Hunting for Berries

Hunting for Berries

Hunting for Berries

Hunting for Berries

This story is part of a series:

Hunting for Giraffes

Hunting for Berries

The Actual Nomadic Band, Vegan Cavemen


It was late autumn – a little over a year before I got mixed up in all this, actually – the perfect time for a science-y documentary with high-production value to do well in theaters, especially in the States.

French archeologist, Jaques Perduex, alongside reknowned American documentary filmmaker, Jack Perdo, were making headlines for their latest discovery. Rave reviews came from nearly every major publisher praising the film.

“A groundbreaking piece of art and science that is sure to inspire everyone who sees the film,” one review said.

“Who are we and where did we come from? For me, this move answers those questions,” said another.

About two years earlier, Perduex made his initial discovery, which became the subject matter of Perdo’s documentary that they’d come to call, “The Nomadic Band of Vegan Cavemen.”

Vegan Cavemen opens with a captivating long shot of rolling hills covered in lush green grass somewhere in the English countryside. The sky is a calming grey and a light mist forms crystal clear droplets on the green blades of grass.

Oh, sorry. If you’ve seen the movie, skip on ahead.

Anyways, the camera starts off slow then gains speed as it follows the grade in the hillside and comes to an abrupt stop at the foot of an old apple tree in the center of one valleys. There’s a single red apple on the tree. It has a magnetic shine from the misty rain. The camera focuses on the apple. The grass and the sky blur together – along with the apple tree’s old, twisted trunk and dark green leaves.

The camera hangs still on the apple as the intro credits begin to enter the screen as if they were dewdrops on the camera’s lens. The music is a gentle piano and violin duo that gives motion to the mist and makes the effects of the introductory credits seamless with the silent rain.

The music stops and so do the credits. The camera hangs there for a little longer. A spear jolts towards the camera. It pierces the apple right through the center and comes to a stop. The apple falls on the ground without even the faintest thud. The soft green grass cushions its fall and the spear stands upright in the damp ground.

“What we’ve come to know about our history – the way in which we’ve made our mark on the Earth, what makes us who we are today, and all of the knowledge that we’ve come to gain – while expansive, is not complete,” Perduex says.

He’s kneeling over a dig site near the same apple tree. Everything in the shot is so crisp and vivid – realer than real.

“What we’ve uncovered is evidence that our ancestors sustained themselves on diets very different than what we’d once imagined. Put aside your knowledge and understandings of the universal hunter-gatherer archetypes we’ve come to study and perpetuate in the past – this is something new.”

The shot jumps to an image of the earth rotating – Perduex’s voice continues. “We are positioned here.”

A blip pops up on the image somewhere in England.

“We have teams position here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. And Here.”

More blips pop up all over the image as Perduex narrates and the Earth completes a rotation and starts to slowly descend back to the original blip.

The shot returns to Perduex kneeling over his dig site.

“We have uncovered evidence here, and at 88% of our other sites around the globe – that early humans – nomadic bands of early humans, sustained themselves on a completely plant-based diet. They did no hunting to speak of. So far, we’ve found no evidence that they even used animals for clothing. They were, in all senses of the modern word, vegans.”

The documentary continues in a compelling fashion with captivating imagery of the dig sites, cave painting, and computer generated charts showing the branches of human evolution and where these new finding fit into the old models. Countless important sounding scientists are interviewed and the whole thing is very well done.

Perduex and his teams discovered these groups of nomadic vegan cavemen all over the world. They lived and traveled in very tight-nit communities. They recorded their lifestyle on the walls of caves, which served as temporary, communal homes.

The cave images depicted everything from types of plants to what could possibly be interpreted as yoga positions. Some images depicted early humans hunting & eating what they killed, followed by images of the same humans being turned away from what could be interpreted as the entrance to a vegan-cavemen-only cave home. Other images seemed to depict the different groups of early humans – those who ate meat and the vegans – engaged in long, circular arguments about whose dietary choices were better.

There was a symbol, which sort of looked like a human holding hands with either a fish or a buffalo that was likely used to identify themselves and their lifestyle choices. The symbol was found everywhere evidence of the nomadic bands of vegan cavemen was found – even in places where it seemed unnecessary or annoying. It was like they had to let everyone know they were vegan cavemen. All the time.

The documentary had a great run in theaters and had a ripple effect on the rest of the world.

Jack Perdo, the filmmaker, went on to direct a big-budget action-drama loosely based on the documentary. Perdo and Perduex appeared on every morning, evening, and late show there was to discuss the findings and the film.

Science and human evolution was getting its time in the limelight – and people were interested. For a while, it seemed like there were only positives coming out of the new discovery.

But, about a year after the documentary’s debut, it was clear that there was some fallout. It was slow at first, but quickly grew out of control.

The modern-day vegan community, once niche in nature and confined to Whole Foods, farmer’s markets, and the West Coast, grew like wildfire in the States.

If you went out to dinner with a group and you happened to still eat meat, you had to awkwardly explain it to the waiter. It would take a long time to explain that you wanted to keep the beef patty and the cheese on the cheeseburger you wanted to order. You got dirty looks from your group, and you were safe to assume that the waiter spat in your burger – you whinny, whinny meat-eater.

Eventually, the entire East and West coasts stopped buying animal products. That in and of itself was okay at first, the unsold stock was simply shipped to the Midwest and sold there. Anyone still eating meat on either coast followed it – some traveling as stowaways in the refrigerator trucks.

And as the meat-eaters left, the vegan community grew in strength and numbers on both coasts. Naturally, it picked up some extremists.

One sect of vegan extremists carried out an operation to free all the cattle on meat and dairy farms. The cattle flooded the freeways and highways and airports and railroad tracks. Travel in and out of either coast was nearly impossible. Interstate commerce and travel was pretty much brought to a standstill.

The first real opposition to the uprising was the paleo-diet group – the ones who only eat what cavemen ate, or at least what the used to think cavemen ate. After the documentary, many of them felt like they’d been living a lie.

“Did cavemen really not eat meat? Should I not eat meat? I mean I’ve got to eat like a cavemen, obviously. But how?”

Some turned to veganism. However, others – very vocally – took opposition to the vegan-movement.

“Real cavemen eat meat! Real cavemen eat meat!” They’d chant as they marched in the streets.

But paleo supporters were too spread out on the coasts, so they made their way through dense cattle herds and abandoned BBQ joints to the Midwest, stopping along the way at Crossfit gyms to search for other paleo hold-outs & survivors to join them. And in the Midwest, the paleo opposition grew.

Outside of the U.S., no one was making nearly as big of a fuss of it all. Sure the documentary was interesting, but okay, we’re not going to go all vegetable-crazy over it. Most found the events taking place in the United States really quite odd. And they were, of course, really quite odd.

But the vegans and paleos in the U.S. didn’t seem to care what the rest of the world was thinking. They were part of two ferocious movements and they were moving.

PETA was quick to hop on board and adopted the ancient symbol of a human holding hands with a fish or a hedgehog or whatever. And just like when the nomadic vegan cavemen wandered the Earth, the symbol started showing up everywhere. It was spray-painted on buildings, on sidewalks, on cattle. People arranged rocks in the shape of the symbol on hills and mountainsides. Small-plane pilots who once flew advertisements for strip clubs, light-beer and 4th of July sales, began flying the vegan-symbol behind their planes.

The obscure, ancient symbol rallied the vegan troops. Support continued to grow and strengthen. The paleos decided it was time to step up their defenses.

Over the next few months, the paleos in the Midwest gathered all the discarded animal bones from meaty meals they’d previously enjoyed. And in a display of sheer-childlike protest, they created a bone-line between themselves and the vegans on either coast as if to say, “Over here we eat meat over theres you eat veggies. You stay on your side, we stay on ours. Humph.” *Arms crossed, brows furrowed, tongues out*

And I guess that’s around the time when I came in.

My name’s Jeffery Richardson. Sure, I’d seen the documentary. I enjoyed it, just like everyone else. It was even filmed not too far from where I grew up. I’d been keeping up with the news of the craziness in the States as well. But I really never imagined I’d become involved. Especially not like I did.

I was 5 months into my new job as a reporter for the music section of a bi-monthly indy-culture magazine in London called Zitz & Chips. I went to gigs, wrote up reviews, profiled new bands, things like that. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Quite frankly, the local music scene was boring me to death.

I took the job because I do like music and I couldn’t stand to continue covering the retirement homes and local pastry chef beat they had me on at the local paper. I kept the job because I didn’t have much of a choice.

If I could be doing something with music and also get to report on crazy stuff like the whole paleos vs. veggies thing going on in the States, I’d be in heaven.

I went to a pub after a gig I was covering one night. It was some indy-punk-disco band that had a banjo and a triangle. I didn’t really get it. I needed a drink or five after listening to them.

“A Lager pint over here when you get a chance, please,” I said and sat down.

The keep slid one my way. A big sip and the awful, vicious assault on music I’d witnessed all but faded away. I was going to forgo my assignment and hope those bastards slipped away in oblivion, never to make a banjo or a triangle do those things again. Sick bastards.

I got out my pad and tried to brainstorm some ideas. I’d have to write something to replace the review on the Dizzy Ding-Ding Feelings.

Before I headed out that evening, Dave Eckles, my boss, said we needed to step it up. We needed something big for our next issue if we were going to last much longer. Really, I couldn’t care less if we lasted much longer.

Going under would probably be a blessing in disguise. But my boss had this rallying ability to him even though you knew he was mostly full of shit. He claimed he was solely responsible for the death of disco. Looking at him for any amount of time was rough on the eyes. He was a big, fat was-once-a-punker who wore old concerts t-shirts and tight jeans and a lot of rings. He farted excessively and catcalled every woman who passed him, even the poor old postwoman. But he was always good for a laugh and he was always enthusiastic about what he was talking about.

“Jeff, I’m counting on ya, baby!” Dave said as I left for that awful gig that night. “Go kill disco! Make it bleed!”

I had no desire to try to re-kill disco and my idea pad remained blank as I ordered another pint. Just as an idea was coming to me – I swear – a familiar face entered the pub.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It wasn’t someone I’d met personally. He must’ve been famous for something.

He sat down next to me. His coat soaked from the storm outside. An American baseball cap drawn low over his eyes. His face was covered in a scruffy beard.

“Excuse me, but I think I might recognize you from somewhere,” I said to the familiar stranger.

“Is that right?” he said. His accent was American, which didn’t really narrow the list for me.

“Were you in a band? I’m a music reporter. Maybe that’s it,” I said.

“Nope. Not my thing,” he said. “Listen man, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m trying to keep a low profile lately.”

“Keep, another pint for my friend here,” I said and another Lager slid down the wooden bar.

The American smiled and took a sip. “Cheers”

“Cheers then,” I said.

I left it at that, but a round later he said. “I’m Jack Perdo. I made the Vegan Cavemen documentary and the Hunting for Berries action-drama.”

“No shit! I knew I recognized you from something,” I said.

“Yup, that’s me. I think you can understand why I’m trying to keep that to myself.”

“Sure, sure. Things have gotten pretty crazy in the States after your film.”

“Death threats, meatballs hurled at me everywhere I turn. The paleos are brutal. Shit man, I still eat meat.”

“That’s the danger in art. That’s why I stick to just writing about it.”

“You’re probably better off for that, trust me. I don’t how this all happened. I mean, how can so many people lose their shit over a fucking documentary. It was good, I know that, but come on. It’s complete anarchy over there.”

“It must have struck a collective nerve of some sort, I guess.”

“I don’t know. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Think about it, when something takes off and everybody gets on board with it – things can get a little crazy. People can get a little crazy. Why it’s only happening in the States, who knows, you guys do a lot of weird diets over there. Maybe it’s a really sensitive subject or something.”

“Who knows, man, who knows,” he said. “I just wish I could relax. I haven’t stopped hearing about the damn documentary since it premiered. It’s been a mix of feedback – a lot of praise, a lot of hate from the paleos, and one really weird and very frequent correspondence with some singer guy.”

“A singer? What’s he got to say about it?”

“He’s pissed about the title – of all things.”

And that’s when Jack Perdo told me about the actual nomadic band, Vegan Cavemen.

To Be Continued… In The Actual Nomadic Band, Vegan Cavemen