generated as part of the dungeon-weirdness that will provide nourishment even for strictly carnivorous pokémon. A cool way to sidestep pokémon eating each other (though as it happens, that can occur, too) that works well with the magical nature of mystery dungeon and is a bit less handwavy than "all pokémon can survive on berries now, yes even the crocodile/cat/shark ones."
 

Persephone

Active member
Pronouns
her/hers
I try to go for "realistic" ecology within the bounds of biological nonsense. It's why I'll go off on a food web tangent if pressed on discord. Do it sometimes. It's fun for me. And no one else.

Pokemon absolutely hunt other pokemon in my setting. There are baseline animals. Just not very many and they tend not to get very large. Sort of like mammals in the age of the dinosaurs. Those little shrews absolutely had the potential to become elephants but those niches were taken already. So in my world that mostly didn't happen. But there are still a lot of small animals. Especially insects.

Some people are vegetarian or vegan. Maybe even most people. It's very much a cultural thing. Alola and Anahuac (modern evolution of a Nahua-Maya-Zapotec alliance that fought off the Spaniards) never got terribly into vegetarianism. Nature's cruel. People are a part of nature. Humans are carnivores. Meat-eating humans are no more an affront to nature than sharpedo. So long as nature as a whole is respected, anyway. Europe historically wasn't very vegetarian but there's a movement towards it now. Or at least a movement towards not eating the cute/smart pokemon.

Pokemon absolutely eat other pokemon. Most are sapient to varying degrees. Ranges from small mammal intelligence to superhuman intellects. It doesn't really matter. A lot of pokemon in my world are carnivorous because the dex tells me they are. The main pokemon character is a vulpix. She's happy with her kibble (mostly animal meat with some common domestics like mareep mixed in). She would really like a chance to hunt down a zubat though. Bats taste good.

Is all of that wrong ethically? Maybe. Depends on your worldview. In universe it's super controversial.
 

Negrek

triple wekness for rock-type
Staff
I try to go for "realistic" ecology within the bounds of biological nonsense. It's why I'll go off on a food web tangent if pressed on discord. Do it sometimes. It's fun for me. And no one else.
You can't say that and not give us your thoughts on food webs!

Is all of that wrong ethically? Maybe. Depends on your worldview. In universe it's super controversial.
Controversial among humans, or pokémon as well? Are there vegetarian omnivorous pokémon, or carnivores who look for meat substitutes or look for "ethical" prey?
 
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