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I recall reading the story in a book that was part of a larger award anthology. The plot revolved around a small team of scientists (3-5) exploring planets searching for those potentially suitable for human life. I don't recall any details of the scientists themselves except that one is a vegan.

They discover a small planet that's well suited for human life and remarkably already has life in the form of 3 species. Some moss/grass-like plant, a bee-like pollinator, and a grazing herd animal. This surprises the team because they expected more diversity like a predator to hunt the defenseless herd organism. They also conclude that the animals are edible but the team avoids eating them out of an abundance of caution opting instead to feed the meat to their lab animals.

The team settles onto the planet and things are going well until the herd species starts a stampede trampling all of their equipment and supplies. This again unnerves the team because without natural predators it's unclear what provoked the stampede. Without food, the team decides to start consuming the animals except for the vegan character who still has a small amount of vegan food left.

Spoilers for the end:

It's ultimately revealed that the entire biome is comprised of a single-celled hive-like organism mimicking multicellular plant and animal life. The lab animals fed this life are already transforming into the aforementioned herd organism. The novel ends with the vegan scientist escaping to warn future explorers and the remaining team presumably succumbing and transforming into the hive.

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    I think this is a story by Sheckley; I read it in a comic adaptation by Bonvi and Cavazzano ( shop.sergiobonelli.it/scheda/8966/Maledetta-Galassia-.html ). If I recall correctly, however, the last scientist sends a warning message and then, knowing he's contaminated as well and will soon succumb, helps himself to a last "real" meal.
    – LSerni
    Jun 13, 2022 at 7:09
  • @Shmuel Newmark Some people might wonder whether your vegan scientist was a dietary vegan or a Vegan from Vega. Was he described with the word "vegan" in the story? When was "vegan" first used and became popular? Jun 13, 2022 at 14:26
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    @Shmuel Newmark Some time ago I mentioned The Vegan Tyranny and someone tought, or pretended to think, that I ment the vegan tyranny. Jun 13, 2022 at 14:39
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    I remember a similar story. Did one of the characters chew on a "grass" stem early on, and so starts transforming prior to the others? And the narrator has some sort of intestinal or stomach issue (maybe that is why he is vegan?) and he wonders if after the transformation, maybe the grass tastes as good as steak? Jun 13, 2022 at 18:53
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    @MichaelRichardson That's correct on all counts. Just reread the story. It's what ClaraDiazSanchez linked. Jun 13, 2022 at 19:08

1 Answer 1

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This is surely Drop Dead, a short story by Clifford Simak, first published in Galaxy in July 1956.

It indeed deals with a team of scientists surveying a new world, and being surprised by its lack of diversity. There are endless seas of grass, but no other plants, one bee-like pollinator, and herds of animals they call "critters". The protagonist eats a vegan diet, made up from a formula in a diet kit, because of his stomach ulcers.

As recalled in the question, there is a stampede of the critters one day which destroys their food supplies, so the crew resort to eating critters. This results in them being absorbed by the planet's biosphere, except for the main character. It is revealed however, that he has always hated his special diet, and longed to eat food like the others. So he voluntarily succumbs to the process - the last line of the story is the character walking back into camp and asking "What's for supper?".

The story is available at the Luminist archive.

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  • Was there no hope of escape or survival, or did the protagonist just hate the powdered food that much?
    – Adamant
    Jun 13, 2022 at 15:50
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    @Adamant He had low concentrations of the planet's bacteria in his body - much lower than the others because he hadn't been eating the critters, but it was nonetheless present so he would have probably succumbed eventually. But he had been on his powdered diet for 10 years, and was so sick of it that he was prepared to die. Jun 13, 2022 at 17:50
  • That's definitely it. Aside from the difference in ending it's exactly how I remember it. Thanks! Jun 13, 2022 at 19:05

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