Laurie Taylor Column

April 4, 2003

" Social science is failing its users " - conclusion of report by the Commission on Social Sciences, THES , March 28 .

Well, let's get straight down to business. You all know me. I'm Len Stubbs, head of marketing here at Poppleton Pork Products and on my right here is my deputy, Geoff Dunkin. And our guest today is Dr Quintock from up the road at the University of Poppleton who's come to make a presentation about the two-year research project that he completed for us last Friday.

As I'm the only one who was with PPP when the project first started back in 1997, I'd better explain that we asked Dr Quintock and his ever-changing team of researchers if they could tell us what effect the new fashion for vegetarianism would have upon the sales of our products - in particular our best-selling "Full 'O Meat Traditional Pork Sausage" range.

Now, you might have thought that this was a pretty straightforward question but apparently it raised what Doctor Quintock calls "a number of key conceptual issues".

For a start, there's the problem of vegetarianism. If you look at chapters two, three and four of the report, you'll see that there are six types ranging from "Context Free Vegetarians", who won't touch meat of any kind with a bargepole, to "Situational Vegetarians", who will eat some meat products when the fancy takes them - what you might call the bacon sandwich brigade. Is that right, Dr Quintock?

Yes, indeed, Mr Stubbs. But, with respect, I do detect a certain reluctance in your remarks to accept the importance of such conceptual distinctions.

What we are doing in those three chapters is replacing the essentialist notions of "the vegetarian" with a subtle analysis of the multiple ways in which human subjects "do" vegetarianism.

Fair enough. But, to my mind, it still doesn't resolve another big question I've got about your report. I mean, there might be some key conceptual questions about vegetarianism, but - and let me be frank about this...


Why does it then take you another three chapters to define a bloody sausage?


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