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England: early 19th Century
Joseph Ritson (1761-1803)


Joseph Ritson (Engraving by James Sayers, published in 1803)

from Joseph Ritson, A Critical Biography, by Henry Afred Burd, 1916, p.17:

Among the books which Ritson read at Stockton was one which influenced the whole of his subsequent life. Mandeville's Fahle of the Bees, which formed the basis of one of the influential schools of thought of the early eighteenth century, was the direct cause of his forswearing animal food at the age of nineteen. It was, moreover, the source of his inspiration in other ways of which he was not aware, and which his biographers have overlooked. In his Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty, published in 1802, he recounts the circumstances in the following words

"The compiler himself, induced to serious reflection, by the perusal of Mandeville's 'Fable of the Bees', in the year, 1772, being the nineteenth year of his age, has ever since, to the revisal of this sheet, firmly adhered to a milk and vegetable diet, having, at least, never tasted, during the whole course of those thirty years, a morsel of flesh, fish, or fowl, or anything to his knowledge prepared in or with those substances or any extract thereof, unless on one occasion, when tempted by wet, cold and hunger, in the south of Scotland, he ventured to eat a few potatoes dressed under the roast; nothing less repugnant to his feelings to be had ; or except by ignorance or imposition ; unless it may be in eating eggs, which, however, deprives no animal of life, though it may prevent some from coming into the world to be murdered and devoured by others."

From Essay upon Abstinence fom Animal Food, 1802:

That the use of animal food disposes man to cruel and ferocious action is a fact to which the experience of ages gives ample testimony . . . The barbarous and unfeeling "sports" (as they are called) of the English - their horse-racing, hunting, shooting, bull and bear baiting, cock-fighting, prize fighting, and the like, all proceed from their immoderate addiction to animal food. Their natural temper is thereby corrupted, and they are in the habitual and hourly commision of crimes against nature, justice, and humanity, from which a feeling and reflective mind, unaccustomed to such a diet, would revolt, but in which they profess to take delight. - Essay upon Abstinence