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The Ethics of Diet - A Catena
by Howard Williams M.A., 1883

T. Forster M.D. 1789-1860
(text from the Appendix of the 1st edition, 1883)

The observations of a book entitled Philozoa, published in 1839, and noticed with approval by Schopenhauer, are sufficiently worthy of not, and may fitly conclude this work :-

"Many very intelligent men have, at different times of their lives, abstained wholly from flesh; and this, too, with very considerable advantage to their health. Mr. Lawrence, whose eminence as a surgeon is well known, lived for many years on a vegetable diet. Byron, the poet, did the same, as did P. B. Shelley, and many other distinguished literati whom I could name. Dr. Lambe and Mr. F. Newton have published very able works in defence of a diet of herbs, and have condemned the use of flesh as tending to undermine the constitution by a sort of slow poisoning. Sir R. Phillips has published Sixteen Reasons for Abstaining from the Flesh of Animals, and a large society exists in England of persons who eat nothing which has had life.

"The most attentive researches, which, I have been able to make into the health of all these persons, induce me to believe that vegetable food is the natural diet of man. I tried it once with very considerable advantage. My strength became greater, my intellect clearer, my power of continued exertion proptracted, and my spirits much higher than they were when I lived on a mixed diet. I am inclined to think that the 'inconvenience' which some persons profess to experience from vegetable food is only temporary. A few repeated trials would soon render it not only safe but agreeable, and a disgust for the taste of flesh, under any disguise, would be the result of the experiment. The Carmelites, and other religious orders, who subsist only on the productions of the vegetable world, live to a greater age than those who feed on flesh; and, in general, frugiverous persons are milder in their disposition than other people. The same quantity of ground has been proved to be capable of sustaining a larger (1) and stronger population on a vegetable than on a flesh-meat diet; and experience has shown that the juices of the body are more pure, and the vscera much more free from disease, in those who live in this simple way.

"All these facts, taken collectively, point to a period in the history of civilisation when men will cease to slay their fellow-mortals for food, and will tend to realise the fictions of Antiquity, and of the Sybilline oracles respecting a 'Golden Age'" (2)



    1. Note on this point the words of the late W. R. Greg, to the effect that "the amount of human life sustained on a given area may be almost infinitely increased by the substitution of vegetable for animal food; "and his further statement - "A given acreage of wheat will feed at least ten times as many men as the same acreage employed in growing 'mutton.' It is usually calculated that the consumption of wheat by an adult is about one quarter per annum, and we know that good land produces four quarters. But let us assume that a man living on [flesh] meat would need 3lbs. a day, and it is considered a liberal calculation. If an acre spent in grazing sheep and cattle will in 'beef' and 'mutton' more than 50lb. on an average - the best farmer in Norfolk having averaged 90lb., but a great majority of farms in Great Britain only reach 20lb. On these data it would require 22 acres of pasture land to sustain one adult person living on [flesh] meat. It is obvious that in view of the adoption of a vegetable diet lies the indication of a vast increase in the population sustainable on a given area." - Social and Political Problems (Trübner)
    2. "Of the Cruelty connected with the Culinary Arts" in Philozoa ; or, Moral Reflections on the Actual Condition of the Animal Kingdom, and on the means of improving the Same; with numerous Anectdotes and Illustrative Notes, addressed to Lewis Gompertz, Esq., President of the Animals' Friend Society: by T. Forster, M.B., F.R.A.S., F.L.S., &c. Brussels, 1839. The writer well insists that, however remote may be a universal Reformation. every individual person, pretending to any culture or refinement of mind, is morally bound to abstain from sanctioning, by his dietetic habits, the revolting atrocities "connected with the culinary arts, of which Mr. Young, in his Book on Cruelty, has given a long catalogue."

  • Wikipedia (appears to be the same man): Thomas Ignatius Maria Forster (b. London, 9 Nov., 1789; d. Brussels, 2 Feb., 1860) was an astronomer and naturalist.


Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet - index