International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


The Cruelties and Diseases Connected with Flesh-Eating
JAMES H. COUSINS
Awarded First Prize at the Vegetarian Federal Union, June 1907.

It is a safe prophecy that, if civilized mankind were induced personally to participate in every process involved in the production of a particular article of dress or furniture, those who would come out of the experiment as advocates of a very much simplified system of living would count a thousand to the one who might be inclined to return to the old order of things; for a moment of realization is worth generations of secondhand knowledge.

Our habit, however, of living by proxy through the delegation of labour to others, has forced us to walk - not, indeed by faith, but by credulity; and few of us have more than a vague idea of the processes and persona which lie behind a simple act such as the putting on of a hat or the eating of a meal. We are largely content to take things as they come ; and the pressure of circumstance and custom has hardened us into an indifference which is scarcely more than stirred to curiosity when some event, like the Chicago revelations, lights up for a lurid moment the unblissful ignorance in which the majority of mankind live, and exhibits the horrors and perils that are in the gift of the unscrupulous.

In no department of life, more than in the fundamental and vital matter of food, does this lack of direct personal knowledge prevail; in none, moreover, is the dispelling of such ignorance more urgently needed, for the matter touches not merely the simple act of eating, but involves questions of the deepest significance to the race. The present and the future demand that the individual shall consider whether he shall leave a heredity of disease, or lay the foundations of an efficient posterity ; and his own higher nature demands that he shall give heed as to whether the gratification of one sense is or is not at the expense of a higher - the sense of justice and freedom, and preventing him from doing to all men and all creatures as he would they should do to him. In short, it is incumbent on every individual to answer for himself and herself the simple questions : Is any cruelty involved in the procuring of flesh foods? Is there any risk of disease attendant on their use ?

THE CRUELTIES CONNECTED WITH FLESH-EATING

It is often urged that considerable exaggeration is indulged in by those who champion the cause of the animal kingdom against what they regard as its unjust exploitation by humanity. It is, of course, true that a particular incident may cause one man to shudder and another to smile; but the question which must take precedence of all intellectual subtleties is, whether a sincere enquiry as to mere facts has been made. Since, however, in this matter, as in most others, the bulk of mankind have to take their observation at second-hand, it is the object of the writer to set down as clearly as possible a few of the many things observed during the twenty years' association with the traffic in animal flesh.

We need not linger over minor cruelties and tyrannies that are practised on animals from the moment they are born until the butcher's buyer puts his brand upon them. The heartless parting of parents and offspring ; the denial to the latter of the nourishment intended for them by nature ; the beatings and brandings in markets, are but trifling preliminaries to the tragedy that begins when the creatures leave the fields behind them and enter the way to death. Let us follow one of these "consignments" on its way from Ireland to England.

Along a stony quayside several bullocks and a flock of sheep are slowly wending their way, yesterday they walked several miles from the fields to be packed into railway trucks ; now they have come across the hard and bewildering streets of the city with sore feet, lolling tongues, tired eyes-hungry, thirsty, sleepy, bleating and moaning before the crowd of shouting men and shrieking children all armed with busy sticks, towards and along the steamer's gang way.

One procession is followed by another from the city markets, until, when we glide into the stillness of a calm summer night, there are twelve hundred sheep packed on the upper deck, and three hundred cattle, tied heads down, in the 'tween decks and the lower holds, all sending up a never-ending chorus of protest in lowing and bellowings and bleatings. In the holds there can be heard at intervals the sharp cracks of sticks, accompanied by angry curses, as the drovers stimulate to his feet a bullock that has slipped to his knees with the roll of the vessel or through fatigue.

On deck, the gentle movement of the steamer has pressed the outermost sheep against the rails, and several legs protruding over the ship's side give evidence of discomfort and pain from which there can be no release until we reach the other side of the channel, eight hours hence. Voices shouting: "Here is a stiffy" challenge our attention. A dark figure is dimly seen bending among the sheep. There is a scuffle as the timid creatures jostle each other into greater discomfort. A large sheep unable to keep its feet from fatigue or sickness, has sunk below the level of its companions, and suffocation is inevitable.

To preserve the market value of the "mutton" the animal, at its last gasp, is dragged from among the others and flung on to the lower deck. There is a sound of steel being sharpened on steel. and we turn away from the sight and the growing stench; but our ears cannot shut out the sound of a splash on the deck that is not from the sea. With almost sneaking cowardice we retreat to our cabin ; even there the melancholy chorus penetrates; and we are denied the oblivion of sleep by the clamour of a group of cattle dealers who are spending the night drinking and playing cards, with occasional intervals to give their attention to "another stiffy."

When we returned to the deck at dawn, there is comparative stillness, the stillness of utter weariness. And there, in the sweet light of the rising sun, and in full view of a large proportion of the living "cargo" hang the flayed and disembowelled corpses of the "stiffies." When me reach the dock, there is no time for rest or refreshment for the animals. The same stimuli as accompanied their embarkation now goad them ashore, and we count a goodly number of sheep that are hopelessly crippled, and several cattle with welted hides and bleeding stumps instead of horns. And it is a quiet Sabbath morning.

Such is the merest outline of one aspect of the flesh trade observed under the most favourable conditions; yet, bad as the reality is, it is as nothing compared with what could be told of nights when foul weather has turned men and beasts into very demons of rage and pain and terror: when broken horns and legs, battered bodies, torn hides, and trampled mothers and premature calves, have lost fortunes to dealers and insurance companies: and when we have held on to taffrail and matched the carcasses of cattle that had been washed or thrown overboard float up to us on the crest of breaker, and fall with a ghastly roll back into the darkness.

Even in the case of animals that go direct from the market to the butcher, there is the tale of frosty or foggy nights in small fields which succeeding batches of the condemned have cropped down to the brown earth, or scorching days without water or shelter. Then the last scene of all.

It is "Killing day" in a large public slaughter house and a pile of smoking hides in one corner; rows of carcasses hung up by the hind legs along a wall; and the smell and sight of blood on the floor, walls, and ceiling, and on the aprons, faces, and hands of the sweating men and boys, tell us that business has been brisk since long before our entry. There is a scuffle at the gate leading from a close yard in which we saw a number of cattle and sheep shuffling and crying in a tone that is not heard in the fields or even on board ship. A sheep is pulled into the "killing shed" and where one goes others follow. They are pounced upon by active men, flung on the slippery floor, and their legs quickly and tightly tied. A man at each end swings a sheep with a bang onto one of a row of rough wooden benches.

A large bucket is placed in a position directly under the animal's head, and without any ceremony a slaughterman thrusts a long round, sharp-pointed steel implement down through the skin, flesh, nerves, tendons, and small bones of the creature's throat. There is a shudder, a smothered cry, a splash of blood, and the slaughter man withdraws his steel from a large hole and passes on to the next bench leaving the animal to kick and bleed to death.

A windlass has begun to clank in another corner of the shed, and all hands are on the alert as a fine bull, with lifted head, heaving sides, and wild eyes appears in the gate. He is unwilling to enter among the blood and remains of his predecessors whom he saw forced through same gate never to return, but a twist given to his tail sends him forward with a growl. In a flash a lassoo is over his horns, the windlass hums, the rope comes taut, and the noble head is dragged downwards and forwards with invincible force. He plants his feet firmly on the ground, but the blood has made a foothold impossible, and the huge body goes on and on till the forehead is tight up against the bar - not alas the bar of justice. A poleaxe goes up with a swing and comes down with a crunching thud between the eyes; there is a terrific roar of pain and rage; the poleaxe swings again and yet again: then something like an electric tremor goes through the bull's frame, and the body falls cumbously to the floor, not dead, but beyond troubling the slaughter-man further.

Of the horrible scene which follows the felling of the bull we need not tell in detail; there is a sense of awfulness that the mercy of death has been bestowed upon him: but there is, if possible, a more awful sense of degradation to which a section of mankind - yes, and of womankind in the gutting shed - has been relegated by the indifferent consumers of products that can only be obtained through the enactment of scenes such as these - scenes whose recital only give a faint apprehension of terror and agony, the sweating, straining, moaning, desperate, but utterly hopeless struggle of creatures that show keen sensibility in every movement and fibre against the remorseless skill of man.

And when it is remembered that this scene (and others in the killing of swine, fowl and fish, of which we could tell terrible tales) is repeated every place civilized man is gathered together, it will hardly be marvelled at that those who have had their eyes opened, are moved to an attempt to break the appalling indifference of their fellows to the colossal agony which is daily meted out to the animal creation at the demand of a habit which is not merely unnecessary but is the baleful root of almost all the ills that afflict mankind.

The Diseases connected with Flesh-Eating

To anyone who gives serious thought to the universal disregard of the conclusions of scientific research, that man is not a carnivorous animal by nature, it must appear logically certain that, apart from any ethical consideration, such an outrage on nature must meet its punishment in physical derangement; and a tacit recognition of the connection between diet and disease is shown by the medical profession in the stopping of flesh-foods in rheumatism and gout, Here and there a physician of world-wide renown has voiced the conviction that the root of disease is in the flesh-eating habit: and statistics demonstrate that the quantity of meat eaten, and the number of doctors required, in various countries, rise and fall together.

For complete information, however, on the subject, we must go to the records of those who have given it long and earnest study, not merely as an interesting subject of laboratory research, but as a practical vital concern and who have shown their sincerity by making their own habits of diet square with their conclusions. Amongst these, few names carry greater weight that those of the late Anna Kingsford M. D., of the Faculty of Paris, and Alexander Haig, M.A., M. D., ( Oxon) F. R. C. P- " The Perfect Way in Diet " the thesis written by the former for her degree, has taken its place as a classical exposition of food reform; and Dr. Haigs environmental work " Uric Acid as a Factor in the Causation of Disease,'' has received the approval of a sixth edition.

It is mainly from these works that the diseases connected with flesh which eating are here epitomized, act simply as the complexity of the subject will permit.

The diseases which flesh-eating brings in its train may be divided into two great classes:-

(1) Those transmitted by diseased flesh

(2) Those transmitted by flesh which we may, for the sake of distinction, call healthy, though as will be seen later, no such thing as pure, healthy flesh-food can exist.

(1)Flesh-food may be diseased by the presence in it of parasites, These can only be rendered harmless by a process of equal cooking, which would render the substance distasteful to the majority of habitual flesh-eaters. When taken into the human economy, one species of parasite will develop into a tape-worm, while another will produce trichinosis, a disease which offers the alternatives of an agonized death or a miserable life with the parasite encased in the muscular tissue.

Again flesh-food may be infected with diseases such as pneumonia , anthrax, and tuberculosis, which reproduces themselves when the infected meat (declared to be 80% of the whole) is eaten by mankind.. Flesh, also, in a state of putrefaction is responsible for virulent poisonings and for various inflammatory disorders.

(2) But even if it were possible to eliminate everything in the nature of parasitic, organic, or putrefactive disease from flesh-foods, there would still remain the immense body of functional derangements eventuating in malignant diseases which it is the essential and ineradicable nature of flesh-foods to engender through the direct introduction of poisons into the system. When an animal is killed, the waste matter and poisons passing through its blood and tissues on the way to excretion are cut short in the process, and are retained. These are transferred to the human system, and producing an amount of uric acid in excess of what the body normally can get rid of, set up a condition called Colloemia, or uric acid in the blood. A concentration of the acid in a particular region caused by a sudden fall in the temperature, a shock decline in energy, or a local irritation; or blood pressure arising from the obstruction of the minute vessels by the acid, will manifest itself as epilepsy paralysis, asthma, dyspepsia, diabetes-dropsy, angina pectoris, anaemia, or piles. But should the good fortune of the flesh-eater preserve him from any of these extraneous causes of trouble, let him delay congratulations on having escaped the consequences of his dietetic errors. The daily consumption of flesh may itself push him past the dangers of uric acid in his blood, by driving the former charges of acid out of his blood with the new charge; but it has only pushed him past one danger into the clutches of a greater, for it drives the acid, not out of the system in nature's way, but into the tissues. At any moment a local precipitation may set up acute pain, in the nose t will be called catarrh, in the shoulder rheumatism, in the toe gout, in the stomach or bowels gastric ulcer or appendicitis, in the liver jaundice, in the lungs pneumonia, in the face neuralgia, on the skin eczema; but all these are merely distinctive names for the local manifestations of one fundamental malady - uric acid in the tissues, and all have their root in the habit of flesh-eating in the enjoyment of immunity from these troubles; nevertheless, the price must be paid. Vigorous digestion and nutrition may help in the storing up up the acid; but when the inevitable slackening of the powers of nutrition comes, the long pent-up accumulations break through enfeebling resistance and rush back into the blood, and the cause of death is diagnosed as Bright's Disease, cerebral hemorrhage, or heart failure.

When we add that intemperance, in whatever forms it manifests itself, and the majority of mental disturbances and suicides, are direct results of uric acid poisoning through the consumption of flesh-foods, it will be seen that the price which mankind is paying for the practice is truly and appalling one.

When Shelley - building in his imagination a future golden age for men - wrote:

No longer now
He slays the lamb that looks him in the face
And horribly devours his mangled flesh,
Which still avenging nature's broken law,
Kindles all putrid humours in his frame,
The germs of misery, death, disease and crime,

He voiced the plain cardinal principle that whatsoever a man sows he shall reap; that no crime against his higher nature can go unpunished; that between the suffering which he inflicts on the animal kingdom, and the suffering which he endures in his own body, there is the intimate relationship of cause and effect. The experiment and the research of illuminated science, have substantiated the inspiration of the poet, and have moreover, established the truth that in a return to man's natural diet from the vegetable kingdom there is to be found relief and immunity from disease, health on all planes of his being, prolonged and more efficient service to his fellows, and a satisfied and peaceful departure on

Such a tide as moving seems asleep
Too full for sound or foam,
When that which drew out from the boundless deep
Turns again home.