‘I must compliment you on your choice of venue,’ said journalist Tony Walker. He sipped his turmeric latte and spun a ballpoint pen around his thumb with practised ease.
‘Thank you, Tony. I’m not a fan of power plays in interviews. I thought this might be a more neutral spot.’
Senator Flim lounged in her chair, which was several inches taller than his own. Twelve private security operatives paced behind her, hands on their holsters, eyes scanning the exits and outside footpaths. Tom could see the portrait painter, replete with palette and easel, capturing the senator as she delicately sipped her black coffee. The painter’s brush moved confidently over the canvas, but it was clear he had decided against including Tom in this particular composition.
The Big Missed Steak was one of the more popular vegan cafés in this part of town. Right now, however, they were alone: the senator had booked the entire venue. The interior had tall windows and a hundred baskets of hanging plants suspended from the roof. Soft strings played from a hidden surround sound system.
Internally, Tony patted himself on the back. The Vegan Digest had promised to promote this interview as an exclusive exposé. If he played his cards right, today’s conversation could become a touchstone in reputable journalism: an exploration of perhaps the most pressing global event in his lifetime.
‘I thought we might begin with some cursory questions regarding the Compulsory Ethical Consumption Act.’
‘I think many citizens in this fine country will want to ask, why veganism? Why now? Why enforce it?’
‘Veganism has always been a guiding light in my life,’ the senator explained, as she dabbed her mouth with a serviette. Her speech was precise and confident, and her power suit cost a month’s wages. Tom wished he could peek at the painter’s canvas from where he was sitting: the artist could have portrayed her with all the pomp and finery of King George.
‘It’s fascinating that you mention your reasons,’ Tom pressed. ‘Many detractors accuse you of “jumping on the vegan bandwagon” as a political stunt. Your election to the senate was uncertain until you added veganism to your platform.’
The senator shook her head. ‘Sweet, simple Mr Walker. You mustn’t believe every headline conspiracy that you read. I’m stalwart in my support for the vegan movement.’
‘There are others who argue you are purposefully choosing veganism at this juncture, as a compromise, to avoid confronting the fruitarians. Perhaps you could shed some light on your perspective of that movement?’
‘Certainly. As you know, we centralist vegans are quite critical of the intellectual gymnastics that the right-leaning, milk-sipping, ovum-munching vegetarians have adopted. On the other hand, the fruitarians believe that we shouldn’t harm plants; they believe that we should only harvest fruit or nuts that fall to the ground naturally. I don’t think I need to explain why I find that ideology excessive.’
‘If I may, senator? My perspective is that today’s extreme left or right could become tomorrow’s normal left or right.’
‘Perhaps. However, I find that unlikely.’ Senator Flim took a sip of her black coffee. ‘You won’t be able to convince me on the ideology of some fringe radicals. For me, veganism isn’t just academic. Animal rights are the most pressing issue in our global theatre. These poor animals benefit us and get nothing in return. That’s the problem because it’s completely different from the way we treat humans. Oh, have you tried the coffee here?’
Tom Walker shook his head as he scribbled.
‘You really must. Hand-picked by orphans. They have to scale cliffs to get the beans. It has this delicious hint of saltiness, from all the tears.’
‘I might try it.’
‘Or, take this artist here, for example. A visionary, slaving away to work off his crippling student debt. He works and receives due payment, unlike animals.’
‘Actually,’ the artist said, leaning around his canvas. ‘We never really settled on a price for this work.’
‘A price?’ Senator Flim shook her head. ‘Don’t be ungrateful. You’re working for exposure and experience.’
The artist paused for a moment. Then, he grinned broadly, and continued his work with renewed vigour.
‘As I was saying, the rights of animals are the most important rights violations in our world right now.’
‘Senator Flim, back to this magnitudinous issue of the growing unease generated by the fruitarians. Many citizens fear they are hostile to the fabric of vegan society. How is your government going to protect good people from these extremists?’
Tom had barely finished the question when the protests outside began.
‘Take cover!’ yelled the private security.
‘Oh dear,’ the senator said. She upended their table to take cover.
Outside, a group of fruitarians gestured rudely and held placards in the air as they marched in unison towards the city centre. A song of protest rose in the air.
‘Dissidents!’ screamed the senator.
The crowd outside grew. It was a gang. Then a mob. Then a riot.
Then a majority.
‘This is certainly and without a doubt the most pressing event of our collective lifetimes,’ said Senator Flim. ‘In fact, I’ve begun to reevaluate my position on everything.’
The senator removed her jacket and ripped her blouse open, revealing a screen-printed shirt underneath. In the centre of the shirt was a crude illustration of the fruitarian logo.
‘Why are you wearing that?’ Tom asked, crouching behind the table.
The senator gave him a confused look. ‘Fruitarianism has always been a guiding light in my life. I’ll see you at the next election.’
She leapt through the window and into the crowd, screaming anti-vegan slurs as she went.
Senator Flim Tells All is a work of satire. The characters are fictional, and to the best of my knowledge, the fruitarian movement isn’t seeking to destabilise the government.