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Exploring Veganism In ‘The Promised Neverland’

When material as powerful as The Promised Neverland comes along, should we not ponder what is on our plates?

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Veganism! It’s an adored topic, free from even an iota of ignorance. People far and wide love conversations concerning the ethical sacrifice of luxuries, scrutiny of societal normalization, and uncomfortable moral analysis. Hence, veganism, gun control, and not being a transphobic heap of human garbage are greeted with glowing open-mindedness.

I jest. People hate vegans. “Down with the new, stick with the old” reigns as humanity’s mantra. Opposition to the status quo is shunned. Veganism is rarely portrayed in a positive, or even neutral, light in entertainment. And when it does crop up, it’s to dish out generic jabs at vegans being preachy pretentious pussies (awesome alliteration alert!). So, when once in a bajillion years a show makes a case for veganism, it’s worth checking out.

The Promised Neverland is a 2019 anime based on a manga by Kaiu Shirai. Its premise is as follows:

Grace Field House is an orphanage chock-full of, unsurprisingly, orphans (37 to be exact). Protagonist Emma is 11 and loves life in her peacefully perfect home. Periodically, children are adopted, upon which they’re ushered to their new life.

Alas, this is but a front to a sinister truth. Grace Field House is a human farm, where children exist as food for a species higher in the food chain: demons. Taking our real-world role of farm animals, Emma and her friends are bred, raised, and murdered, all so a ‘better’ species can relish the crispy skin and juicy flesh of ‘meat’.

The parallels with animal farming are blatant. So, let’s dive into the moral questions posed by this divisive topic, and give ourselves some food for thought (pun intended).

Yas vegan, preach!

Irrespective of one’s tone when discussing veganism, it’ll inevitably be triggering because it challenges rigidly deep-rooted opinions. The pushback to veganism is understandable because upon accepting it, we must abandon eggs, ditch dairy, and sacrifice steak. That’s a nuisance, so we champion the battle cry of “Love animals, except when we must question our own behavior.” Sure, it’s a shit battle cry, but it’s easy to abide by. It’s convenient to condemn lab testing and trophy hunting because they don’t give us joy, but a bacon and cheese sandwich…

We all don the badge of ‘animal lover’ when discussing the indiscriminate beating of a dog, but what about when the victim’s pain benefits us?

The Promised Neverland poses questions regarding our relationship with animals. Is killing animals moral if:

  • We’re a ‘better’ species?
  • We find their meat tastier than a plant-based alternative?
  • The life they’ve lived prior to slaughter has been peaceful?

If the answer is yes, then The Promised Neverland’s demons bear identical morality to us. Therefore, is our antagonistic perception of them not hypocritical? Albeit, humans (whom we naturally hold dearer) replace animals in The Promised Neverland, but are the moral principles not transferable? Demons, a ‘better’ species, are rightfully reigning supreme. Why should they abstain from eating humans if they don’t want to? What are you, vegan? Pussy! Eating humans is a convenient source of protein. Humans exist for a reason. It’s the circle of life. Our ancestors ate humans. Why do you think you’re better for not eating humans?

If livestock lives a good life, can its slaughter be justified? Does humane slaughter exist? We defend animal farming by saying “With high farming and slaughterhouse standards, our eating of animals is moral.” Assuming this was the case, are the demons’ diets in The Promised Neverland not defendable? Emma and her friends live in peace before they’re slaughtered in a predominantly painless manner (blood extraction into a vampiric plant). If this isn’t humane, then what is?

The dictionary definition of humane is ‘having or showing compassion or benevolence’. So, is it possible to implement compassion and benevolence into the act of slaughtering a human or animal that’s happy, healthy, and doesn’t want to die? If not, then is humane slaughter an oxymoron? Why would the meat industry coin a term like ‘humane slaughter’ anyway?

Kill the cow, pet the dog.

Demons’ morality regarding life and species is flimsily inconsistent too. In the very first episode, an exchange between two demons when discussing the potential source of a noise goes:

“If it was a stray cat, I would have caught it and ate it.”

“You eat things like cats?”

The notion of demons chomping down humans but raising eyebrows (assuming they have eyebrows) at the thought of cat consumption, mirrors us nonchalantly eating farm animals but questioning the notion of eating pets. For both demons and us, our perception and treatment of species are dictated by cultural and societal norms. Said norms affect parameters between humans too — like the acceptance of minority races and LGBTQ+ people. If cultural and societal norms justify our perception and treatment of animals, do they justify our perception and treatment of humans?

  • If yes, can a country like Iran, which imposes the death penalty on homosexuality, be defended under the banner of “It’s their cultural and societal norm, as well as their historical identity”?
  • If no, why is this drastic distinction between species made? Is it a product of logic, or bias?

Speciesism will always exist, and we will naturally prioritize some lives over others (like demons over humans, humans over dogs, and dogs over flies). But do we deserve complete control over the physical and biological autonomy of farm animals? Where do we draw the line regarding the freedom we have over other species?

“But bacon…” said the deep thinker.

Personal gain is something to consider too, as The Promised Neverland’s demons no doubt love the taste of humans. On this note of our pleasure overriding others’ suffering: is robbery moral if the stolen money pays for our dream car? Is sexual assault moral if the victim is attractive enough? Do our entitled demands of privilege matter more than the lives of others? If no, then how can demons defend eating humans, and similarly, how can we defend eating animals (when not as an act of self-preservation, but of taste luxury)?

The Promised Neverland’s manga later explores more animal themed topics, such as factory farms and hunting for ‘sport’ (killing for fun). With it being said there are infinitely more factory farms than premium farms like Grace Field House, it holds up a repulsive mirror to reality. The humans live, if one could even call it that, in hellish conditions. With no quality of existence, they’re painfully exploited, strapped to machines, and fattened for slaughter. If the bulk of America’s farms are factory farms like this, should we intervene?

The Promised Neverland is a rare instance where entertainment embraces the controversial topic of veganism and explores it through an addictively riveting story. To ignore its blatant themes of animal liberation is like watching The Great Dictator and disregarding its anti-fascist politics. It’s a disservice to the creator’s vision.

Nobody is at fault for eating animals, as when something is so prevalently normalized it’s natural to live in a bubble of disconnect. Similarly, a demon residing in a world where eating humans is accepted (and celebrated) isn’t at fault. But, when material as powerful as The Promised Neverland comes along, should we not ponder what is on our plates, and ask if we can defend how it got there?

Just as The Promised Neverland listens to humans, it’s time we listen to animals. Veganism is not about putting animals first, it’s about considering them in the conversation. Where do our hearts lie if not with victims?

Watch The Promised Neverland on Crunchyroll HERE!

I invest my time in playing all manner of video games, and as of 2017, writing about all manner of video games.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Mntl

    May 27, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    This article gives me the feeling you’re a really annoying person to talk to or be around. the promised Neverland hasn’t once been about these topics. You’re changing the entire series to fit your own agenda and it’s disgusting. The promised Neverland is entertainment, nothing more. It’s not a political statement or a means of pushing an agenda. You’re just an insufferable asshole for trying to turn it into that.

    • Harry Morris

      May 27, 2020 at 2:51 pm

      I’m sorry you feel that way. Do you feel we shouldn’t seek social or political subtext in the entertainment we consume? Also, do you feel this way because you dislike veganism, or because your perspective is watertight and unbiased? For myself, and countless others (including non-vegans), The Promised Neverland’s themes of animal farming, and humanity’s relationship with animals, are blatant.

  2. A guy

    May 28, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Vegans are why people don’t like veganism, and this article is a really great example of it.

    • Harry Morris

      May 28, 2020 at 11:38 am

      To quote my own article: “Irrespective of one’s tone when discussing veganism, it’ll inevitably be triggering because it challenges rigidly deep-rooted opinions.”

      In this article, I never once told readers what to think, I just asked questions. If that crosses a line for you, then I don’t know what to say.

  3. taylor

    May 29, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    This is a great article, and poses a lot of the questions that came to my own mind as I read it. For me, I believe that if I have the means to not eat meat, and can fully afford to go plant-based, that is what I’m going to do. However, if something happens, similar to Emma and the cattle children hunting to survive, then I will survive, but not disrespect or disregard the life I took.
    Again, great article, thank you for writing it!

    • Harry Morris

      May 29, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      Thank you so much, I’m really glad you enjoyed it! <3 Self-preservation must always come first, but the overwhelming majority of people are able to go vegan with a bit of research and willpower. If I can do it, someone who was massively addicted to milk chocolate for my entire life, I'm certain anyone can. 😉

  4. Gore up in ya guts

    May 30, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Holy shit that is a bunch of spazzing and bad analogies in that article. And lol at killing animals not being moral. Animals kill animals all the time. Oh, hate to tell you, but plants are alive and there is some research saying they feel pain as well. (see end)

    We are special because we have consciousness. Life is meant to be eaten. Everything eats something else that is alive. That is the way the world is. If something tries to kill us we kill them because we can.

    So sorry, demons eating people is not the same as people eating cows. People still have consciousness. I guess demons do too. Then we hold them responsible for their actions…which we don’t or shouldn’t do that to animals that are acting out of instinct.

    Cows can eat grass. Animals that cannot eat grass might be able to eat cows.

    Now, if you want to get “what is moral” I will agree all day long that some of the brutal corporate farms are pretty fucking nasty and shit should be done about that.

    What a lot of vegans are actually are misanthropes that use veganism to virtue signal while deep down they are resentful and bitter and really don’t like people.

    PS I have dated and even married a vegetarian and never tried to get her to stop. She did get me to stop eating veal but that is it. She wasn’t political or anything just too fucking nice.

    PPS there is no veganism in TPN, you are giving it a marxist-vegan reading…

    Now for do plants feel pain??? From PETA website.

    “Do plants feel pain?The simple answer is that, currently, no one is sure whether plants can feel pain. We do know that they can feel sensations. Studies show that plants can feel a touch as light as a caterpillar’s footsteps. But pain, specifically, is a defense mechanism. If something hurts humans, we react instinctually to it—“fight or flight”—as do other animals. But plants don’t have that ability—nor do they have nervous systems or brains—so they may have no biological need to feel pain. We just don’t know. However, it is possible that plants have intelligence and sentience that we cannot yet detect. One day, we might learn that plants have ways of experiencing pain that we have yet to comprehend.”

    Now from an article on the internets:

    ” Plants defend against herbivores with mechanical wounding, barriers, secondary metabolites, and attraction of parasitoids. ”

    https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-biology/chapter/plant-defense-mechanisms/

    ^oh, plants DO HAVE DEFENSE MECHANISMS….you think these developed because other things did not HURT the plant??? PETA is very arrogant claiming ” requires far fewer plants and doesn’t hurt animals, who, we already know for sure, feel pain”. Every living thing FEELS pain.

    HOW DO I KNOW THIS?? Evolution. It is an evolutionary advantage to feel pain…aka your structure being damaged. Plants fucking feel it. They can’t move as much but they can evolve mechanisms to prevent something from harming it. Why do you think some plants are poisonous???

    PPS how about this…there is a FOOD CHAIN because that is the way nature intended it. There has to be population control for everything. If you don’t kill deer they become to great in number and then starve. It is a nice balance of things that can eat other things.

    Now what is the apex predator population control??? War. Our habit of killing each other. Plagues. Viruses. Covids and all. Plus an intelligence that can screw over our biological programming to reproduce (see lower birthrates of atheists).

    • Harry Morris

      May 30, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      Wow! There’s a lot to unpack in this comment. Let’s get to it!

      . Animals do kill other animals, but should we hold our own actions to the standards of animals? Many animals eat their young and rape one another, so should we hold ourselves to these standards too?

      . Even if hypothetically plants do feel pain, the majority of plant life is fed to the sixty-billion animals we farm and kill each year. Therefore, to reduce plant suffering, a vegan diet is still the best choice.

      . The definition of consciousness is the state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings. Animals, whilst not as intelligent as humans, still bear consciousness, emotions, and pain receptors, therefore elevating their existence to what many would agree to be worthwhile. If animals don’t have value, would you feel comfortable with a stray dog being beaten, or a stray cat being shot? What if the dog or cat were eaten afterwards? How does one logically define the worth of an animal’s life?

      . Factory farms are indeed immoral, I’m glad we agree. So, what are you doing about it? How are you standing up to factory farms?

      . You’re making a blanket assumption about vegans, and it weakens your argument. If I claimed “A lot of non-vegans are animal hating bloodthirsty nutters”, not only would I be deeply wrong, but I would sound petty and ridiculous. A lot of vegans just want to help animals, and they want to encourage others to do the same (because they like animals), that’s all. Liking animals doesn’t equate to a hatred of people (I personally like people, and think there are countless social and political causes concerning people that are deeply important).

      . Art is subjective, and different people find different themes in the entertainment they consume. I, and many others, found The Promised Neverland to bear vegan messages. Maybe you didn’t, and that’s okay. Again, art is subjective.

      . At no point does my article tell you what to think. It just asks questions. As a reader, you can draw your own conclusions.

      Thanks for reading my article anyway. I’m sorry it struck such a nerve with you, but I hope my response answered some of your arguments. If you’d like me to provide any sources for the points I made, or elaborate further, just ask! 🙂

    • Haruna

      March 11, 2021 at 6:36 pm

      I really hate when people bring up the “animals kill each other” to justify their bad habits. Nature itself was “created” by a brainless replicant molecule that does not give a fuck about anything. That’s why nature is basically a blood machine where every little soul is crushed and every animal is subject of a miserable life. Eat-meaters like to say that vegans praise nature, but they are the ones that think about nature as some kind of high standar, they praise the brainless molecule.
      Plants do not feel pain, don’t be ridiculous. Pain is a way of teaching the animal the best way to survive. What a plant is supossed to do when inflicted pain? Run? Cry for help? These defense mechanism are the result of an evolutionary process where the plants that avoided being eaten by animals proliferate more than the ones that don’t. But plants can’t learn from their mistakes.
      “Life is meant to be eaten”. Life is not meant no be nothing because it have no purpose. Life is literally a war between DNA organisms vs other DNA organism, created by a mutant replicant molecule that doesn’t even mute on purpose. But if you want to play by that rules, the “purpose” of all DNA organism is to reproduce. We humans, as the dominant species are pursuing that purpose and thanks to that we have 7 billion people on Earth. There it is, the grand purpose of life leads to consuming all the Earth’s resources and going extinct.
      “PPS there is no veganism in TPN, you are giving it a marxist-vegan reading…” The show showed how horrible the idea of animal farms were. While the show might not say anything against animal farms it leads us to think about ourselves. We area literally doing the same to animals and we feel is okay (really not, meat eaters hate to see slaughterhouse videos) but when we are the victims, the idea of farming sentient beings becomes horrible.
      “how about this…there is a FOOD CHAIN because that is the way nature intended it” once again thinking about nature as some kind of rational deity that cares about the enviroment or the sentient beings being eaten alive every day. There is no population control, that sounds like a creationism argument. Everything happens because it can happen. ´
      You can live without meat, you just have bad habits, just be honest and say that you don’t have the willpower to overcome your addiction. It’s okay. There is no need to make excuses about a nature deity that wanted us to eat animals.

  5. Melissa

    September 23, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this article! I loved it, and I don’t like articles very often. I just watched TPN and have decided to stop eating animals because of it (seems kinda lame, but this was a POWERFUL anime!) and it seriously squashed any oppositions in my mind to becoming vegan/vegetarian. Your article questioned these points against veganism so beautifully. I hope more people can watch TPN and/or read this article and start to question the true consequences of eating animals and their products. Thanks again!

  6. Harry Morris

    September 23, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    Your comment made my day, thank you! I’m so glad you like my article, and good luck on your vegetarian/vegan journey. <3

  7. yosi

    October 3, 2020 at 9:54 am

    Great article. It’s really fucked how the majority of comments you got are people going “stop looking for meaning in entertainment” and “vegans are so annoying XD”. I’ve read the entirety of the TPN manga and it’s clear as day that the main thing the author is trying to promote with this story is compassion towards other animals and other people and putting an end to needless conflict and cruelty and he does a great job of doing that. TPN is truly a masterpiece.

    • Harry Morris

      October 3, 2020 at 9:58 am

      Thanks so much! Honestly, the ‘snowflake-ness’ of anti-vegans never ceases to amaze me. 😛

  8. Joseph Dunne

    January 12, 2021 at 11:20 pm

    Are people really arguing on the very explicit subtext of the show? The mangaka is clearly drawing parallel to meat production in our world from how the children are tattooed/branded, tagged literally BEHIND the ear like cattle, numbered, etc. There’s even some eugenics thrown in for flavor as Emma and the gang’s farm is seen as a “premium” farm, where the children are free range, fed a good diet, but only the best children get to be raised there, having to take specialized accumen exams to measure their intellect as the demons love especially human brains.

    Like… I’m not a vegan and I still saw the direct implications of the manga and anime, it’s not “reading into it”. The symbolism all but hits you over the head with how subtle it is.

    • Harry Morris

      January 13, 2021 at 7:30 am

      That’s exactly what I thought! The opening theme to season 2 even features a visual parallel between the orphans eating rabbits, followed by the demons eating orphans. It couldn’t be anymore obvious, but people hate pondering the idea of veganism/our relationships with and treatment of animals. It’s easier to discredit something as “SJW hippie nonsense” rather than have a mature conversation about it. 😛

      Thank you so much for being an exception to the norm of anti-vegan snowflakes. This comment made my day! <3

  9. Snoofle

    January 19, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    Yo, I never expected to be as hooked on this article as I was. You did an amazing job writing it! I watched the English dub of The Promised Neverland, since I’m an anime-only type person. But I knew something was definitely up when my manga-readng friend showed me a picture of the low-quality farms from the manga. To be honest, it kinda scares me how we can just go about our lives without thinking that any of this is wrong. It definitely is, and anyone who says otherwise must be quite a selfish person. Of course, growing up with animal products in my life, it would definitely be hard to say no to any sort of animal product out there, but it’s a goal that can be achieved for anyone trying to convert to veganism. I myself haven’t been too fond of the idea up until recently, and am debating doing so myself. Then again, it’s hard to think that I’d be able to make a difference in how the world works just by not eating certain foods, but it doesn’t justify the way it is. Thank you for this! You did a wonderful job!

    • Harry Morris

      January 20, 2021 at 6:44 am

      Thanks so much! I went vegetarian at 20, and vegan at 22, so I understand spending most of your life not considering animal suffering in our consumerism.

      It’s natural to feel scared of transitioning, so if it’s something you’re considering then feel free to do it in stages. Also, remember that partial veganism is better than nothing at all. Becoming vegan feels daunting at first, but after a few weeks (provided you’re eating good food, and getting a healthy balance of dietary needs, like protein and B12) it becomes astonishingly easy.

      If you’re interested in exploring the idea more, I’d recommend a documentary called ‘Earthlings’. It’s narrated by Joaquin Phoenix (from Joker), and is free to watch online. It’s challenging but eye-opening viewing.

      Thanks again for your comment. I’m glad my article resonated with you. 🙂

  10. FannyOda

    January 30, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    A really fascinating article! I love this manga and the breeding theme immediately jumped out at me. Every element and crying out for truth and unfortunately rings true. I find it sad that some people need to see child characters in pain to realize that maybe the animals are in so much pain. But if this manga allows some to think about it, I can only encourage it! Thank you for sharing your interesting review! I also intend to be greatly inspired by it for a video dedicated to the subject!

    • Harry Morris

      January 30, 2021 at 4:23 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, thank you! Be sure to shoot me a link to your video when it’s out, and I’ll give it a watch. <3

  11. NC

    May 10, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Our anime-obsessed 9yo got hooked on this show and wanted us all to watch it together. We’ve been vegan for over 20 years, so she’s been vegan all her life. Kiddo fell in love with it because of crushes on all three of the main characters, not realizing it basically makes the case for our lifestyle. It’s become great positive reinforcement.

    • Harry Morris

      May 10, 2021 at 1:06 pm

      That’s amazing to hear! And hopefully it’ll continue to positively reinforce her veganism as she grows older. Apparently, the manga continues to explore lots of these vegan themes (including factory farming and hunting), but the anime’s second season cuts much of this exploration out for time/budget constraints, which is frustrating.

      • NC

        May 10, 2021 at 1:08 pm

        I will definitely be looking to get the manga for the kiddo (yay reading!). Thanks for the recommendation.

        • Harry Morris

          May 10, 2021 at 1:09 pm

          Awesome, have fun! 🙂

  12. David Gambin

    May 17, 2022 at 8:35 am

    WOWWWW!!! I am truly amazed at your infinite patience when answering the comentaries. and also good article, i will have a look at this anime.

  13. Karl

    June 18, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    Im currently binge watching this anime, and I thought to myself that the author was surely drawing parallells with how us humans farm animals. Its weird that the kids dont realize it themselves that the animals they ate have the same fate that was reserved to themselves. I’m vegan, and am very pleased that one person posting here stopped supporting animal abuse because of this anime. So I’ll share it with my friends and family into anime, perhaps it could help them realize the evil they are supporting. Thanks youfor your great article!

  14. Lily

    July 18, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    “can a country like Iran, which imposes the death penalty on homosexuality, be defended under the banner of “It’s their cultural and societal norm, as well as their historical identity”?” – though it’s deeply wrong, some homophobic countries really defend each other with this argument. For example, China, and especially Russia, whose government and church during past 10 years propagate a pseudo-scientific and religious nonsense arguments like “Russians are genetically incompatible with tolerance to LGBT because they are God-chosen nation”. There are many blatant lies in this world, used for ideological and military purposes. I see as one of main ideas of TPN is how an inequality and greediness create wars. How the system based on inequality of sentient beings will break sooner or later. But I doubt a clear vegan message here. Because Emma and other children didn’t drawn such a parallels between them and the animals they hunt and eat. If TPN would be a vegan story, then the escapees would stop eating animals after drawing that parallels, and this topic would be discussed in the manga and anime several times at least.

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