International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
IVU logo

History of Vegetarianism - Europe: The Middle Ages to the 18th Century
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)


Alexander Pope (c.1727)


“I Cannot think it extravagant to imagine, that mankind are no less in proportion, accountable for the ill use of their dominion over creatures of the lower rank of beings, than for the exercise of tyranny over their own species. The more entirely the inferior creation is submitted to our power, the more answerable we should seem for our mismanagement of it; and the rather, as the very condition of nature renders these creatures incapable of receiving any recompence in another life for their ill treatment in this. It is observable of those noxious animals, which have qualities most powerful to injure us, that they naturally avoid mankind, and never hurt us unless provoked or necessitated by hunger. Man, on the other hand, seeks out and pursues even the most inoffensive animals on purpose to persecute and destroy them. Montaigne thinks it some reflection upon human nature itself, that few people take delight in seeing beasts caress or play together, but almost every one is pleased to see them lacerate and worry one another. I am sorry this temper is become almost a distinguishing character of our own nation, from the observation which is made by foreigners of our beloved pastimes, Bear-baiting, Cock-fighting, and the like. We should find it hard to vindicate the destroying of any thing that has life, merely out of wantonness ; yet in this principle our children are bred up, and one of the first pleasures we allow them, is the license of inflicting pain upon poor animals : almost as soon as we are sensible what life is ourselves, we make it our sport to take it from other creatures. I cannot but believe a very good use might be made of the fancy which children have for birds and insects. Mr. Locke takes notice of a mother who permitted them to her children, but rewarded or punished them as they treated them well or ill. This was no other than entering them betimes into a daily exercise of humanity, and improving their very diversion to a virtue. […] But if our sports are destructive, our gluttony is more so, and in a more inhuman manner. Lobsters roasted alive, pigs whipt to death, fowls sew'd up, are testimonies of our outrageous luxury. Those who (as Seneca expresses it) divide their lives betwixt an anxious conscience and a nauseated stomach, have a just reward of their gluttony in the diseases it brings with it ; for human savages, like other wild beasts, find snares and poison in the provisions of life, and are allured by their appetite to their destruction. I know nothing more shocking or horrid than the prospect of one of their kitchens covered with blood, and filled with the cries of creatures expiring in tortures. It gives one an image of a giant's den in a romance, bestrow'd with the scattered heads and mangled limbs of those who were slain by his cruelty.”

[Against Barbarity to Animals], The Guardian, No 61 Thursday, May 21, 1713, http://www.animalrightshistory.org/timeline-enlightenment/pop-alexander-pope.htm

[info from Nuno Metello, Portugal] 

  • Pope - from The Ethics of Diet by Howard Williams, 1883
  • An Essay on Man (link to archive.org) by Alexander Pope ((1688-1744), first pub. 1732-5, this edition London 1820. Humane commentary

Use these links to buy from amazon and IVU gets up to 10%!