|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
. . .The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was an atheist. We
cannot be indifferent to the fact that one of the contributory factors
to his spiritual condition was his disgust with the "gluttonous
repasts with which Christians celebrate the anniversary of their Saviour's
birth." His atheism in such circumstances would, of course, be
mere escapism. Most people will agree animal killing is grossly overdone
(5,000,000 a day throughout the world), particularly at Christmastide.
But should it be done at all?
A popular argument, often put forward even by animal lovers
themselves, is that animal populations would reach plague proportions
if they were not killed off for food. While we make an industry of specially
breeding animals for this very purpose, and eat in comparison only a
negligible quantity of "wild " meat, this argument has little
or no validity. (An Oxford don I once knew actually favored vivisection
as a means of controlling rats and mice!) Nature does not need man's
intervention to control numbers. In fact, "fighting" a plague
of one species often results in a plague of another.
The question of "necessity" is sometimes raised. For man, however, feeding on the higher, sentient forms of life is not a biological necessity as it is for the wolf or tiger. Very few doctors today, orthodox or unorthodox, would say otherwise.
Some people seriously assert that, if it be wrong or unethical to prey on animals it is also wrong to feed on vegetation. If and when man learns how to nourish himself directly from the mineral kingdom, then perhaps it will be more ethically admirable to leave the vegetable kingdom unviolated. Until then, however, our justification in eating vegetables will be indisputable.
There is much need for discussion and consideration of the accounts of flesh-eating in both the Old and New Testaments. There is reason to believe that the early Christians (or many of them) were vegetarians. Dr. Anna Kingsford and others have assigned a symbolic rather than a literal interpretation to the fish-catching and eating incident in the New Testament. The Greek word rendered as "meat" can be translated as "food" in a more general sense. As there is an enormous amount regarding the Scriptures which we do not know yet know and may never know it will be as difficult to confirm these views as it will be to refute them. Assuming a literal significance, there is probably the justification of "expediency" and "concession." It is important to remember that Almighty God did not give the human race a permanent mandate for the incest and polygamy of the Old Testament. These were just "temporary expedients" or, perhaps, "necessities," even though they might be on a different footing from flesh-eating.
Vegetarianism proper (veganism) demands abstinence from eggs and dairy produce as well as from flesh foods. This is important, because there is more cruelty here than is generally realized, the killing being a "by-product". An agricultural economy has been suggested whereby no killing or artificial procedures are involved, male animals being kept for fertilizing the land. Such a system, in which man takes only surplus milk, and in which the principle is one of cooperation and reciprocity and not exploitation, would appear to be unobjectionable.
Let us consider the vegans objection to "exploitation" in the light of the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," put forward in support thereof. An animal's rights do not include that of property, for he is unable to exercise any such right, or to gain, or to dispose of, property. More to the point is the fact, that stealing means taking without recompense. If therefore, we fulfill our responsibility toward the animals in our care, and do not brutally exploit them, we are not taking without recompense. But our agricultural system is not that may inclined. The dairy cow, having borne her calf, is denied the full fruition of motherhood by being robbed of it so that the whole of her milk yield shall be available for human plunder. The Seventh Commandment is not without significance in the face of such a violation of nature.
Furthermore, in the quest for more and more eggs and dairy
produce - for biological scientists, inebriated by the blasphemous,
conceited illusion that they can improve upon Almighty God's
creative wisdom, have devised such vile practices as artificial insemination,and
drugs calculated to hasten fattening, and to induce milk production
by virgin animals. By the use of lactogens such as diethylstiboestrol
and hexoestrol, the killing of the unwanted calf is avoided. It is still
an outrage against nature, however, for which man himself will eventually
suffer as well as his victims.) Hens are now being injected 'in the
attempt to increase their egg production. The hens themselves are now
required to lay their eggs in the battery, another unnatural, and therefore
indirectly cruel, innovation.
To conclude: veganism is more ethically sound than lacto-vegetarianism.
It cannot be disputed that it is better to " live and let live
" than to butcher. Where is the justice and mercy in slaughtering
the innocent? The Eskimo living in a region where vegetable food is
extremely scarce or non-esistent is the only man with a good excuse.
On the other hand, many of the Saints would not kill their lesser brethren
even when pressed by hunger.
The lives of some of the Saints recommend the vegetarian ethic. Whilst it is not a spiritual medical panacea, it provides a powerful stimulus to spiritual and temporal health and vigor. It is not a mortification. Meat-eating by carnivorous animals may be a symptom of a fallen world. Man, however, has been redeemed, and we therefore have at our disposal inexhaustible means of spiritual advancement to ultimate perfection. Vegetarianism - or better still, veganism - is one means to that end.