Too many times, I’ve been innocently reading a fantasy novel when I was struck violently across the face with a modern sensibility. Education being necessary and available to all classes, regular bathing, equality as it is currently, and attitudes towards animals.
This particular one is that of a character being saddened or horrified by an animal killing in order to eat. It’s usually a main character, and very often a girl. I do recognise that it’s a tactic to make the character look empathetic or kind. That doesn’t mean it isn’t stupidly out of place.
A lot of fantasy takes place in a low tech environment. There are rarely aqueducts or indoor plumbing, and sometimes, education is realistically limited. People are much closer to the source of their goods.
Commonly, people in a modern setting are distracted by multiple trivialities and are separated from the idea of where their food comes from. It comes from wherever they bought it. That’s the farthest back they have to go.
That’s why, like many other things, most of us have come to develop a sensitivity towards death of animals. We don’t have to think about what beef looked like with legs. There’s also the prevalence of anthropomorphised animals in cartoons, movies, books, and comics. I have known people who became vegetarians because of Disney.
This sensitivity has absolutely no reason to exist in a low tech fantasy setting.
Certainly not in anything like this scale. There, people know their food lived once. Being squeamish would be stupid, unless the squick factor were solely related to uneasiness around blood and guts. Even entitled people must have some understanding, and being icked out would be, as I said, more due to the viscera involved. Not the idea of killing something cute.
I suppose I can understand this when it’s only one person, and that person is roundly disagreed with. But whenever I see even that, it’s like reading Thumbelina. “Our hero is made fun of for thinking this way, but we all know his stance is good and kind and Right, so he suffers nobly.” There is no objectivity, because the character is a flagship for animal rights–or, perhaps worse, is just coasting through a meaningless scene that’s meant to establish him as gentle.
Pardon my Estonian, but I call bullshit.
Just as you cannot judge a culture by the standards of another, you cannot tout about modern sensibilities as “correct” in a society that has no reason to have fostered them. It’s like watching a series about King Arthur that has peasants writing letters with five quid words. Jarring and dumb.
There has to be an internal reason why the hero is ‘right’ about it being sad for a mouse to be eaten by an owl. Preying on readers who grew up reading Redwall and watching The Secret of Nimh is just cheating, and not creating a real depth in the world or the character.
“Write what you know” does not mean “Write your opinions as fact in a world with no basis or support for them”. You “know” basic logic. Write with that in mind.