|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
is a great thing for everybody to have had a vegetarian dinner, at least
once in their lives, for then when people ask in the hereafter, "Whatever
should we eat if we didn't eat meat," those who have once so dined
can tell them that they have themselves dined without a morsel of flesh
forming part of the feast. and that they have risen at the end with
the happy consciousness that for them - on that occasion, at any rate
- no lamb has bleated in sorrow and pain; no meek-eyed cow has been
driven footsore and panting to her place of doom; no bird has fallen
with broken limb or blood-dabbled plumage to lie weltering till death
has relieved it from its pain.
It is to me one of the happiest of my daily consolations that none of the higher forms of sentient creation have yielded up in agony and anguish their lives that I may make a merry holiday, or enjoy a daily feast upon their carcasses.
Every movement that is going to live has to pass through
three stages: The first stage is that of Ignorance and Indifference.
The second stage is that of Ridicule. Smart paragraph writers and funny-papers
find material out of the movement, and orators make merry in the display
of their own ignorance of the subject, and the people laugh and call
the reformers faddists. The last stage is one of Recognition, when the
movement becomes fashionable and enthuses people, or when the world
calmly pats it on the back and says : "We knew it all along.''
Now Vegetarianism is rapidly passing through those stages,
and I would sum up in two sentences the great change that has taken
place under my own observations. When I began to vegetare, I had to
explain to everybody what it meant, and I had to apologize for being
a Vegetarian. Now everyone knows what Vegetarianism is, and nearly all
humane and intelligent persons rather apologize that they are not
Vegetarians - either it is the wife (a very convenient object on
which to lay blame), or the husband (a still more convenient beast of
burden), or society, or the cook, or something; but generally the feeling
of the necessity for an apology is present today. Well may we recognize
what a vast stride this proves to have taken place!
I remember well as an undergraduate at Oxford listening
to that great physiologist - the late W. B. Carpenter - lecturing in
the Sheldonian Theatre and saying that when he first spoke at a Temperance
meeting his professional brethren sneered at him and suggested, like
the suggestion to Paul of old, that he was beside himself. A similar
accusation has sometimes been levelled against the apologists of Vegetarianism
today, but, in spite of ridicule, we have now many representatives of
that new school, that rising generation of scientists, who intend fearlessly
and patiently to go over the old positions and see whether they are
sound, and, if not, to deliberately and carefully test the new and go
on to build up a fairer temple of Hygiene and of Æsculapius than
ever the ancient schools have known.
A time is coming when sanctified science shall work
Let me state very briefly one or two of the many grounds
which lead me to believe that a great - perhaps the greatest - living
physiologist, Virchow, was right when he said, "The future is with
Harmony in Nature.
I would assert in the first place my firm conviction that
the laws of the Universe are harmonious and not discordant. and that
Physical Science and Ethics are but branches of a complete whole, and
that Instinct and Conscience are criteria which
I should therefore expect to find, if flesh eating were right, that children would, by instinct, be led to devour their prey. That, just as the squeak of a mouse or the twitter of a bird sets the kitten's heart beating faster and causes its tail to thicken in eager anticipation of gustatory pleasures to come, so should I expect the bleat of the lamb or the lowing of a cow to set the salivary glands of a child in activity as it anticipated a coming meal from their carcasses. Just as the smell of a goat sends the hungry lion's whelp into a fever of delight, so should I expect the odorous smell of the pigsty to allure a crowd of starving children to feast upon the attractive emanations. But this is not so!
If, on the other hand, Vegetarianism be right, I should expect that a child would not attempt to devour a tame rabbit given to it to play with, but would delight in the ripe apple and enjoy the aroma of a juicy orange. and my expectations in this direction are not in vain ; the orchard and the jampot are the objects of juvenile depredation, and not the meat-safe and the sheepfold!
Further, what I found taught by Instinct I should expect to find upheld by the laws of Physiological Science, and herein again I do not seek in vain. In the arrangement of his brain centres, in his dentition, in his salivary and digestive fluids and mechanism, in his organs of prehension and mastication, and especially in the province of embryology, man is so conformed that biologists have not hesitated to place him at the head of the order of frugivorous Primates, and not among the carnivorae or so-called omnivorae.
What Instinct suggests and Physiological Science approves, I should also expect to get confirmed by Ethics. If flesh-eating were right, I should expect to find the principle of killing approved and recognized as one of the characteristics of the highest human ideal - because all that is permanent and is typified in the perfect ideal - but it is not so. Children are taught not to kill, and are told that slaughtering is only done by "those wicked butchers." If, on the other hand, Vegetarianism be right, then should we expect to find that killing and slaughtering would be associated with brutality, and would be recognized as being not in harmony with man's best hopes and highest aspirations towards that perfect gentlemanliness which approaches the Divine.
I should expect to find that nature is redder in tooth and bloodier in claw the lower I go down in the evolutionary scale but that co-operative help. and sympathetic relief of suffering will be the characteristics of the higher types of life - and it is so.
If man looks downwards and backwards, therefore, it is towards slaughter and bloodshed, where every isolated unit fights for its own life and cares naught for others ; if man looks upwards and forwards it is towards peace and amity ; when. as the prophetic vision hath seen, the sword shall be turned into the ploughshare, and when he that killeth an ox shall be as he that slayeth a man.
Such is the broad basic foundation on which Vegetarianism is built, and being so. I know that its future is assured, because creation as a whole is ever progressing up its spiral pathway. Even the carnivorae themselves, therefore, will either adapt themselves to the conditions necessary for the perpetuation of their species - as the cat and dog are doing - or they will gradually become extinct, i.e., to quote the prophetic vision again the lion will eat straw like the ox, or the race of lions will die out entirely.
I need not enter into the great question of the diseased
state of the flesh supplied to our meat markets, except to point out
that the whole tissue of fat beasts, as now supplied, is degraded
tissue. Born of immature animals, rapidly fattened on stimulating foods,
and deprived of exercise, the attempt is not to produce healthy beasts,
but fat beasts, and so today the people are buying stuff which
is wanting in the elements of sound nutrition. Even apart from all the
plagues and pests, and diseases. with which animals bred for the market
are afflicted, we have that general and terrible deterioration of tissue
which causes the flesh-food, as usually sold, to be unwholesome, and
productive of deteriorated tissue in the humans who feed upon it.
There was a quarrel this year (1894) at the Agricultural Hall. The butchers boycotted the Exhibition, and the exhibitors had to give in. Why? Because the beasts must be sold, or they will die. One of the leading exhibitors interviewed was asked, "But why can't you take the beasts back again, if the butchers won't buy them? It would not cost much." And he replied, "It is not the cost of carriage, but the fact that after a beast has been fattened, like these are, it is no good to anyone, except to kill at once." As it has been quaintly put - these fat beasts are killed to save their lives.
Effect on Races
The effect of any course of diet is best considered on
races rather than on individuals, as very large numbers are necessary
to obtain any accurate data from. But when all other things are equal,
practically vegetarian races outdo large meat-eating races. Scotchmen
who inherit a treasury of stamina from a vegetarian ancestry, in a climate
more rigorous than ours, are being found to the fore the world over.
The Japanese when once touched with the divine fire of progress have
changed in barely twenty years from vegetarian "savages" into
a race quite in the van of civilization. Side by side with this progress,
the gradual degradation and utter savagery of the flesh-eating Red Indians
is a lesson which has a moral of the greatest import.
It is necessary for us all to be touched with that divine discontent which makes us ever to be moving on from the past the barbarous, cruel past - to a happier, healthier, and humaner future. and herein we must not forget, as Lowell has said, that:
- One of the onward, upward steps is VEGETARIANISM.
(Indian Review 1905)