International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


The Voice of The Great - Today

Dr. ALBERT SCHWEITZER has achieved world fame in so many fields of activity, he cannot be catatlogued in one. A great organist and interpreter, par excellence of Bach, all music lovers know him. A theologian who challenged the orthodoxy of his day, a philosopher who has delved to the depths of life, he forsook the world in which he had made a secure field to study medicine that he might devote himself to the service of humanity as a medical missionary. Because of the danger of heterodoxy, he was not supposed to teach but only heal and he did heal - souls as well as bodies. Alone he raised the money for most of the fine work he has done in French Equatorial Africa in his hospital in Lambarene. The Nobel Prize of Rs.1.56,000 was turned solely towards that work. When he first established himself, there was no doctor within five hundred miles.

JAMES CAMERON who lived with him in order that he might write a series of articles in the "News Chronicle" states : "The Doctor eats only fruits and vegetables-but considerably great quantities of mango, avocado, and soya bean, and above all, a specially huge species of boiled banana. The Doctor has no illusions about modern civilization and that is why he advocates a new one built upon Reverence of Life. He believes that modern civilization with its atomic bombs is based wrongfully on destruction of life."

DR. SCHWEITZER still performs as many as eight hundred operations a year. Half way through the eighties, he has been known to go seventy-two hours without sleep when one of his patients has been in danger. He has kept up his writing - twenty-four major works of philosophy, religion, ethics, and a survey of world problems are to his credit. An organ given him by those who loved him also claims his attention.

When anyone mentions his sacrifice, Dr. Schweitzer becomes impatient : "We must all die but when I can save a life from days of torture - that is what I feel as my great and ever new privilege... The greatest reward I know is when a patient takes my hand after awakening from an operation and says: 'I feel no pain.' "

His compassion is boundless. "Whenever I injure any kind of life, I must be quite certain that it is necessary. I must never go beyond the unavoidable, not even in apparently insignificant things. That man is truly ethical who shatters no ice crystal as it sparkles in the sun, tears no leaf from a tree ..."

LEO TOLSTOY is another Genius that cannot be pigeonholed in any one category. Novelist, Humanitarian, Warrior for Peace, Russian Philosopher, his name is a household word throughout the world. Tolstoy lived very simply on bread, porridge, fruits, and vegetables.

"If a man's aspirations towards a righteous life are serious.. .if he earnestly and sincerely seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food, because, not to mention the excitement of the passions produced by such food, it is plainly immoral, as it requires an act contrary to moral feeling, i. e., killing - and is called forth only by greed."

"It is horrible! It is not the suffering and the death of the animals that is horrible, but the fact that the man without any need for so doing crushes his lofty feeling of sympathy and mercy for living creatures and does violence to himself that he may be cruel. The first element of moral life is abstinence."

Tolstoy himself tells how he became a vegetarian :

"Not long ago I had a talk with a retired soldier," writes Tolstoy in Recollections and Essays, "and he was surprised at my assertion that it was a pity to kill animals for food, and said the usual things about its being ordained. But afterwards he agreed with me: 'Especially when they are quiet, tame cattle. They come, poor things trusting You. It is very pitiful.'

"Such a situation, is dreadful. Not the suffering and death of the animals, but that man suppresses in himself unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity - that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures - and by violating his own feelings, becomes cruel. And how deeply seated in the human heart is the injunction not to take life. But by the assertion that God ordained the slaughter of animals, and above all as a result of habit, people entirely lose their natural feeling.

"Some time ago I decided to visit the slaughter-house at Tula, and meeting a meek, kind acquaintance of mine, I invited him to accompany rue. My friend refused; he could not, he told met bear to witness the slaughter of animals. It is worth remarking that this man is a sportsman and himself kills animals and birds ....

"And... a kind refined lady will devour the carcasses of these animals with full assurance that she is doing right, at the same time asserting two contradictory propositions :

"First that she is so delicate that she cannot be sustained by vegetable food alone ; and secondly, that she is so sensitive that she is unable. not only herself to inflict suffering on animals, but even to bear the sight of the suffering.

"Whereas the poor lady is weak precisely because she has been taught to live upon food unnatural to man ; and she cannot avoid causing suffering to animals - for she eats them.

"The wrongfulness, the immorality of eating animal food has been recognized by all mankind during all the conscious life of humanity. Why, then have people generally not come to acknowledge this law? The answer is that the moral progress of humanity is always slow; but that the sign of true, not casual Progress, is in uninterruptedness and its continual acceleration. And one cannot doubt that vegetarianism has been progressing in this manner.

"The progress of the movement should cause especial joy to those whose life lies in the effort to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, not because vegetarianism is in itself an important step towards that kingdom, but because it is a sign that the aspiration of mankind towards moral perfection is serious and sincere.''

RABINDRANATH TAGORE - Poet, Artist, Philosopher, Ambassador of Culture and Educationist, belonged not merely to Bengal or India but to the whole world :

In 1894 he writes in "Glimpses of Bengal Letters":

As I was looking out on the river, I saw all of a sudden, an odd-looking bird making its way through the water to the opposite bank, followed by a great commotion. I found it was a domestic fowl which had managed to escape impending doom in the galley by jumping overboard and was now trying frantically to swim across. It had almost gained the bank when the clutches of its relentless pursuers closed on it, and it was brought back in triumph, gripped by the neck. I told the cook I would not have any meat for dinner. I really must give up animal food. We manage to swallow flesh, only because we do not think of the cruel and sinful thing we do. There are many crimes which are the creation of man himself, the wrongfulness of which is put down to their divergence from habit, custom, or tradition. But cruelty is not of these. It is a fundamental sin, and admits of arguments or nice distinctions. If only we do not allow our heart to grow callous, its protests against cruelty is always clearly heard; and yet we go on perpetrating cruelties easily, merrily, all of us - in fact, any one who does not join in is dubbed a crank ... if, after our pity is aroused, we persist in throttling our feelings simply in order to join others in preying upon life, we insult all that is good in us. I have decided to try a vegetarian diet."

It is especially noticeable that many philosophers in all ages have been vegetarians:

FRIEDRICH NEITZSCHE; one of the world-great German philosophers. writes:

"All ancient philosophy was based on plain living. In this sense the few vegetarian philosophers have contributed more for the welfare of man than all the other philosophers together."

RENE DESCARTES, the French Philosopher, never touched meat.

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, mentioned by Richard Wagner in his article on page 79, the great Gernian philosopher, wrote :

"The unpardonable forgetfulness in which the lower animals have hitherto been left by the moralists of Europe is well known. It is pretended that the beasts have no rights. They persuade themselves that our conduct in regard to them has nothing to do with morals or (to speak the language of their morality), that we have no duties towards animals; n doctrine revolting, gross, and barbarous."

I know of no more beautiful prayer than that which the Hindus of old used in closing their public spectacles. It was : 'May all that have life be delivered from suffering!' "

RALPH WALDO EMERSON an, American Philosopher, deeply in sympathy with Eastern thought, writes : " You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughter-house is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity..."

MAURICE MAETERLINCK: The great French Dramatist and Essayist, known throughout the world for "The Blue Bird," writes:

"Not a single one of all the arguments brought forth to fight Vegetarianism can withstand an honest and sincere trial." In ''The Kingdom of Matter," he writes : "It must be admitted that of the objections urged against Vegetarianism, not one can withstand s loyal and scrupulous inquiry. I, for my part, can affirm that those whom I have known to submit themselves to this regimen have found its results to be improved or restored health, marked addition to strength, and the acquisition by the mind of clearness, brightness, well-being, such as might follow the release from some secular, loathsome, detestable dungeon."

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, an American Philosopher and Writer, is ardent in his defence of the harmless life:

"He will be regarded as a benefactor of his race who shall teach man to confine himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet. Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other. The faintest assured objection which one healthy man feels will at length prevail over the arguments and customs of mankind ..., I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race in its gradual development, to leave off eating animals as surely as the savage tribes have left eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized...

"It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offend the imagination, but this I think is to be fed when we feed body - they should both sit down at the same table...

"No humane being past the thoughtless age of boyhood will wantonly murder any creature which holds its life the same tenure that he does."

EMMANUEL SWEDENBORGH, the great Mystic, who is followed by many in a Church bearing his name, though sometimes called as 'The New Church' considered the flesh of animals as a profane thing.

CHARLES FILLMORE, the founder of the Unity School of Christianity, wrote :

"When the plant products are found spread upon Nature's green garnished tables everywhere, why should man dye his hands in the life-blood of animals that resent the carnage and cry out and bellow in terror when his cruel hand is raised against them? This is in direct opposition to the Divine Law of Freedom and the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Happiness of all God's creatures, man is today suffering in his body and mind the results of this transgressed law, and he will continue to suffer until he observes in its fullest degree the command: 'Thou shalt not kill.'. ..

"Please stop and think what you eat. If you take three thoughts with each mouthful, you will lose all desire for meat. That is why philosophers are generally Vegetarians."

T. L. VASWANI, Mystic Post, Philosopher, Educationist of Sindh, attended the world congress of Religions in Berlin when he was twenty. His life has been one of unceasing service and sacrifice. His belief is that in the love of God and the Service of man is the secret of true life: "I have seen God's image shining in birds and beasts. I have learnt of them lessons which have drawn my heart nearer to Truth and Love. And one of the purest aspirations of my life is to spend more and more in the service of those younger brothers and sisters in the one Great Family of Him who loveth all life.

SIR STAFFORD CRIPPS - English Statesman and Humanitarian. Calm, modest, he lived a simple, almost ascetic life, for he neither drank; alcohol. ate meat, nor lived luxuriously. As an idealist he entered the political field, and some have said that he tilted at windmills - others called it a "suicidal honesty."

He was not only a vegetarian himself but never tired making converts. Much of his sympathetic understanding of Indian problems was that he himself lived the life of an Indian. and therefore could be an ambassador of good-will both from the West to the East and the East to the West.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, - Statesman and one of the builders of the American Nation, was a vegetarian and made others so. He lived to the age of 84 years.

MICHEL EYQUEM DE MONTAIGNE, French Essayist of the 16th century who changed the thought of his time and was a powerful voice in the Renaissance period, too, was a vegetarian.

ALBERT EINSTEIN : In a letter to the Editor of the "Vegetarische Warte (Vegetarian Watch-tower), on 27 December 1930, this genius of mathematics and physics - perhaps the greatest the world has ever known, writes :

"Although I have been prevented by outward circumstances from observing a strictly Vegetarian Diet, I have long been an adherent to your cause in principle. Besides agreeing with your aims for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that the Vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."

LA GRANGE, the great French mathematician was a strict Vegetarian, In fact many of the great mathematicians of Europe have been studious vegetarians.

CHARLES DARWIN, Naturalist and Evolutionist, from "The Descent of Man" :

''At the period and place, whenever and wherever it was when man lost his hairy covering, he probably inhabited a hot country; a circumstance favourable for the, frugivorous diet on which, judging from analogy, he subsisted."

JAMES H. COUSINS, PH. D: : Cultural Ambassador from the Irish literary renaissance and Indian Art to the world; Educationist in India and Japan, Theosophist, would perhaps wish most to be classed among the poets, for his gentle soul naturally expressed itself in many volumes of flowing and trenchant verse, an example of which is to be found in the section on Himsa, entitled "Murdered for Feating".

Both Dr. Cousins and his wife whose outlook and interests were in such complete harmony that their mutual autobiography is entitled " We Two Together ", were deeply convinced that Vegetarianism was an essential step in relation to human reform, and founded the first Dublin Vegetarian Society early in the century; later on in 1930 Mrs. Cousins, revived the Vegetarian Society of New York, as is mentioned in "Vegetarianism in Many Lands." Dr. Cousins died at the age of eighty-three on 20 February 1956, Mrs. Cousins preceding him by a few years.

ROMAIN ROLLAND, one of the most distinguished French Dramatists and Novelists of the century, received the Nobel Prize in Literature, as a founder of the modern novel.

M. Rolland had a profoundly religious spirit and mystical temperament. Born and bred a Catholic and realizing all the beauty of Christianity, the shock of materialism of the modern West and the alarms and excursions of war made him react from institutional religion instead of seeking to penetrate deeper into its true spirit. He was early attracted to Tolstoy and became his disciple both in his conception of art and his pacifist philosophy of life. He became aware of the treasures of Indian culture when he met Rabindranath Tagore. When he met Gandhiji he was very much impressed with his philosophy of life, which both in precept and practice seemed to bring a new hope for humanity.

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON writes : "We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions. and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear."

GEORGE ARLISS, world-famous English actor gives the reasons for his becoming a vegetarian :

"There is. I believe, no valid argument against a vegetarian diet. If the scheme of nature were such that men and women and children languished and died when meat was withheld from them, or even if we were unable to arrive at the full vigour of what is known as 'manhood' without being fed with animal food - if such were the case we might have to say with a sigh, 'It seems cruel, but evidently it is God's will,' and continue to take the lives of other living creatures that we might live. But it obviously isn't God's will, because there is not the slightest doubt that we can live just as well and become just as strong, without eating meat at all. And when I say, 'just as well,' I am merely trying to avoid any argument with the meat-eaters as to what is good and what is bad for us.

"Personally I think that we are a great deal better both mentally and physically. if we avoid meat. We know that we have so many diseases that the doctors have to display a good deal of ingenuity in order to find names for them ; it seems reasonable to suppose that we were not sent to the world to die of disease and even 'specialists' admit that most of our physical ailments come from wrong eating. Doesn't it seem probable that many of our diseases are the result of eating meat? It's an unpleasant habit anyhow, if you come to think of it - eating kidneys and liver and picking bones and using blood for gravy ; we shudder at the very thought of cannibals, but is there really much difference?

"A great many vegetarians maintain their youthful appearance and their strength and endurance to a surprising old age. There are many good arguments in favour of vegetarianism and very few, I believe, in favour of eating meat.

"My wife and I gave up eating meat as a consequence of seeing the misery of animals on large ranches and their suffering in transportation. We decided that if the production of meat entailed so much suffering to these gentle creatures, we at least would not be parties in the crime."

RICHARD WAGNER, the great German Composer of Operas that revolutionized the musical world, has written articles setting forth with vigour the only and highest motive he thinks can justify vegetarianism. (See Page 79.) He tells of his reason for becoming a vegetarian :

"It was the result of the profound metaphysical insight of the Brahmin when he pointed to the manifold appearances of the animal world and said: "This is thyself." This woke in me the consciousness that in sacrificing one of our fellow creatures, we mangled and devoured ourselves. In truth, we have developed a heartless blindness to things that lay before our oldest ancestors in all their naked horror.

FRANCOIS MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE, the great French Novelist, Dramatist, Philosopher of the early 18th Century. writes in the "Princes of Babylon"

"The Shepherd of the Ganges, born all equal are the owners of innumerable flocks that feed in meadows that are perpetually covered with flowers. They are never slaughtered. It is horrible crime here to kill and eat one's fellows "

"If animals could talk, would we then dare to kill and eat them? How could we then justify such fratricide?"