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History of Vegetarianism - Europe: The Middle Ages to the 18th Century
George Nicholson 1760-1825


From the bibliography of Animals' Rights, Considered in Relation to Social Progress, by Henry Salt, 1892:

On the Conduct of Man to Inferior Animals. By George Nicholson. Manchester, 1797

The author of this work was a well-known Bradford printer (1760-1825), one of the pioneers of the cheap literature of the present day. In 1801 he published an enlarged edition, under the title of "The Primeval Diet of Man ; Arguments in favour of Vegetable food ; On Man's Conduct to Animals, etc., etc." The book is in great measure a compilation of passages illustrative of man's cruelty to the lower kinds.

"In our conduct to animals," he writes in the "concluding reflections," "one plain rule may determine what form it ought to take, and prove an effectual guard against an improper treatment of them ;—a rule universally admitted as the foundation of moral rectitude ; treat the animal which is in your power, in such a manner as you would willingly be treated, were you such an animal. From men of imperious temper, inflated by wealth, devoted to sensual gratifications, and influenced by fashion, no share of humanity can be expected. He who is capable of enslaving his own species, of treating the inferior ranks of them with contempt or austerity, and who can be unmoved by their misfortunes, is a man formed of the materials of a cannibal, and will exercise his temper on the lower orders of animal life with inflexible obduracy. No arguments of truth or justice can affect such a hardened mind. Even persons of more gentle natures, having long been initiated in corrupt habits, do not readily listen to sensations of feeling ; or, if the principles of justice, mercy, and tenderness be admitted, such principles are merely theoretical, and influence not their conduct. . . .

"But the truly independent and sympathizing mind will ever derive satisfaction from the prospect of well-being, and will not incline to stifle convictions arising from the genuine evidences of truth. Without fear or hesitation he will become proof against the sneers of unfeeling men, exhibit an uniform example of humanity, and impress on others additional arguments and motives . . . . In the present diseased and ruined state of society, the prospect is far distant when the System of Benevolence is likely to be generally adopted. The hope of reformation then arises from the intelligent, less corrupted, and younger part of mankind ; but the numbers are comparatively few who think for themselves, and who are not infected by long-established and pernicious customs. It is a pleasure to foster the idea of a golden age regained, when the thought of the butcher shall not mingle with the sight of our flocks and herds. May the benevolent system spread to every corner of the globe ! May we learn to recognize and to respect, in other animals, the feelings which vibrate in ourselves !"