VEGETARIANISM AND PEACE
By William E. A. Axon.
(An Address delivered at the Temple Church, Philadelphia, May
It is an appropriate thing that the lovers of peace should seek to
interest the mothers of our race in that holy cause. The "Mother's
Day for Peace" is an annual occasion established in different
parts of the world for some twenty years, through the efforts of Mrs.
E. M. Southey, of London, Julia Ward Howe, of Boston, and the Peace
Societies, that mothers may appeal for disarmament and arbitration
in place of the military system that their sons shall no longer be
food for powder; homes desecrated, taxation increased; and the horrors
of war repeated. They demand a higher civilisation, and a truer religion
of peace and goodwill. I heartily sympathise with this aim. All Europe
maintains an armed truce that any day may flame out into open war.
England is the only country that maintains a standing army without
conscription, a point on which there is much misconception. I have
been asked if it is true that in the district schools of my country
for every scholar between fifteen and nineteen who enlists in the
army the teacher receives a premium of five dollars from the State.
My answer is we have no district schools, our compulsory education
ends at twelve, and no teacher of any educational institution receives
payment for inducing boys to enlist in the army. But the very fact
that we can fill the regiments with volunteers shows that peace principles
have still much progress to make. On the continent the war spirit
exacts from every man three of the most useful years of his life.
The theological student, the merchant, the clerk, the artisan, are
alike taken from the preparation for the duties of life, and from
the exercise of the arts of peace, and trained in the deadly fashions
of human slaughter.
All this is sad, but there is a gleam of light and hope in the fact
that in recent years some great and grave international questions
have been settled by the arbitration of law and reason instead of
by the arbitration of the sword. In the dispute now pending between
Great Britain and the United States it has been said that whilst the
American and the English are represented, one important interest is
without representation. The seals have no advocate. This leads me
to remind you that Vegetarians are peace people, who do not even restrict
their sympathies to the human race. Not only bond and free, Greek
and barbarian, Hebrew and Gentile are within the share of their goodwill,
but all the bright and beautiful life that exists on the earth. Let
us aim at restricting the destruction of life within the narrowest
limits. Now there is fully offered a hecatomb of needless and mischievous
slaughter. Bright and innocent life is sacrificed, and thousands of
creatures perish to gratify the whims of fashion, the vagaries of
appetite, and the thoughtlessness of cruelty. Will not mothers, when
they teach their children lessons of peace and of kindness to animals
remember this also, and give some consideration also to the plea put
forward by Vegetarianism for the mothers of the non-human races.
When will the reign of peace come? Not until mothers realise the
responsibilities and the possibilities of their influence. The history
of the past is a long panorama of bloodshed, nation after nation,
race after race, have risen and have perished by the sword. Mothers
have seen their sons torn away from the home life and led to a ghastly
death on the battle field or in the hospital. Mothers have had to
mourn their sons, and sisters have lamented for their brothers. There
has been the weeping of the wife and of the orphans for the husband
and father lying stark and dead beneath the blue sky on some hard-fought
field of slaughter. The ambition of conquerors has lead to the desolation
of myriad homes. The mistakes of statesmen and the misunderstandings
of politicians have been paid for by the blood and treasure of the
people. So it will continue until the influence of woman is cast into
the scale of right, until mothers teach their children the glory of
peace and horror of war; until sisters and wives bring the influences
of kindly pity into the breasts of their brothers and husbands.
Here again we see the connection between Vegetarianism and peace,
those who refrain from the slaughter of animals are at least more
likely to refrain from the slaughter of man than those to whom the
idea of killing is already familiar and not repugnant. The lesser
in this case includes the greater.
The world will not go well until woman takes her true position as
the teacher of mercy and inspirer of pity. Then we shall we bind in
one link of kindly sympathy all the creatures, human and non-human,
to whom the gift and the joy of life has been given. May that time
come speedily when the reign of peace shall be universal, and the
earth shall see the realisation of that vision of Isaiah of the Holy
Mountain, wherein they neither hurt nor destroy, but where all innocent
life is secure, and where all life is innocent.