This question First story to feature the trope "the nice self-sufficient society that welcomed us are actually cannibals"? jogged my memory about a sci-fi short story that I read maybe fifteen years ago.

Two diplomats visit a planet to meet the high officials, a long lost earth colony; they are served a big steak dinner and all is 'laughy clappy' and good fun.

They are strolling back to their ship through fields, etc., and the junior remarks on the large number of farm labourers toiling in the distance. Are they the underclass mentioned at the meeting?

The older one comments on the planet's lack of any animals to function as horsepower, etc. He casually urges his co-worker to hasten until they're in the ship and blasted off.

The junior asks the problem, and the senior reminds him of the thick tender steak they'd eaten on a world with zero livestock

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like Disqualified, a short story by Charles Fontenay, first published in If in 1954.

The story concerns two inspectors visiting a colonised world, who have to decide whether to give them technical assistance. As in the question, the world lacks any draught animals or livestock, and so all work is done by human power. The less experienced inspector, Peo, was concerned about whether there was slavery:

Tardo had seemed most intent on the question of slavery, and Peo looked for signs of it. He could see none. The people of the planet had had time to conceal some things, of course. But the people they saw in the village wore a proud air of independence no slave could assume.

The more experienced man realised that the planet hid a dark secret, and that beside the happy "freemen" they saw, there must be other humans, little better than animals:

If you remember your history, colonizing ships 1000 years ago had no space to carry animals along. They had to depend on native animal life of the planet, and this planet had none."

"Saranta said that. But I don't see ..."

"Those were delicious steaks, weren't they?" remarked Tardo quietly.

The full story is available at Project Gutenberg.

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