There’s so little interesting stuff you can say about food in the Pokemon universe.
Not that you can’t say stuff about it, but rather that talking about food in the Pokemon universe is a well-worn and kinda boring topic. It was so boring, to me, that when I saw the the final Unravelled over on Polygon was about Brian David Gilbert tackling that idea, it wasn’t until uh… twenty minutes ago that I finally watched it. It’s boring. It’s someting a lot of people have looked into, and it’s been written about for twenty-five years. The second game had a plot point about people eating Slowpokes, after all.
The idea that ‘people eat Pokemon’ isn’t really controversial in the game, and it also tends to bring with it a deliberately muted understanding of what it means to eat meat, or what it means to exist in the world of Pokemon in the first place.
First things first, the Pokedex is not a reasonable source of information on anything. My personal theory is that the Pokedex is the product of Pokemon trainers that are meant to represent the target audience, and upvoted by those, with only the most basic forms of moderation from some adults. Magcargo is 18,000 degrees, for example, which makes it twice as hot as the sun, which means it bores its way through the planet the second it exists. Ponyta’s Pokedex entry mentions the Eiffel tower. Igglybuff is a perpetual motion machine. Gardevoir creates black holes. Larvitar eats mountains. Regice’s ambient temperature is cold enough to instantly kill you. Exploud is so loud that it kills you if you’re near it. Bewear kills its trainer accidentally. So many things about ghost types that are messed up, and the ghost types and Kadabra imply that Pokemon are a form of humans.
The Pokedex is nonsense.
It’s not a reliable source of information! Pokedexes are presented to you in terms of ‘discovering’ Pokemon, but every Pokemon you catch, someone else already knows about because you don’t name them and you don’t weigh them and they know things about the Pokemon you could not know before that point. So based on this, I am of the opinion that Pokedexes represent not facts, but generalised vibes and stories that kids tell one another about Pokemon and then, like a sort of child-oriented Reddit, the stories that the kids and their moderators see as the most appropriate. Like, a parent moderating the Pokedex group posts would block someone posting a bunch of dick jokes, but they would probably not care if kids think that Pyroar can breathe fire hotter than the sun.
Anything specific in the Pokedex is, therefore, to me, suspect. And it’s not a reach to say the Pokedex is unreliable, because the Pokedex has contradictions in it! Anything in there that represents really specific events? Probably not true. Anything that’s a general trend? Probably based on something?
In that case, we have some evidence that yeah, Pokemon eat Pokemon. People eat Pokemon. Pokemon eat people. And uh, Pokemon might be people, if you listen to the Pokedex.
And you fucking shouldn’t.
Of course, what we see of people obtaining food in the Pokemon universe doesn’t indicate the presence of industrial farming techniques. There’s definitely some kind of sliding scale about the social acceptability of Pokemon as food — I doubt Mr Mime flanks are available anywhere — but we do see farmers who keep Pokemon like Miltank and fishermen catching Pokemon like Magikarp and Seaking.
What complicates this is that in the Pokemon universe, the normal, default, non-carnivore foodstuffs are more complex than they are in our real world. In Pokemon, there are sapient fungus (though I mean, we haven’t got good proof we don’t have those), and trees and seeds and fruit. What’s more, there’s a complication when it comes to the renewability of these things and the consent of the operators.
See, right now, we eat apples and consider that ethically unharmful because the trees that give them up aren’t in any way expressing pain, and don’t seem to have the ability to care about their apples one way or another. And there are complications when it comes to obtaining animal products in the same way, where some people believe that the fact that an animal doesn’t have a humanlike sapience means that they literally can never be involved in a consent exchange, meaning that even things like sheep wool and honey are ethically unobtainable. I’m not here to argue for or against that position in the real world, they’re just examples of where some people stand on food and animal products.
But in Pokemon, we have proof there are non-sapient edible foodstuffs, but the presence of sapient vegetables, funguses and seeds begs the askance of how confident you can be the non-sapient ones. They’re not a safe category they way they are the way in the real world. This complicates things, but it also introduces a new space for consensual consumption.
Which is also weird.
I promise this isn’t about a Creepy Forum Style agreeing to eat someone after they die or killing them consensually. I don’t mean that, that’s its own thing, and I don’t care. What I care about is how the Pokemon universe is a place where vegan eggs and milk are available. Not vegetarian, but vegan, where the animals in question can approach you, and offer to you the eggs and milk they made, and invite you to eat them.
And that’s interesting but also odd. It’s odd because at this point you have to approach the whole question of food and consumption in terms of this kind of cyclical ecology. When you look at food in our world, food is ultimately a competition for resources. You may not see it the same way, but your can of chickpeas and a gazelle escaping a leopard are both doing the same thing of trying to find ways to put calories into yourself in a way you can operate on them. There are some things in our ecosystem that can turn something we can’t eat (say, dirt and sunlight) into something we can (kumquats).
And this is where we get to an interesting position of the fundamental framework of Pokemon as it relates to food. It’s easy to not notice it, but in Pokemon, you never need to buy food, and you never need to pay for medical expenses, which imply that this is a world where there’s some kind of universally available, convenient way for people to have their needs met. Like how for example, there are sapient creatures that can create food for you and willingly give it up. Like how there are some things that seem to have no actual relationship to the laws of thermodynamics.
(If the Pokedex is reliable.)
(Which it really isn’t.)
Anyway, point is, Miltank gives Vegan milk, if it gives it to you and Exeggcute is an almond that can disagree with you eating it.