Information: This text was kindly sent to the Anna Kingsford Site by Mr. Brian McAllister who photocopied it from Mr. Hart’s cuttings book. There we can read the observation that the first part of this lecture, down to the end of the quotation from Towards Democracy, was published in The Vegetarian News, Vol. 5, nº 59, Nov. 1925, pp. 274-279.
WHY BE A VEGETARIAN? (1)
SOME ARGUMENTS FROM THE RELIGIOUS STANDPOINT.
By SAMUEL HOPGOOD HART.
Before the question “Why be a Vegetarian?” can be answered, it is necessary to understand what is meant by vegetarian, for there appears to be a doubt in the minds of some as to what constitutes a vegetarian – that is, if we look to dictionaries for a definition. I will pass over such definitions as “a vegetarian is one who lives on vegetables only,” and “one who holds that vegetables are the only proper food of man,” because I doubt if these definitions would include any living vegetarian. According to the following definition, also taken from a dictionary, vegetarians are “those who on principle abstain from animal food” and “those who maintain that vegetables and farinaceous substances constitute the only proper food of man.” The first part of this last-mentioned definition (which is in negative form) is right so far as it goes, provided that by animal food be understood fish, flesh, and fowl. Every vegetarian abstains from these three kinds of food, and to abstain from these alone is sufficient qualification (apart from the payment of subscriptions) for membership of any vegetarian society in this country. The second part of the definition (which is in positive form) is not so satisfactory, because, while all vegetarians would agree that vegetables and farinaceous substances constitute a proper food for man, no vegetarian would maintain that man should live exclusively on these two classes of food. Vegetarians include in their food fruit and nuts – both most valuable and important foods – and most of them partake also of such animal products as milk, butter, cheese, and eggs. I say “most,” because there are some who abstain from dairy products and – playing on the word – nick-name their fellow non-flesh-eaters who do not so abstain “vegedairians.” And there are non-flesh-eaters who, not abstaining from dairy products, do not call themselves vegetarians. I think that for all practical purposes vegetarians may be defined as those who at all times and on principle abstain from eating fish, flesh, and fowl, and live on some one or more of the following foods, viz., fruits, nuts, vegetables, and farinaceous foods, to which, if desired, may be added such dairy produce as milk, butter, cheese, and eggs. Farinaceous foods consist or are made up of meal or flour of various species of corn or grain. All such foods contain a large percentage of starch, and are sometimes spoken of as “the starch foods.” The word
farinaceous is derived from the Latin word farina, which, in a general sense, means ground corn, meal or flour. Flour is also made from the seeds of leguminous or pulse plants such as peas, beans, and lentils.
Having defined what I mean by vegetarian, the question “Why be a vegetarian?” would appear ridiculous did we not live in a country in which the majority of people are flesh-eaters, for it is for flesh-eaters rather than for vegetarians to be called upon to justify their conduct and give a reason for the faith that is in them. Now, it is just his conduct regarding his food that the flesh-eater cannot morally justify. There is no law against the pure and bloodless diet of the vegetarian, for he is not only a pure feeder – he is also a humane feeder, which the flesh-eater is not. In a letter which recently appeared in The Daily Mirror, (2) the writer, who described himself as “Satisfied Experimenter,” after referring to the growing body of well-informed opinion as to the desirability of food reform, said: “In my own case, dislike for the Wembley Rodeo led to what struck me as a logical step, i.e., the dropping of meat from my diet,” and, “after more than a year’s abstention, I know that I shall never return to it, for I can certainly say that I shall never felt fitter.” Now, the writer of that letter was first and foremost a moral man, for it was on moral and humane grounds that he gave up flesh-eating, and after he made the change he enjoyed the blessing of health. Would that there were more men of his stamp in the world! In the short extracts from his letter to which I have referred, two reasons for being a vegetarian are given or implied: first, the cruelty connected with the cattle traffic, which, so far as the victims are concerned, ends only in the horror of the slaughter-house; and, secondly, the improvement in or maintenance of good health which followed the giving up of a flesh diet. This letter was followed by another (3) in which the writer said: “‘Satisfied Experimenter’ is undoubtedly right. If the human race could be weaned of its degrading custom of gorging itself upon the dead bodies of warm-blooded animals it is certain that the health of body and mind of the community would experience an astonishing uplift. The idea that this repulsive provender is necessary for the production and maintenance of mental and physiological potency is an utter fallacy.” In this further letter another reason for being a vegetarian is given, viz., that flesh-eating is a degrading custom affecting not only the bodies but also the minds of those who indulge in it. So, from these two letters alone, which have only recently appeared in our daily press, three good reasons are given for being a vegetarian.
If flesh-eating be not necessary – as most assuredly it is not – then it is morally wrong. It is a sin against humanity to kill and eat our fellow-animals who are in the position of our lesser brethren. If any would persuade us to the contrary, let our reply be as St. Peter’s who, when on a certain occasion he understood that he was commanded to “kill and eat,” replied “Not so.” We read in the
Psalms that “The Lord abhors the blood-thirsty man.” Do flesh-eaters believe this? Verily, in more senses than one is the butcher’s shop a “gate of death,” for it spells blood-guiltiness and spiritual death to those who support it. It is not merely mental and physical degradation that follow flesh-eating. There is a killing of the soul in the practice. All the paths of the Lord are Mercy and Truth. He who would ascend the “Mount of the Lord” – that Holy Mount in which they neither hurt nor destroy – must walk innocently and seek peace and ensue it. It is of no use to cry “Peace, peace” where there can be no peace, and there can be no peace in partnership with cruelty and bloodshed. God’s mercy is over all His works.
Regarding the cruelty of flesh-eating, have you ever considered what cruelty to
our fellow creatures as well as to the animal victims is involved in the
practice? The man who slaughters is unutterably degraded by the practice, and
those who eat meat are responsible for his degradation. Flesh-eaters in effect
pay a man to do wrong that their thirst for blood may be gratified, thereby
making themselves accessory to another’s sin. And those who defend the ill deed
are guilty of the same offence. It was
Society, had been advocating the use of the humane killer in the
slaughter-houses, and no stone had been left unturned to make the butchers and
their customers and the local council see through humane eyes. So blunted is the
conscience of the great majority of flesh-eaters that they will not even take
steps to insist that the killing operation be performed with the least possible
suffering and anguish to their food-victims. And our flesh-eating clergy, from
bishops downwards, are as apathetic on the subject as are their congregations.
Thus it has come to pass that the foremost advocates for the compulsory use of
the humane killer in the slaughter houses are to be found among vegetarians who,
while not believing it right to kill animals for food, believe it right to
succour animals in distress, and, when they find them in prison under the
compulsion of flesh-eaters, to visit them. The Duchess of
those great teachers Dr. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland – a book that cannot fail to convince all who are open-minded on the subject.
The Hon. Rollo Russell, in Strength and Diet (p. 604) says: “A child, who had been in the field to feed and fondle his pet lambs, entered the kitchen to return a plate. The cook was not there. On the table was an open book. The child read what was before him: ‘Sheep’s head. Clean the head (split in half), take out the eyes, remove the tongue, remove also the gums and teeth and nostrils, and leave in a pan of warm water, with half-a-cup of vinegar on it, for an hour . . . Serve with melted butter, and the brain, which should be boiled separately, chopped small, together with some parsley.’ The child read no more in that book, but flew to the sunny woods, and sobbed aloud to Nature.” This is followed by other recipes equally revolting, recipes says the writer, “calmly recorded by a Christian for Christians.”
Having read the above recipe for “Sheep’s head” one might think that nobody in
this country would partake of such food. But this is not so.
Only a few days ago (4)
a brush-maker who lived in
It is not necessary that man’s life on the physical plane be sustained by bloodshed, and, apart from necessity, there is no divine licence to man to kill the lower animals – his lesser brethren – for food. The bodies of the animals were not intended for the food of man, but for the service of the animal. The higher animals, as we know, have already evolved to a stage approaching the human, and are too highly sensitive to be made to endure the torture of the shambles. It is too shocking to contemplate. With lower orders of animals the suffering may not be so great, but the flesh-eater does not pretend to confine his acts of outrage to lower orders of animals. The time has come to lift the burden of slaughter for food from the animal kingdom, and the burden of sin from those engaged in the business whether as principals or accessories. There is a great ideal behind the vegetarian movement, an ideal that some day will find expression in the lives of all mankind, and not merely, as at present, of a comparatively small number of humanitarians. The forces that are on the side of God are behind the movement, and they must in the end prevail. Edward Carpenter, in Towards Democracy (pp. 174-5) says: “Behold the animals. There is not one but the human soul lurks
within it, fulfilling its destiny as surely as within you ... I saw deep in the eyes of the animals the human soul look out upon me. I saw where it was born deep down under feathers and fur, or condemned for awhile to roam four-footed among the brambles. I caught the clinging mute glance of the prisoner, and swore that I would be faithful. Thee, my brother and sister, I see and mistake not. Do not be afraid. Dwelling thus and thus for a while, fulfilling thy appointed time – thou too shalt come to thyself at last. Thy half-warm horns and long tongue lapping round my wrist do not conceal thy humanity any more than the learned talk of the pedant conceals his – for all thou art dumb we have words and plenty between us. Come nigh, little bird, with your half-stretched quivering wings – within you I behold choirs of angels, and the Lord himself in vista.”
I have not answered the question “Why be a Vegetarian?” or if there be any doubt
as to the existence of a human soul in its early stages behind the animal form,
let me draw your attention to the action of a horse, an account of which
recently appeared in the papers. (5) A horse saved the life of a
woman under the following circumstances: The woman was driving the horse in a
trap, and stopped at the edge of
he is reported to have said: “When I was there, I was taken
Many instances of acts of devotion shewn by animals to those who have been kind to them could be given, while acts of the greatest inhumanity towards animals are frequently recorded of man. To take the case of a dog’s heroic action which was reported in the Daily Mirror of May 4th, 1925. The account says: “Despite fierce flames that must have caused it excruciating agony, a dog made a vain attempt to save a baby from being burned to death.” The facts were as follows: A woman had left her eighteen-months-old child lying on the floor of an upstairs room. She had gone downstairs, when she heard the dog barking furiously. "She rushed to the room and found the baby’s clothes blazing, and the dog, with tongues of flame hiding its head, trying to pull the child away from the fire. Evidently the child had gone too near the fire, and the dog, after giving the alarm, had rushed to its aid.” We will now turn to another account and see how a man can treat a dog. The case is reported in the Daily Express of January 13th, 1925. It is very sad reading. It is the case of a pottery worker who was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment for “burning a dog alive!” The account says: “He threw the dog into the fire-box of a turbine boiler and closed the door. The cries of the animal brought assistance, but it was so seriously injured that it had to be destroyed.” I say that acts of inhumanity such as these towards poor and defenceless animals would be unheard of if people would cease to eat them, and learn to see and appreciate in them the birth of those human instincts which in themselves they associate with righteousness.
In conclusion, I would draw attention to a letter which was published in the Occult Review, for November, 1924, giving an account of a psychic experience which the writer of the letter had, and which has a bearing on our subject. The writer of this letter says that, on waking one morning at daybreak, he momentarily saw in the sky,
amidst golden rays and tinged with exquisite colours of many hues, an archway over which in spotless white lettering there was written the word TRUTH. Then there came to him from within the “urge of some unseen force” to write down the message which was the subject-matter of his letter, and the message was that “Beyond is the plane of truth supernal, but only along the path of earth’s most worthy actions can mankind reach its portals,” and, in this connection, man’s serious attention must be drawn to his thoughtless and cruel attitude towards the lower animal creation. “The continual exploitation of God’s lowly sentient creatures” was declared to be both “unnatural and unnecessary,” and “its cessation is the only sure ground upon which to establish a logical, effective, and lasting brotherhood.” Man must realise the spiritual significance of the sacredness of life which implies unity – “the binding together of one great universal fraternity.” The taking away of God-given life, which man cannot replace, whether it be through the medium of the abattoir, the chase, the trap, or the gun – all entailing untold misery, pain and horror – “is a constant violation of Nature’s laws” which consciously and in various ways rebound upon the lawbreaker. He that desires mercy from the heavenly plane must fully and practically show the same to others on the earthly plane. The writer was further told that “God’s love was not for man alone, but included all his sentient creatures,” and not until man becomes determined to make the earth a humanistic planet will he in his mind and body know the “peace of God.” And the writer was exhorted in the following words: – “When passing over, let your flight be to the plane of truth – its entrance is dependent on love, sympathy, and mercy, and a simple method of earthly living.”
May the love of God which extends to all creatures be in your heart.
(1) A lecture given on October 12th, 1925, to the Croydon Vegetarian Society.
(2) September 17th, 1925.
(3) The Daily Mirror, September 19th, 1925.
(4) See The Daily Express, October 6th, 1925.
(5) The Daily Express, October 3rd, 1925.