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History of Vegetarianism - Europe: The Middle Ages to the 18th Century
Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)


Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527).

English statesman, humanist and Roman Catholic Saint;Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII (1529-32). His opposition to the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his refusal to recognise the Act of Supremacy resulted in his execution on acharge of treason. In Utopia (1516) he set forth his concept of the idela state. Feast day: June 22 or July 6

Note: there is no evidence that Thomas More was vegetarian but the extracts below give an insight into his thinking.

Extracts from Utopia:

From thence the beasts be brought in, killed and clean washed by the hands of their bondsmen. For they permit not their free citizens to accustom themselves to the killing of beasts, through the use whereof they think clemency, the gentlest affection of our nature, by little and little to decay and perish.

The Utopians feel that slaughtering our fellow creatures gradually destroys the sense of compassion, which is the finest sentiment of which our human nature is capable.

What delight can there be, and not rather displeasure, in hearing the barking and howling of dogs? Or what greater pleasure is there to be felt when a dog followeth a hare than when a dog followeth a dog? For one thing is done in both, that is to say, running, if thou hast pleasure therein. But if the hope of slaughter and the expectation of tearing in pieces the beast doth please thee, thou shouldst rather be moved with pity to see a silly innocent hare murdered by a dog: the weak of the stronger, the fearful of the fierce, the innocent of the cruel and unmerciful. Therefore all this exercise of hunting, as a thing unworthy to be used of free men, the Utopians have rejected to their butchers, to the which craft . . . they appoint their bondmen. For they count hunting the lowest, the vilest and most abject part of butchery, and the other parts of it more profitable and more honest, as bringing much more commodity, in that they kill beasts only for necessity, whereas the hunter seeketh nothing but pleasure of the silly and woeful beast's slaughter and murder. The which pleasure in beholding death they think doth rise in the very beasts, either of a cruel affection of mind or else to be changed in continuance of time into cruelty by long use of so cruel a pleasure.

  • Utopia (link to Google Books) by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) 2008 edition: p.108 "some live unmarried and chaste, and abstain from eating any sort of flesh."