International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

3rd International Vegetarian Congress 1893
Chicago, USA

from the Vegetarian Messenger, Manchester, September 1893, pp.327-330:

By William E. A. Axon.
(An address delivered at Lake Coguac, Michigan, June 24, 1893)

When I am asked to speak on the subject of Vegetarianism I can at all events do so with the confidence of a quarter of a century's experience. My own life-work has been that of literature, and if the principles of Vegetarian dietetics had been untrustworthy I must have broken down under the strain of an arduous and hardworking life of intellectual exertion. When Vegetarians win a long distance foot-race, the New York Sun asks if a Vegetarian could write "Hamlet"? There is no reason for a Vegetarian to write "Hamlet," as it is written already but could the Editor of the Sun write anything as good, and if he could not does he know any flesh eater who could? Milton, Shelley and Edward Fitzgerald were poets of Vegetarianism, and the Editor of the Sun might find it difficult to prove that the author of Hamlet was not a Vegetarian. Certainly he used some very disparaging language as to the influence of beef on the intellect.

Speaking from my own experience, I may say that we have Vegetarians in every walk of life, from the scholar devoting his days to study and the elucidation of the past, to the puddler at the furnace. Our dietary suits all classes and conditions of men, whatever their social steatus or physical works may be. But whilst the adaptation and sufficiency of a Vegetarian diet to build up a corporeal structure adequate to the demands made upon it by all reasonable forms of human activity is the foundation of our argument we hold that its advantages do not end there by any means.

A pure unstimulating diet would add to the wealth of the nation. At present some of the population are underfed, and some of the population are overfed. Excess of food brings in its train as many evils as the lack of it; nay more. We are shocked by a case of starvation, but how many tombstones, if they told the truth, would declare that the inmate had perished by the glass or by the plate? The enormous sale of quack remedies and patent medicines show that England and America are alike dyspeptic nations, and the evil, it is to be feared, is on the increase. "Health is the only source of national wealth," and a race of dyspeptics can no more continue to succeed than a cripple can run a race with a steam engine. We can maintain health best by abstinent habits. Hence we say that Vegetarianism has a tendency to increase the health, enjoyment, and wealth of life. So also it has an educational value, and tends to a raising of the standard of living. It is a mistake to measure existence by the standard of food. The money that is liberated from the purchase of the bread that perisheth can be devoted to better homes, to innocent recreation, to education. So we may bring the best influences of fine music, of great art, of high literature into the houses of the people. The poorest classes in England and America have in their homes to-day comforts and conveniences that were unknown in the palaces of the Anglo-Saxon kings. There is practically no limit to the possibilities of this aesthetic development when people decline to do as did guileless but foolish Esau - sell their birth-right for a mess of pottage. So, too, the adoption of this pure diet would help to bridge over the gulf that now yawns frowningly between rich and poor. If the rich, with all their advantages and opportunities, prefer the "pleasures of the sty" to those of plain living and high thinking, how shall we expect that the poor will avoid the same error? If the leaders of them are greedy of costly foods and wines, and seek after the "high" living that brings disease and death in its train, their followers will naturally fall into the same error and measure the value of food by cost not by efficiency. In truth the best foods are for the most part the cheapest. A simplification of life would make it more possible than it is now for a rich man and a poor roan to be friends on terms of mutual equal independence. 'Thus the tendency of vegetarianism is towards a brotherhood not bounded by oceans and not determined by creed, or colour, or class-distinction. The war spirit has a natural opponent in Vegetarianism, and as we oppose all cruelty to criminals, all torture, all needless suffering, all needless death, we are advocates of peace, and of consideration and kindness to all sentient creatures. A merciful man is merciful to his beast, and the man who will not destroy wantonly the bright life of bird or animal is not likely to doom his fellow-man to death or to approve the carnage and horror of the battlefield. Hence Vegetarianism has a tendency towards the preservation of the peace of a world, and brings the light of mercy into those dark Ages of the earth which are the abodes of cruelty.

Thus we claim that Vegetarianism would harmonise many things that are now in undesirable conflict. The "whole creation groaneth together," but how different would be a world from which we bad banished caste, needless slaughter, luxury, starvation, war, ignorance, and disease. Then would the desert blossom as the rose. In the Empire of the Future the Kingdom of Righteousness foreshadowed by Isaiah and other prophets and poets of old, they would neither hurt nor destroy. Vegetarianism, we claim, has a strong tendency to the realisation of this beautiful vision. There is a curious legendary parable of Christ, not recorded in the four Gospels, and with this I may perhaps fittingly conclude:-

When Christ the Lord was living on the earth,
With his disciples listening to His words,
He taught of that which will be, when the world,
Subdued to righteousness, shall dwell in peace;
When dew of heaven and fatness of the earth
Shall fill the people with a wealth of food.
"The days will come on earth," said Christ the Lord,
When vines shall grow with each ten thousand shoots;
Ten thousand branches spring from every shoot;
Ten thousand twigs from every separate branch;
Ten thousand bunches cluster on each twig;
Ten thousand grapes on every cluster grow;
Yet every grape when pressed shall freely yield
Its five and twenty measures full of juice,
And when a saint shall take one in his hand,
Another cluster then shall cry 'Take me,
A richer cluster, bless the Lord thtough me.'
So shall a single grain of wheat bring forth
Ten thousand heads with each ten thousand grains,
And every grain shall have a yeild of flour,
Fine, bright, and clear, a full ten pounds.
In like proportion shall the produce be
Of other fruits, of other seeds, and grass;
The creatures living on these fruits, which are
The produce of the soil, shall in their turn
Become harmonious and peaceable,
To man subject in all obedience."
Now, when the Lord's disciples heard him speak
Of all the wonders that on earth will be,
When love shall reign, and hate and war be dead,
When swords shall cease, nor man, nor beast shall slay,
They marvelled at the Vision Beautiful,
True only for the true believer's heart
Such was not Judas, full of evil thoughts,
Who, unbelieving, said unto the Christ,
"How shall such wonderous growths accomplished be?"
The the Christ answered to the dark-browed man,
"That shall they see who to these days shall come."
What must we learn then from this parable?
We know the sin and sorrow of the past,
We know the dangers of the present day,
But not the glory of the time to come.
Yet each with word and deed can haste the time
When love shall reign and carnage cease to be;
When o'er the world a dove-like peace shall brood;
When man and beast shall live their happy lives
Without a tyrant and without a foe.