|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
The list of those who have waged a valiant war in defence
of the animal kingdom is a long one. Here in the space of a few pages,
one cannot even name those who should be included. But, merely as an
example of all those who have struggled for the rights of the defenceless,
let us pay tribute first to
One of her first awakenings came when riding home from
a day spent in hunting. She said: "Something in me asked how I
should like to be served so myself and set me looking at the matter
from the point of view of the hunted creature, making me vividly to
realize its wild terror and breathless distress all the time it is being
pursued and the ghastly horror of its capture and death. It was even
less, I believe, my sense of pity than of justice that rebuked and changed
me. What right have I, I asked myself, thus to ill-treat a creature
simply because it has a form which differs from my own? Rather, if I
am superior, do its weakness and helplessness entitle it to my pity
and protection than justify me in seeking my own gratification at its
expense. And as for its lower position on the ladder of evolution, if
there be evolution in one thing there must be in another - if in the
physical, then in the moral - so that for a man to act thus is to renounce
his moral gains and abdicate his moral superiority. Of course that was
the end of my hunting, and thenceforth I and my steed took our gallops
by ourselves; for however much I may like a thing, I can never bring
myself to do it while feeling it to be wrong. "When she had satisfied
herself as to the "horrors of the seal-fishery" . . and also
satisfied herself that they were "incompatible with the gentle
life it should be the aim of civilized beings to lead,"her wardrobe
held furs no more.
Writing in 1879 to the Princess Marie-Christina of Austria,
she said : "I am studying medicine in order to achieve the abolition
of the slaughter and torture of animals, whether for food or for science.
"Under the tuition of her brother, Dr. John Bonus, she had adopted
the Pythagorean regimen of abstinence from flesh-food with such manifest
advantage to herself as to lead her to see in it the only effectual
means of the world's redemption, whether as regards men themselves or
the animals. In 1881 she cites herself as an example of "the beneficial
effects of the Pythagorean system of diet," which she stated that
"for a period of ten years," she had "uninterruptedly
maintained." In 1886 when writing of her marvellous dreaming faculty
and occult experiences, she said: "For the past fifteen years I
have been an abstainer from fleshmeats. Not a vegetarian, because during
the whole that period I have used such animal products as butter, cheese,
eggs, and milk."
Writing in 1873 to Edward Maitland, she said : "I
have been the editor of a woman's paper and have addressed public meetings
from platforms. By adoption and profession I am a member of that most
conservative of churches, the Roman Catholic but by conviction I am
rather a panheist than anything else ; and my mode of life is that of
a fruit-eater. In other words, I have a horror of flesh as food, and
belong to the Vegetarian Society." In another letter : "I
know that in proportion as man abandons the diet of flesh and
blood, and observes that of fruit and grain, his spirit becomes purer,
higher, and diviner."
The Medical authorities of Britain had closed their schools against women students. But in Paris she was able to prosecute her studies. She tells some of the interesting experiences that she encountered : "In the hospital yesterday - at the surgical consultation of La Pitie - there was a man with a broken perone, who fell to my share. 'Describe to me the accident which caused this,' said I. ' I slipped. My leg slid under me, and I fell.' 'How came you to slip'? 'The floor was swimming in blood and I slipped on the blood.' 'Blood,' cried I. ' What blood '? 'Madame, I am a slaughter-man by trade. I had just been killing, and all the slaughter-house was covered with blood.' Oh, then, my heart was hardened. I looked in the man's face.
It was of the lowest type, deep beetle-brows, a wide,
thick, coarse mouth, a red skin - 'savage' was stamped on every line
In spite of her persistent refusal to allow her medical
professors to vivisect at her lessons, and the refusal of the faculty
to accept her thesis on Vegetarianism, because it dealt with moral as
well as scientific issues - which finally had to be expunged before
accepted, she graduated in Paris in 1880 - one of the most brilliant
students of her time.
She was so very sensitive to the psychic aspect of slaughter,
she could hardly endure the Christmas-tide, for "The atmosphere
is thick with blood shed for the season's festivities. The Astral Belt
is everywhere dense with blood ... The earth here whirls round as in
a cloud of blood-like red fire ...The salvation of the world [said her
Genius] is impossible while people nourish themselves on blood. The
whole globe is like one vast charnel-house.. ."
While the greater Mysteries were reserved only for those
were free from the taint of blood-eating, the lower castes were permitted
to eat fish. Her Teachers showed men as being of different stages on
the evolutionary ladder: "Any man was of high caste, however lowly
born or placed, who had developed the consciousness of the inner and
higher part of his nature, that of the Soul and Spirit. And any plan
was of low caste, however highly born or placed who had not developed
the consciousness of these, but only that of the body and superficial
reason. The higher the caste of the man, the purer and lighter was the
food on which he would sustain himself, the purest of all being sun-ripened
fruits and sun-baked cakes of grain ... The lower the caste, the grosser
the food - as roots, herbs, fish, and eggs. The flesh-eaters were regarded
as beyond the pale altogether, and therefore as outcastes, but not in
the sense of reprobates.
"It is, of course, impossible in our climate to dispense
with fire in the preparation of food, as we have so few things which
we can eat without cooking them. But the evil can be greatly mitigated
by taking our food cold, or at least not hot ; and a still greater gain
would come of such an increased production of fruit as would enable
all to use it as a main article of their diet. On the score of physical
health, alone, the gain would be immense, For as many a medical man
has sad, if only people would take fruit at their breakfasts, they would
rarely require a doctor."
She was utterly consistent. When told that she could not
live more than six months unless she ate raw meat and drank port wine,
she ate porridge and fruit and lived twenty years longer than had been
estimated by her medical advisers. As to the Leather question: "
I was determined that on this point I would not have my books thrown
at my head as a reproach; so went about London to find a man who would
make boots without leather, and I found him." In those boots she
climbed successfully the hills of Switzerland.
The essence of the teachings which her visions brought
her of which she has written in "The Mysteries of Herrmes"
can be summed up :
"Purify your bodies, and eat no dead thing that has looked with living eyes upon the light of Heaven.
For the eye is the symbol of brotherhood among you. Sight
is the mystical sense. Let no man take the life of his brother to feed
withal his own. But slay only such as are evil, in the name of the Lord.
They are miserably deceived who expect eternal life, and restrain not
their hands from blood and death."
(Biographical Material and Quotations from "Addresses
Another warrior for vegetarianism who is here to be taken
as a great exemplar of the many who have similarly devoted their lives
to the cause is one of a totally different type. As a Dramatist and
Essayist, his weapons were the deadly ones of irony and ridicule which
he unsparingly used on all who ate flesh-food. A few sparks follow from
the anvil of
the war goes on much longer, vegetarianism, like conscription may become
compulsory on all of us. It is a very terrifying prospect, because of
the dread entertained by many people that in that case they may all
become Bernard Shaws.
"Let me reassure them. They can preserve their own
individualities, when they give up eating their fellow creatures, just
as the Maoris did when they gave up cannibalism. And the millions who
now waste their lives in valeting, nursing, feeding, driving, and slaughtering
cows, and sheep, and pigs, and who at last come to resemble them so
strikingly, will be set free to cultivate themselves in nobler ways.
"Besides they will live longer. The average age of
a meat-eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still at work as hard
as ever. I have lived quite long enough and am trying to die; but I
simply cannot do it. A single beef-steak; would finish me; but I cannot
bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with a dread of living forever.
That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism."
Upon being told by the doctors that he would die unless
he ate meat, he wrote to the London Daily Chronicle:
"My situation is a solemn one: Life is offered to
me on condition of eating beefsteaks. But death is better then cannibalism.
My will contains directions for my funeral which will be followed not
by mourning coaches but by oxen, sheep, flocks of poultry, and a small
travelling aquarium of live fish, all wearing scarves in honour of the
man who perished rather than eat his fellow-creatures. It will be, with
the exception of Noah's Ark, the most remarkable thing of the kind ever
"If I were an omnipotent despot, I should enforce
such a distribution of material conditions of natural vitality as to
make my subjects independent of analgesics. intoxicants, stimulants,
tobacco, fish, flesh, and fowl for their endurance of life."
"The Word 'Vegetarian' has no more to do with vegetables than the word 'catholic ' has to do with cats. 'Vegetarian' was the name chosen by reformers in ancient Rome who were opposed to the profligacy and gluttony of the masses. The word is derived from the Latin 'vegetare' which means to enliven. The ancient Roman reformers simply desired a more 'enlivening' way of life."
When he visited New York, Shaw was invited to a dinner to be given in his honour. He refused the invitation and sent the following telegram: "A dinner! How horrible! I am to be made the pretext for killing those wretched animals, birds, and fish! Thank you for nothing. Now if it were to be a fast instead of a feast, say a solemn three days' abstention from corpses in my honour, I could at least pretend to believe that I was interested. Blood sacrifices are not in my line.!
"Troubetzkoy is a gigantic and terrifying humanitarian who can do anything with an animal except eat it," remarked George Bernard Shaw
"Some of us remember the inaugural banquet in London of the International Society of Painters, at which the late Lord Haldane, presiding announced that when all the conventional speech-making was over, that the illustrious sculptor, Paul Troubetzkoy desired to address the company and how a figure of Patagonian stature arose amid polite applause and began: 'Mr. President, is it not a monstrous thing that we, who are supposed to be artists and civilized men, and not savages, should be celebrating a great artistic occasion by gorging ourselves on the slaughtered corpses of our fellow-creatures?"
The poisoning of the human soul by hatred, the darkening of the human mind by lies, and the hardening of the human heart by slaughter and destruction, are evils that spread and fester long after the guns have stopped."
HENRY STEPHENS SALT
Author, Biographer, Journalist, all in the cause of Humanitarianism.
That veteran warrior who made many converts to vegetarianism, is given a high tribute by Gahdhiji on page 74 and again on p.76 herein. Gahdhiji rejoices that the man who made him a vegetarian by conviction, not merely by habit, could be present in 1939 at a banquet. Henry Salt was then nearing ninety years of age, for he was born in 1851, - an exemplar of his convictions. Mr. Salt's method of approach was eminently reasonable. In both "Logic of Vegetarianism" and "A Plea for Vegetarianism," he takes up his opponents' arguments one by one and with much wit and good humour demolishes them:
"Many people seem to think it a sufficient refutation of Vegetarian principles to point out that it is absolutely necessary in some cases to take the lives of animals. They delight in showing that we are obliged to kill wild animals, to keep down vermin, and to destroy domestic animals when old and diseased; or that we incidentally take life even in such innocent acts as cooking a cabbage or drinking a glass of water. The fallacy consists partly in wrongly assuming that the object of Vegetarianism is 'not to take any life;' whereas it is really 'not to take life unnecessarily', the last word... containing in fact the whole essence of the Vegetarian creed, and partly in the strange idea that, because it is sometimes necessary to take life, it must be always allowable. Vegetarians are not so foolish as to deny the necessity of sometime destroying animals, both intentionally and by accident; but that is no reason for killing more animals than is really necessary; but rather the reverse. It is quite true that we must in self-defence keep down vermin; but it does not follow that it is advisable to eat their carcasses. It is quite true that we cannot avoid accidentally taking life; but that can scarcely justify us in purposely breeding animals for the slaughter-house. To assert that because we accidentally tread on a beetle, we are justified in deliberately slaughtering an ox; or that because we chance to swallow a fly, we are right in bleeding a calf to death and annoying our veal, is an argument which must equally justify homicide and murder of every description. A murderer might argue, in like manner, that he found he was always treading on spiders, and therefore, it was obviously necessary 'to take life' ". Mr. Salt then quotes from Leigh Hunt:
"The raison d'être of vegetarianism is the growing sense that flesh-eating is a cruel, disgusting, unwholesome, and wasteful practice, and that it behoves human and rational persons, disregarding the common cant about 'consistency' and 'all or nothing' to reform their diet to what extent and with what speed they can."
Characteristic of his irony and compassion is his poem.
Bramwell Booth, eldest son of William and Catherine Booth, was born at Halifax, in 1856, and was nine years old when his father started the mission in East London that eventually became the Salvation Army. While still in his teens he became his father's principal assistant, showing a genius for planning and organization that proved invaluable when a military pattern was adopted and he became the Army's first chief of the staff.
Throughout his life he waged an unrelenting war on social evils, creating the Salvation Army's first social institutions and agencies that have since served as models for welfare work in all parts of the world.
On the death of William Booth, in 1912, Bramwell became
the Salvation Army's leader, and under his guidance it continued to
advance, entering many new lands, and developing new branches of work.
A life-long vegetarian, he gave the following advice to
his Officers : Flesh meat is not essential, and may be abandoned at
any time without detriment to health or strength,
An Officer's diet should consist chiefly of products of
the vegetable kingdom. In these, are to be found food properties as
valuable as any in animal food. The particular items of diet will necessarily
depend largely upon what is obtainable, at a reasonable price, in each
locality and season, but certain general guidance is here given.
Actively and ardently General Booth worked against the evil of slaughter, describing the horrible sufferings of millions of food animals in the world, telling of the terrible cruelties practised in killing animals in many slaughter-houses. The whole business of killing is cruel, even when it is done with care, and we know that in the case of millions of creatures, it is done with very little care."