Skyrim: The Bad Vegetarian

For the record, this character is not mine. I threatened no monkey-bear-things, I assure you.

Last week, I played three hours of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, at my leisure and free to go and do whatever I could. I’ve written a lot of Skyrim previews over the last year, however, so for this one I’m going to present it as a series of anecdotes across the day. Here’s the first.

(Disclaimer: I played this on an Xbox 360, as PC code was not available on the day and I am fearful will not be so before the game’s release. So, only chance and all that. Damned shame, but there you go.)

I was barely out of character creation (I was playing a female Khajiit, partially because I find the see in the dark racial ability incredibly useful but mostly because I own a female cat) when I saw him. Well, I heard his dog first and thought ‘oh, a dog! How cute!’ Then I saw the dog’s owner, a poacher. I saw his bow raised aloft. I saw the hand released. I saw the arrow fly. I saw the arrow thwack into the side of an already-fleeing fox. And I saw myself, before I entirely knew what I was doing, plunge a knife into Poacher’s back.

Why did I do that, I asked myself, already knowing the answer. I did it because I am a lily-livered, animal rights-supporting vegetarian, and my first experience of this wonderful world being someone being a bit of a dick to an animal was rather distressing. On the other hand, I was impressed that the game featured NPC poachers and animals who were frightened of NPC poachers. Still, this was going to be my world, and I wasn’t go to stand for that kind of thing. It was in my power to make it a better place, and so I would. Take that, poacher. No more poaching for you, poacher. Yes, I was aware of the irony of being a murderer in order to prevent murder. But this appeared to be the only way I could stop him. So, I felt bad about my dark deed, but good that the world was down one rotter.

Worse irony was to come. As I rummaged through the poacher’s pockets, there was a jolt, and the telltale redness of vision that meant I was being attacked. What by? I could have sworn the coast was clear.

Oh, of course. The poacher’s dog. The poacher’s faithful, loving, loyal dog. And, apparently, avenger.

I tried to get away, really I did. But it followed. I even climbed halfway up a mountain and it somehow scrambled after me. I sighed. I unleashed a stream of flame from my hand. The beast whimpered and fell, its body sliding and bouncing off several rocks before finally coming to a standstill. I felt incredibly bad. This was my first mark on the world: to murder a man for doing his job, then roast his pet dog afterwards. I looked around. No witnesses, at least. So I looted the dog and took its hide – that’d come in useful later.

I didn’t bother any more poachers after that. Although I did steal one’s horse while she was busy hunting a rabbit. She didn’t see me so no bounty was placed on my head, but the horse did run away from me as soon as I got off it. Sigh. Skyrim will let me be a lot of things, but not a vegetarian vigilante.


  1. Berzee says:

    Bwa, ha, haha.

    I don’t think Khajiit are vegetarians.

    • Kdansky says:

      And certainly not cats. So Alec is a vegetarian, yet has a pet that only eats meat, and murders humans to protect animals? I do love me some thick and juicy irony!

    • Alec Meer says:

      My stance is completely justifiable, you’re just too STUPID to understand it.


    • Berzee says:

      I can respect that.

    • Wulf says:

      As bizarre as this is to say, you’d be amazed at how many bestial races end up as omnivores, despite their original lore. I can think of so many examples of this, so many. I think even the charr are omnivorous, I’m sure that’s mentioned in the lore, somewhere, and that there are certain veggies that they love. This amuses me greatly.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Bethesda had worked it into the lore somewhere that Khajiit are omnivorous too, and thus they can survive on any sort of diet they choose. I know this is taking a joke entirely too literally, but that’s because it’s funnier that way, because the truth of things often is funnier.

      Really, you should look into this a bit more. It’s great.

      Anther example of this is Bethesda’s werewolves. Also omnivores! No, really. I’m not kidding about this. It’s mentioned in a book in Daggerfall. In fact, Bethesda’s werewolves supposedly even prefer fruit to meat (I swear I’m not making this up), and the only reason they attack humans is an insane desire they have to reproduce (not making this up). If I knew how to find it, I’ll pull the book text up from a wiki, somewhere.

      Oh! Star Trek’s caitians? Also omnivores. And most of them prefer a vegetarian diet! It was covered in a Star Trek PnP RPG module. (Again, not kidding.)

      But yeah, bipedal and deadly looking carnivores being omnivorous and even preferring vegetarian diets is not at all uncommon. To the contrary, it’s actually quite the regular thing.

    • Zenicetus says:

      If the Khajiit are omnivorous they’ll probably be throwing up a lot, like my cat after chewing on the house plants. That would be hilarious in the game. You could feed yourself from plant life, at the cost of frequent barfing. Maybe use it as an attack mode in combat…

    • simonh says:

      If a Khajiit is a half-cat half-human, couldn’t they have inherited their intestines from humans rather than cats? They can talk, stand on two feet and have only one pair of mammaries, why couldn’t they eat veggies?

    • db1331 says:

      What if the poacher’s dog had a litter of puppies at home, and the poacher was merely trying to catch something to bring back and feed to them? Now those puppies are going to slowly die of starvation, wondering why their mother abandoned them.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      My cat eats green beans, lettuce (with dressing on it) and mashed potatoes. Not often of course, but enough that I would classify her as omnivore. Also dry cat food has a lot of stuff in it that isn’t protein.

    • henben says:

      In the real world, wolves eat fruit and berries.

    • FRIENDLYUNIT says:

      Dont they have a habit of calling people “prey”? (At least in Morrowind)

    • Wulf says:

      Yay, that yielded fun results.

      Yes. Wolves do actually eat fruit and berries. The funny part about Daggerfall though is that the book claimed that they favour fruit so much that they eat it almost exclusively. It even goes so far as to talk of dissecting werewolves, and none of them had any meat in their stomachs, only fruit. Further examination of them revealed that they don’t hunt to eat, only to reproduce.

      I just find the whole thing mildly ridiculous and very funny, but I appreciate that sort of ridiculousness, because it is actually founded upon reality, it’s just taken to silly extremes.

      As for the werewolves referring to people as prey. Yeah. That’s either a contradiction or it’s like the charr calling humans “meat,” which is to say that it’s mind games. And they may view pre-conversion game as prey. Those wolves might just be getting kinky. Their reproduction methods are alien to us, after all. Who knows?

      But yeah. Funny topic is funny. And like I said, I’m amused at how often it comes up. Usually you’d expect something that looks like a carnivore to be a meat eater. But no, they’re frequently omnivores, and almost as frequently vegetarians. As a closing thought, the Iskai from Albion are also omnivores, and there’s at least one example of a vegetarian group there, too.

      I find it as interesting as I do funny.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      There’s a bit of an argument there that things that have fairly advanced civilizations are going to be necessarily omnivorous. After all, humanity really started its ascent to the civilization it is now with the advent of agriculture.

      Of course you could just say that you’d develop animal domestication and get the same result, but I wonder if that’s the same sort of intuitive leap. Animals wander around, plants don’t. The idea of growing plants in a particular place so you don’t have to wander to look for them seems like a slightly smaller jump than the idea of capturing animals so that you can breed several and have a replenishing meat supply without having to go hunt for them. I wonder if you make that step without first having the plant example to go on.

      Of course, probably any ingenious species is going to make it to permanent settlements and advanced civilization eventually, but possibly it will take longer for carnivorous ones? Who knows.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      Feeding your cat lettuce & salad dressing with mashed potatoes is making his stomach very upset and providing him next to no nutrition, I can move polystyrene from one end of me to the other, I’d hardly call it food.

      Gardening changed us from nomadic to settlers, and freed up a lot of time, which we used to mine and develop technology, although if those metals were easier to reach, i reckon, we’d probably have discovered their properties regardless.

    • Jackablade says:

      “…Khajiit … only one pair of mammaries…”
      That’s another unfortunate aspect of your typical beastie man race. I mean if the option is there to give your females 8 boobs, surely you’re compelled, nay obligated to do so.

    • gwathdring says:

      @ hidden_ 7 Current theory seems to suggest that the vast majority of even the diets of our paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors came from the gathering part. Evidence both of current nomadic tribes and of fossilized campsites and preserved remains from ancient peoples consistently suggest that while meat and hunting may have been an important part of life and culture, plant matter made up almost all of the imbibed calories. Humans being omnivorous, in other words, is not really correlated to our ascent in the world seeing as we haven’t been primarily eating meat really at any point in our history. Agriculture boosting us up was more likely about food surpluses than vegetable matter.

      I agree that the domestication of plants is much simpler and more likely to yield results than domestication of animals. Why feed the animals good quality wheat when you could eat the wheat yourself? The amount of biomass that goes into the same amount of a nutrient in an animal and a plant is ridiculous. And thank goodness the myth of meat as a superior protein source is on it’s way out. I’m not a vegetarian, but I certainly don’t eat meat because it’s a superior food source. There are certain vitamins that seem a little bit easier to get from meat, and meat tends to be a fantastic source of iron. So I guess there’s that. It’s also delicious. :)

      Mostly, it just takes a lot of energy. Ignore raising it, how about catching it? So much time and effort for so few calories. On the one hand hunter-gatherer societies (and modern nomadic groups) have a lot more free time than agricultural groups, but on the other hand agriculture creates so much more food and so many more calories for the same amount of time and physical labor that the end result is fewer of us need to be working to get food. And thus were video games born! :)

    • fugo says:


      they originally had 8 mammaries, but the jiggle physics was causing too much slow down

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      In what way is meat, in general having more & better suited protein than vegetables a myth?

  2. cqdemal says:

    This sort of thing only makes my desire to play this increase exponentially. Curse you, Alec! Cur–HHHHHHNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG

  3. frenz0rz says:

    But the question is – now that they’ve added cooking – can you make dog burgers?

  4. RickyButler says:

    Murderer. You make me sick.

    • bear912 says:

      Undercooked dog makes me sick.

    • sneetch says:

      Also, you’re supposed to skin and clean them out before you cook them. I’m not eating that!

  5. WhataShame says:

    Been reading The Punisher half an hour ago. Damn if what you written about Skyrim didn’t sound like something right out of that comic.

    All the more reason to play the game I guess.

    • theblazeuk says:

      Definitely sounds like one of the ill-fated copycats from Welcome Back, Frank.

      I wonder if there are thieves, murderers and the like in SkyRim. Be cool to be a Punisher style character

  6. Drake Sigar says:

    You could have invited him to sit down for a cuppa’ and discussed the matter in a civilized manner whilst consuming vast quantities of Jammy Dodgers. Instead you adopted assault pattern PETA. For shame.

  7. Coins says:

    Awesome, it looks like robes over armour are back, judging from that first screenshot.

  8. Eddy9000 says:

    So you killed a hunter for trying to feed himself. He probably had a starving wife and child back at his hut saying “mummy, when will father be home from hunting? The lack of vitamin B and long strand protiens in my diet is making me incredibly weak, I don’t think I’ll survive the night without a nice fox steak”. I hope when your character is munching on a defenseless cucumber a wood-elf stabs you up for violating the green-pact. You heartless cabbage murderer.

    • Berzee says:

      If I ever become a desperate poacher, I hope the name over my head reads “Desperate Poacher” instead of just “Poacher”. Being called just “Poacher” makes you look pretty comfortable with the thief-butcher lifestyle.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Absolutely, and if I ever run into any veggies who are likely to try and kill me because of the bacon sandwich that I had for breakfast, I hope they are labeled as ‘militant veggies’ so I can put an arrow through them before they get any ideas. (unless archery is american-beer weak like the last game, in which case I’ll hit them with an axe)

    • bear912 says:

      Ye made me laugh.

    • wssw4000 says:

      Poaching in the middle ages is not the same as poaching in modern times. Today people poach for the money, and it’s illegal because of the risk of the animals dying out. In the middle ages people poached in order to get some food, and it was illegal because the nobility considered the forests and the game within, their property and were not willing to share with the common folk.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, but he was never going to eat that fox, was he? If it had been a rabbit I would have been more understanding. Maybe.

    • Jumwa says:

      Oh, so now not only does the poacher get killed for trying to feed his starving family, but the ivory tower Alec Meer will also scorn his corpse for his desperation-driven food choice? How incredibly low.

      How high brow! “You, starving PEASANT, should’ve chosen rabbit! Not fox, you silly cur. In your plebeian desperation you didn’t even take the time to pick a more tasty animal, how pathetic!”

    • Berzee says:

      Should have chosen dragon.

      It’s not like we’re going to run out of those, eh? eh?

    • Owain_Glyndwr says:

      I hope the rest of the game is so good as to inspire debates on the ethics of fox poaching.

    • Zedek says:

      It’s quite presumptuous of you to say he wasn’t going to eat the fox. On the other hand, even if he wasn’t going to eat it, the money he would have received for its fine pelt would have been used to purchase food. So… good job murdering a man and causing his family to starve to death.

    • xGryfter says:

      You ever stop to think that maybe this “Poacher” was just a forest ranger thinning out the overly crowded Fox population in order to keep the regions ecosystem balanced?

      Now, because of you the large amount of Fox in the area will completely kill off the local Rabbit population in turn allowing dangerous flesh eating plants to overgrow the region killing off all the large game in the area. You see, the rabbits ate the flesh eating sprouts before they could mature keeping the population of the dangerous plant to a bare minimum. Meanwhile the peasants hunt the Fox to extinction due to the lack of any other edible game and the fact that hunting in the forests had become way too dangerous. The native fruits, nuts and berries are being strangled by the much larger and virulent flesh eaters whose waist is poisoning the soil for miles around making the land unfit for local crops. After only one summer the surrounding villages depleted their food stores leaving them nothing for the following winter. With most of the human population dead or to weak to work, the larger Cities no longer had the ample supplies of grains and meats they depended on causing mass riots and in turn the collapse of their local economy.

      As this chain reaction of famine, poverty, violence and death spread throughout the land the Kingdom eventually fell, weakening the neighboring cities of the bordering Kingdoms and leaving no one left capable of stopping the ascension of “The Evil Cult of the Dragon Wizards”. With the Dragon Wizards in complete control they used their potent magic to shape the surrounding lands to suit their needs all while building themselves a massive evil army (also magic) bent on world domination. With the “Meer Blight” now spread to all the neighboring kingdoms “The Evil Cult of the Dragon Wizards” encountered very little resistance as they conquered the rest of the continent.

      In other words; “Good job you tree hugging asshole, you just singlehandedly caused the death of millions of people, the extinction of thousands of innocent species and the end of the world as we know it!”
      Thankfully I’m ever the optimist and am able to see the silver lining in this horrible and tragic event. We now have a plot base for The Elder Scrolls 6!

      So, I guess what I really came here to say is “Thanks Alec, for making the next Elder Scrolls game possible”.

  9. Dasos says:

    I too am a lily-livered, animal rights-supporting vegetarian! I am determined to be a better one than you when comes the time of Skyrim.
    I doubt it will last long.

  10. endintears says:

    That made me chuckle. Thanks for brightening up my day!

  11. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. says:

    That is brilliant. The thing I like is when I start the game I will probably not see any poachers and have a different experience (or that is what I hope)

  12. Magnetude says:

    You killed Mummy!

  13. mod the world says:

    Any news of a nude patch for Skyrim yet?

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      That’s actually going to be DLC this time ’round. In fact, the horses all come with armor right out of the box and you have to buy the nude patch to get it off of them.

    • noom says:

      Nude horse DLC is clearly where it’s at.

  14. Maldomel says:

    So in the end, you murder the poacher, his dog, loot him and take the skin of his dog.
    Sounds pretty badass to me, you ‘re clearly not one to mess with. And all that for a fox!

  15. magnetic says:

    I preordered the shit out of this game

  16. Stevostin says:

    You can have a bounty on your head if you’re seen doing a robbery ?

    Holy crap that’s nice.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, good spot on picking up on that. Bounties (including for murder) rely on witnesses – so if you can safely kill at the witnesses without being seen, you get away with it. Got an interview to transcribe which goes more into that.

  17. arienette says:

    Hypocrite! Cats are obligate carnivores, without meat they die. Though I’ve no idea if this is represent in Khajit game mechanics.

  18. AlexTaldren says:

    Sounds like the game is coming along nicely. Can’t wait!

    Oh, and hunting =/= poaching.

    • iniudan says:

      Actually poaching and hunting are pretty much the same thing, poaching is just illegal hunting.

    • Shadram says:

      Unless you’re poaching eggs.

  19. Mordsung says:

    Upon the release of Skyrim, I will be making an Orc.

    This Orc will be named Ghorhakk Fleshgrinder.

    This Orc will eat any edible object found on anything he kills. He will eat it immediately regardless of the consequences.

    I did the same thing in Oblivion, and I have still never laughed so hard as when I exploded out of the forest, murdered a unicorn and ate it’s horn without breaking stride.

  20. Sardukar says:

    All would have been fine if you’d only eaten the hunter. Then it’s survival! You could have split the meal with his pet – dogs are easy converts if meat is in the deal.

    I also love that you felt guilty about killing the animal but not the sapient. Vegetarian Vikings are SO quirky!

    • skinlo says:

      We live in a post materialist world.

    • Saldek says:

      Poachers usually don’t trigger that “Oh, but it’s so cuuute!” response, hence no reason fuel for guilt.
      Btw, I wonder whether the (optionally burning) dogs bounce down the mountainsides quite as hilariously as they used to in Oblivion? Would tears of laughter make you feel even more guilty?

  21. mwoody says:

    How do you know he was a poacher, out of curiosity? Was that just what the game called it? Since poaching refers to illegal hunting, he’d have to be in an area where fox hunting was specifically prohibited to be a poacher.

    • Unaco says:

      I’m assuming when he aimed at/looked at him, under the health bar it gave the name, ‘Poacher’.

  22. Very Real Talker says:

    vegetarians are assholes, everybody knows that already

  23. Moonracer says:

    Making a Kajit char based on my pet cat is definitely my new first char now! Too bad there will likely be no girth slider, because “Button” is one fat, lazy cat.

  24. Unclepauly says:

    Who else got extremely hungry after reading this?

  25. Kefren says:

    Brill. I played Fisher Diver as a non-hunter yesterday – link to
    It was loads of fun and quite tense. I got to the end of the game and then got killed by the final enemy (I presume).

    I think that this is a good example of playing a game the way YOU want, not the way the developers try to make you play it. The former is interesting and leads to new situations. The latter is irritating. I remember in Crysis I was alone with some arse-hole commander that was going to use nuclear weapons (despite it being obviously a BAD MISTAKE). I kept hitting him with my weapon and trying to shoot him. He just ignored the explosions and constant battering. It would have been so much better in terms of the story if I had killed him, snuck out invisibly, and let the evidence go down with the ship. My sense of immersion had been weak anyway, but that was the last straw. (No, the disappointing open and abrupt ending was that, so it must have been the penultimate straw.)