Chapter Summaries & Analyses
The narrator explains that the Erewhonians developed civilization some 2,500 years prior to the point at which the narrator arrived, and the course of their development was much the same as that of Europeans, moving from hunting and gathering to agriculture. Once their civilization had developed a bit, an old prophet claimed that an unseen entity instructed him that eating the meat of any animal is wrong, just as cannibalism is wrong. His followers agreed, and laws were passed to prohibit the consumption of meat unless an animal died of natural causes or suicide. Afterward, the rates of natural deaths and suicides among animals increased, as people arranged for their dogs kill animals, which was considered natural, or claimed that the animals had killed themselves. Eventually, this meat was common enough that there might as well have been no law against it, but a pandemic occurred which the priests blamed on the practice of eating meat. As such, the prior laws were overwritten to ban all consumption of meat outright.
The narrator then includes a story about a sick young man who is tempted to eat meat when his doctor tells him that doing so is the only way to recover his health.
By Samuel Butler