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Carol Anny Duffy’s poem titled “A Healthy Meal” is a political work in a number of senses. Most obviously, the poem is a clear satire on the habit of eating meat – an issue which is increasingly controversial and increasingly the subject of political debate. Duffy’s poem contributes to that debate by implying that the consumption of animals by humans should be avoided and/or condemned. In the case of eating animals (the poem implies), ingestion is injustice.
The poem is political, however, in another sense as well. The people whom the poem mocks seem to be wealthy people. Thus the poem doesn’t mock the mere eating of meat but also mocks the people who can afford to eat meat that is either expensive or expensively prepared. Examples of the poem’s satire on the wealthy include the references to the “gourmet” (1), to the “fingerbowls” (4), to the “pure white cloth” (12), and to the French menu (17-18). The poem does not mock the poor or underprivileged who may need to survive on meat simply in order to survive at all. Instead, it mocks those who could easily afford a more ethically responsible diet but who choose instead to indulge themselves, not simply by eating meat but by eating expensive, elaborately prepared and served meat as well.
This class-based satire appears as early as the poem’s second word, but it also seems implied by lines 3-4:
wishbones and pinkies; fingerbowls will absolve guilt.
Most poor people and members of the middle class do not use finger bowls when they eat. The wealthy, however, do often use such accoutrements; their food is elaborately prepared and elaborately consumed. The fingerbowls help wash away the kind of evidence that might make their consciences feel troubled – evidence that they have just eaten another recently living creature.
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