IT requires rather a course of lectures than a lecture to treat adequately, and in all its bearings, the subject upon which you have invited me to address you. For it is one which, being appropriately plant-like in nature, has many root-fibres, which penetrate into various strata of knowledge and experience, and the shadow it casts extends over a vast area of thought, related as well to the future as to the past.
I might, for instance, invite your attention to the consideration of human dietetics in the light of history. I might point to the opening of the Kabbalistic Book of Genesis, the origin of which is undoubtedly Indo-Egyptian, as evidence of the teaching of the sacred mysteries in regard to the nature of the food proper to man in an unfallen state; or I might cite to you the famous passages in which Ovid describes the Golden or Arcadian Age, when, "contented with the food which nature freely gave, men were happy in the fruit of trees, and herbs of earth, nor stained their lips with blood." And I might point out to you further, what also Ovid well shews in the speech he puts into the mouth of the Samian sage; how, with the odious practice of flesh-eating, came likewise that of bloody sacrifice and aggressive war, – a dismal triad, whose mutual relations are nowhere so forcibly and graphically portrayed as in the Iliad of Homer. But that I do not desire to weary you with quotations and references, I might remind you of the teachings of that purest and noblest school of Greek philosophy to which Pythagoras gave his name, and which, through the influence of his disciples of a later age, Porphyry and lamblichus, became the parent of Neo-platonism; I might cite the letters of Seneca to Lucilius; Plutarch's celebrated Essay on Flesh-Eating,
and certain passages from the
of Plato, the chief exponent in which dialogue is Socrates; I might speak of
Tertullian's treatise on abstinence from animal meats, in which he
criticises Paul's observations on the subject; and of works having a
similar import from the pens of Clement of Alexandria and
Chrysostom the Golden-mouthed. I might recall to your minds the
innumerable army of prophets, heroes, saints, hermits, and fathers of both
Orient and Occident, whose practice, whether as Magi, Therapeuts, Brahmans, Buddhists,
Essenes, Ebionites, or
Gnostics, was identical with that of the modern
But as my time is brief and my theme long, I must content myself with only a scant indication of the witness borne to the doctrines of our School by the great and gifted of bygone and present times, and pass on to touch on a few points of more practical and immediate interest.
I shall say first a few words in relation to the anatomical, physiological, and chemical aspects of human dietetics; next I shall speak of the economical, sanitary, and aesthetic bearings of the question; lastly, I shall give a few suggestions which may help you to formulate a more complete and satisfactory code of social and personal ethics than that commonly enunciated from modern pulpits and platforms.
Whether we adopt the theory of the Evolutionists or that of the Creationists – and I may as well say at the outset that I hold the former, as containing the only intelligible and scientific explanation of natural order and phenomena – we must equally admit the Linnaean classification of animals, by which man is placed in the same series as the Ape family. All the characteristics of the human creature are equally those of the higher Primates, and in particular of the orang-outang, the gorilla, and the chimpanzee. Their cranium, their cerebral convolutions, their teeth and dental morphology, their jaw action and glandular appendages, their stomach, liver, and alimentary canal, their hands adapted for fruit-gathering and tree-climbing – all these, refined and elaborated, are distinctly human in character, and differ in every particular from the
attributes of predacious beasts on the one hand, and on the other, from those of
the ruminant herbivora. Now the Ape family, man
included, are all naturally frugivorous. The food of
the anthropoids is derived from tree and grain produce, and though some of the
tribe are great egg-suckers and insect-hunters, these pursuits are incidental
only, and are clearly due, especially as regards the latter, to the curiosity
and love of mischief which characterise alike the ape
and the savage man. In no zoological collection that I ever yet heard of is the
ape or the monkey supplied with any flesh food, or even with animal products.
The rations served daily to these creatures in the Jardin
des Plantes at
Now, the digestive apparatus of the family to which man belongs, may, broadly speaking, be divided into three separate receptacles and laboratories, to each of which a distinct function is appropriated. These three departments are the stomach, the intestines, and the liver, and to each corresponds a special chemical division of alimentary substances, known to modern science respectively as nitrogenous, fatty, and starchy foods. The first-named group, the nitrogenous foods, are fourfold in constitution, containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, with traces of sulphur and phosphorus. Nitrogenised compounds are obtainable from both vegetable and animal sources, and their forms are known as albumen, fibrine, caseine, gelatine, and chondrine. In vegetables they are procurable chiefly from seeds; in animals, from muscular tissue. The first three substances, albumen, fibrine, and caseine, appear primarily in the vegetable kingdom, and are known to chemists as proteinaceous substances. By this term it is meant that by the action of heat and an alkali these three forms of nitrogenised matter furnish a new substance called proteine, produced in the process by transformation only, and this fact serves to distinguish them from gelatine and chondrine, products
of animal origin, which, although nitrogenised, are not capable of yielding proteine. Albumen, fibrine, and caseine, identical in both organic kingdoms as regards nature and properties, differ slightly from one another. Albumen contains a considerable proportion of sulphur and phosphorus, and exists in both the soluble and the coagulated state, the latter condition being due to the application of heat above the ordinary temperature. It forms the substance known as "white of egg," which when raw is fluid, and becomes solid by being subjected to a process of cooking. It is contained in all the cereals, in all seeds, and in the juices of most herbaceous vegetables. Fibrine differs from albumen by its characteristic tenaciousness, and by the fact that it coagulates without heat. More sulphur is present in fibrine than in albumen. In the animal system fibrine is the material which forms the basis of muscular tissue and the thickening substance of the blood. In vegetables it constitutes the basis of gluten – the firm portion of seeds and grains. Caseine neither coagulates spontaneously, as does fibrine, nor by heat, as does albumen. It contains sulphur, but no phosphorus. It is obtainable from milk, and therefore from all milky compounds, and from all peas, beans, and other leguminous seeds.
Not long ago the view taken by scientific men of the uses of proteinaceous food was a very different one from that which recent observation and inquiry seem to have satisfactorily established as correct. In accordance with Liebig's hypothesis, nitrogenous (or proteine-giving) material used to be regarded as the only and exclusive source of muscular and nervous power. It was held that nitrogenous matter, after becoming incorporated with muscular tissue and passing through that condition, disintegrated in the system into two constituent parts, one of which was eliminated from the body as waste material, and the other retained for the production of heat and energy. Thus, it was thought, all food must become organised tissue before it can contribute to force production; and the tissues of the body being consumed in the manifestation of functional activity, and exhausted by metamorphosis into force, nitrogenous matter must be constantly ingested to replace the double loss and expenditure involved. Although partially true, this hypothesis erred in attributing to nitrogenised food the work of supply of power as well as of repair of tissue. In fact, the force evolved by muscular
action does not, as Liebig supposed, proceed from destruction of muscular tissue; his assumption to this effect having been abundantly disproved by the analysis of the effete matters thrown off from the system during muscular exertion, and by careful research undertaken by numerous investigators, and based both on experiment and on arithmetical calculation. The truth appears to be that the property of proteinaceous foods is pre-eminently to serve as material for the development and for the renovation of the various tissues and secretions of the economy. As waste is perpetually occurring alike in muscular, nervous, and glandular tissue, and as a vast quantity of secreted juices is constantly expended in the work of the vital processes, it is of great importance that nitrogenous aliment sufficient to compensate these losses, and to repair the substantial elements of the economy, should be ingested daily.
All the various groups of nitrogenous food are digested in the stomach by means of the gastric juice, a secretion having an acid reaction, and of which the active elements are a soluble ferment called pepsine – whereby albuminous foods are converted into peptones – and an acid, closely resembling in nature and characteristics the mineral product known as hydrochloric or muriatic acid. The effects of the gastric juice on the three chief groups of nitrogenous food, viz., albumen, fibrine, and caseine, differ slightly in detail, but under its influence all are liquefied, dissolved, transformed, and rendered fit for assimilation. This digestive process is greatly aided by animal heat, and by the mechanical action set up during the operation in the muscular walls of the organ itself, which, like every other organ of the living body, is intelligent in its functions and takes an active part in the offices of life. From the stomach, the liquefied food, or chyme, is passed on into the next digestive department, where, if necessary, it is further elaborated, and in which the process of absorption commences.
The nitrogenised foods in ordinary use in this country are more commonly derived from the animal than from the vegetable kingdom. They comprise milk and cheese, eggs, lean flesh-meats, poultry, game, and fish; beans, haricots, peas, lentils, all the cereals, nuts, and some herbs. Of these various materials, the proportion of nitrogen yielded by flesh, poultry, game, and fish is much less than that yielded by an
equal percentage of cheese and vegetable matter. Beef and mutton, for instance, give an average of 18 %, of nitrogen; pork and ham, 8 %; white fish, 17 %; while cheeses range in nitrogenous value from 25 to 44 %, and the bean tribe from 25 to 30 %. There is thus, a priori, a greater advantage in nitrogenous value to be derived from a given amount of vegetable and milk food than from the same amount of flesh meat. But there is another consideration, important to the human being who desires not only that his food should be nutritious but that it should be pure. Comestibles of every kind, and nitrogenised foods in particular, contain, besides nutritive matter, elements improper to assimilation, and destined to be rejected by the economy as waste or "ash." These elements are divisible into two categories: substances innutritious by their nature but not impure or vitiated in constitution, such as cellulose, and the woody fibre of plants and all vegetable products; and substances both innutritious and vitiated, such as are contained in the juices of flesh meats.
The finest and healthiest animal tissue is always permeated by blood, for it is impossible, unless by processes which would utterly ruin it as food, to separate blood from the solid material everywhere pervaded by the circulating vessels. Flesh and blood are therefore virtually inseparable, and their component elements are continually interchanging. Now, as the blood is the vehicle of the sewage of the body, as well as the medium of reconstitution, it contains always two kinds of materials, of which part represents nutrition and part impurity and decomposition. In eating animal flesh, we consume, therefore, as well as the healthy and nutritive matter momentarily fixed in the tissue, certain substances in course of expulsion, decaying products returning into the blood, and destined for elimination from the body of the animal by the various channels appropriated to waste residue. These matters, in process of "retrograde metamorphosis," are known to chemists by such names as creatine, creatinine, xanthine, protagon, tyrosine, sarcosine, inosic, formic, and butyric acids, and so forth.
I do not now speak of the innumerable perils and disgusting associations connected with the eating of diseased flesh. These will be touched on when we come to the sanitary considerations of our subject. I desire in this place to point out what impurities and degenerate products are inevitably
consumed by every kreophagist, be he never so fastidious, careful, or delicately served.
As the stomach is physiologically related to the digestion of nitrogenous compounds, so are the intestine and the liver to that of fatty and starchy foods. These foods differ from nitrogenous aliments in their constitution, which, instead of being fourfold, comprise three elements only – carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The fatty substances are called by chemists, hydro-carbons; and the starches and sugars, carbo-hydrates. The first group contains carbon, hydrogen, and a small amount of oxygen; the second comprises carbon, with hydrogen and oxygen in the exact proportion of two volumes of hydrogen to one of oxygen, H20 – the formula of water. To the hydro-carbons belong all the vegetable oils, yielded by seeds, nuts, stems, etc., and all the animal fats – butter, lard, suet, and dripping. To the carbo-hydrates belong substances obtainable – with one single exception – only from the vegetable kingdom – starch, sugar, gum, fruit-jelly, and cellulose.
Modern experimentation in physics, aided by the application of chemical analysis, has demonstrated that as nitrogenous food corresponds to the development and renovation of living material, so carbonaceous food, of both groups above named, corresponds to the production in the living organism of heat, and consequently of force, – heat and force being mutually convertible. And although, from a chemical point of view, it is necessary to distinguish between the hydro-carbons and the carbo-hydrates – the proportion of oxygen being uniformly larger in the latter than in the former – the physiological uses and character of the two groups may be said to be identical. Both pass through the stomach without change, both are digested in the small intestine, both appear to be finally assimilated under the same form, and both are charged with the function of heat and force production.
Fatty substances – hydro-carbons – consist chemically of a principle possessing acid properties, called fatty acid, in combination with a radical. A "radical" in chemical language is a composite body forming a molecular group capable of acting as a simple body in combination, and transferable from one combination to another in exchange for one or more atoms of hydrogen or its representatives. Fats, under which head, of course, oils are included, are decomposed by alkalies, and by certain ferments contained in the juices of the small
intestine. These juices are three in number, – the intestinal, secreted by the small glands of the intestine itself; the pancreatic, secreted by the pancreas; and the bile, secreted by the liver. The last-named secretion, however, appears to take no active part in digestion; and although physiologists have long disputed its function, the general tendency now is to regard it as destined to play the part rather of scullion than of cook in the culinary department in which it officiates. That is to say, that while the process of digestion is going on in the intestine, the bile does not arrive on the scene at all; but when the work of the other juices is pretty nearly finished – when the endothelium or superficial cells which line the intestine and take part in the act of absorption, have begun to peel off and decorticate – then the bile flows in, sweeps away these deteriorated cells, cleans down the whole laboratory, renews its surface, and puts everything in order for new work. Thus it prevents putrid fermentation of the intestinal contents, and repairs the mucous lining of the alimentary canal. But to the intestinal glandular secretion, and especially to the pancreatic juice, is committed the operation of the digestive process. The main part of this process, the emulsification of all the fats and oils, is performed almost exclusively by the pancreatic juice, an alkaline secretion which flows into the intestine immediately on the arrival of the food, and of which the active principle is a mixture of three particular ferments. The fat is thus broken up, and parted into very minute globules, such as are contained in milk, and in this condition it is sucked up and absorbed by the little cellular projecting tubes which line the intestine. Upon starch and other amyloid matters, comprised under the term carbo-hydrates, and belonging therefore to the second group of non-nitrogenised solid foods, the action of the intestinal juices is equally strong. Although these are destined to undergo their final transformation elsewhere, it is in the intestine that they become converted into sugar, which, passing by virtue of its diffusibility into the circulating current of the blood-vessels, is thus conveyed by the portal system into the liver. It is not precisely determined by what physiological process this saccharine matter eventually becomes absorbable by the organism, but that the process, whatever its details, takes place in the liver, and that it is ultimately in the form of fatty matter that all sugary material is utilised in the human
body, appear, according to modern writers, to be indubitable facts.
Of hydro-carbons or fats, the most valuable, but unfortunately the least known
and used in this country, are derived from vegetable sources. These are much
more digestible and suitable food than the animal fats, partly on account of the
assured purity and freedom from disease of their origin, and partly on account
of their more sound and wholesome nature, less liable to decomposition and
alteration than fats obtained from beasts. The best-known vegetable oil is that
of the olive, procured from the fruit by pressure. In
The carbo-hydrates, with one single exception only, come to us from the vegetable kingdom. The exception is lactine, or sugar of milk. True, a substance analogous to starch is found in the liver, and under certain diseased conditions in flesh tissue, but for alimentary purposes these sources are not available. Sugar is of three kinds: milk-sugar (just named),
cane-sugar – the crystallised variety in common use, extracted from stems and roots – and grape-sugar, procurable from every kind of fruit. Honey is also a vegetable product, being collected from flowers by the insects whose food it is. It appears that in the living human organism sugar is more readily assimilable than most substances; and if the deductions of physiologists are trustworthy, it plays so necessary a part in vital processes, that, as Dr. Edward Smith observes, "it may be doubted whether the loss of any one element of food would be so keenly felt as that of sugar. It enters universally into the dietaries of every class of mankind in every place." In fact, physiology has demonstrated that grape sugar, under which form cane sugar and all saccharine compounds are assimilated, performs in the living body certain indispensable functions beyond that of heat and force production. It excites and assists the digestive processes, furnishes abundant chyle, and probably stimulates the secretion of the salivary glands, always more copious and necessary in fruit and grain-eating animals than in predaceous mammals. Dr. Playfair, in his dietaries, while allotting to nitrogenous matter a proportion of four ounces only, and to fatty substances two ounces, considers carbo-hydrates – starch and sugar – necessary to the extent of seventeen or eighteen ounces daily.
Starchy substances are usually described as farinaceous foods. The articles of this nature chiefly in use among us are sago, tapioca, cassava, arrowroot, potato, semolina, rice, vermicelli, maccaroni, and all the meals and beans generally. It must be borne in mind that these foods, especially the corn and bean-meals, represent also the prime sources of nitrogenous food. Dry common wheat contains on an average 77 % of hydrates of carbon, and from 15 to 20 % of nitrogenous material. Barley-meal, rye-meal, quinoa-meal, buck-wheat, maize, and oatmeal give an average of about 70 % of carbo-hydrates and 12 of nitrogen, the rest being made up of oily matter and salts.
The type of all human foods – bread – comes to us from the vegetable world, and the fact that this aliment is popularly regarded as the "staff of life," and the poetical equivalent of all possible forms of nutritive matter, is in perfect accord with the estimate of science; for as fruit, or grain – which botanically are identical – is the most highly vitalised, solarised, pure, and essential product of organic life, so the food which is
composed of grain is the most precious to the human economy. In the wheat-grain are contained all the elements necessary for the fulfilment of the twofold function of alimentation of which I have already spoken. The cells of the central part of the grain contain starch, whereby are produced force and heat; the cells underlying the husk contain nitrogenous substance, whereby tissues are built up; and in the outer sheathings are found the phosphates and other mineral materials which enter into the constitution of the animal economy. The wheat-grain is thus a microcosmic epitome of the various classes of food with which physiological chemistry has made us acquainted.
Thus it is obvious that from the vegetable kingdom are derived the best and purest forms of human alimentation. This kingdom not only supplies us abundantly with the agents of heat and labour, the animal sources of which are totally inadequate to meet our needs, but it yields us also food of a nitrogenous character, infinitely healthier, more cleanly, and richer in value than the flesh of any beast or fowl. For these reasons among many others, it seems evident that in the operations of normal evolution, plant-life must everywhere precede animal-life; and that the carnivorous groups of the latter are to be regarded rather as the result of a degradation from, or retrogression in, the process of natural development – due to incidental disasters – than as the outcome of its orderly march.
I have not time, in view of the many important subjects which press for consideration, to enter upon the question of the relation of food to national resources. It is a question of profound interest and import to the political economist, the farmer, the landlord, the peasant-tenant, and the philanthropic reformer, and needs a treatise to expound its manifold bearings. But, leaving this momentous subject untouched, the question of food economy is interesting from a social and domestic, as well as from a national point of view. A great part of the burden of poverty, which in most of our large centres presses so severely on the labouring classes, would be removed were a cheaper system of diet introduced into their homes. It has just been shewn that many inexpensive kinds of vegetable food contain a percentage of nutritive material, both nitrogenous and carbonaceous, greatly exceeding that which can be obtained from costly joints of flesh-meat, the
waste of which in cooking averages from a third to half the original weight. An outlay of a shilling in oatmeal, peas, lentils, or beans will purchase as much nutriment as five shillings expended on butcher's meat. An idea of the immense economy which might be effected by a more judicious use and distribution of food-stuffs than that at present in vogue, may be gathered from Mr. Hoyle's computation, that if the six million families of the United Kingdom were to reduce their consumption of butcher's meat by a pound's weight only a week, it would give a saving of ten or more million pounds sterling per annum.
If there be a moral lesson to be got out of
statistics relating to domestic expenditure, it is one which pre-eminently
concerns our national school boards. Let the authorities who hold in their hands
the guidance of the rising generation, and therefore the immediate future of the
country, take up the question of food-supply and domestic economy in a practical
form, and teach the boys and girls committed to their care how to make the most
out of the wages they will earn when they grow to be men and women. Let the
children of the people be taught the values of food-stuffs, and the elements of
organic chemistry – a kind of learning which would be of far more practical
service to them than much of that which the "standards" now require, and the
results of which would, in the best sense, be productive of
civilisation and prosperity. And let attention,
moreover, be given to the instruction of the girls in the science and resources
of housekeeping, with special reference to the neglected art of vegetable
cookery, and of making savoury and appetising dishes out
of inexpensive materials. As a rule, the poor, and even the middle classes, in
There is far greater perspicacity and economy
shewn with regard to the choice of foods among the peasant classes on the
take the place of the indigestible joint of pork, the steak pie, or the uncleanly tripe, which in this country consume the family earnings and preclude expenditure upon real necessities. For need of the proper instruction, which might be given in the national schools, but of which, alas! the instructors themselves stand in need, the poor are universally impressed with the belief that the prime source of all nourishment worth the name is to be found in butcher's meat, and to obtain this desideratum they will sacrifice in one day a sum which, spent with knowledge, would suffice for a week's comfort.
It is not by taking yearly more of our home lands from tillage and labour and laying them waste for rearing cattle that we shall increase either national prosperity or the material welfare of families. Such means as these carry with them three inevitable and direct evil tendencies, of which the first is to increase the chances of cattle epidemics by overstocking, and by the artificial feeding and rearing of farm-beasts for the market, – both fruitful sources of peril, especially as regards the production of entozoa, or worm affections, the varieties of which among stall-fed animals are very great. The second evil tendency is to throw out of work a large number of agricultural labourers, and to depopulate the country by diminution of the quantity of available food produced, thus fostering distress and bringing about enforced emigration. And the third evil consists in the multiplication of slaughter-houses, meat-markets, depots for offal and hides, tanneries, and many offensive and unhealthy trades connected with the butcher's avocation in and near large cities, thereby detracting enormously from the beauties and pleasures of civilised life, and increasing proportionately its discomforts, and the risks of infectious fevers, zymotic contagion, and diseases arising from the decomposition of animal matter.
We thus come to the consideration of a few facts related to the sanitary aspect of kreophagy.
Dr. Creighton, addressing the Medical Congress of 1881 on the subject of "Diseases communicated to Man by the Meat and Milk Supply," said: –
"One ground of our alarm on this subject is that tubercle – or, as it is called, pearl disease – is quite common in the species of animals to which we trust so implicitly – one might almost say, so blindly – for a large part of our food. (...) The disease
inherited and chronic, and may be present for years in the body of an animal and
give rise to no symptoms. The distinctive formations of the disease are
sometimes found in animals that have been slaughtered in (apparently) perfect
condition. But the disease in its worst form (...) is mostly met with in milch cows. (...) The cow-houses in or near large towns are
said to contain the largest proportion of diseased animals; the close
confinement throughout the whole year, the artificial food, the want of fresh
air and of sunlight, all tending to bring out the disease. The cows are milked
as long as it is profitable to milk them, and they are then sold out of the
herd, probably to the butcher. (...) Without adopting alarmist estimates (...)
there need be no hesitation in concluding that the milk of cows in a more or
less advanced state of tubercular disease is constantly being consumed both by
infants and by adults. (...) As for the flesh, there are the lymphatic glands
and viscera, and inferior parts of the carcase, such
as the diaphragm, or 'skirt,' which are especially liable to have the actual
tubercular nodules adhering to them, or more or less intimately blended with
them. These inferior parts of the animal are sold at a cheap rate to the poor,
and there is neither popular prejudice nor legislative enactment to hinder the
tubercular meat from being sold. (...) Two days ago I sent a trustworthy person
to certain slaughter-houses in
his children had died of rapid consumption, and the man himself was now also dying of the same disease."
In the course of the discussion which followed Dr. Creighton's paper, Dr. A. Carpenter observed that it had been shown by "evidence given in a court of law that ninety % of the animals which were slaughtered for the Metropolitan Meat Market were more or less infected with tubercle. It was shown too that this was almost universally the case in cows which had become barren. (...) Meat and milk from diseased beasts could not be healthy; and so long as animals were kept in close, ill-ventilated sheds, disease would abound among them. The time must come," he thought, "when they would be kept in the manner which nature designed them to be, viz. in the open fields of the country only."
This last remark of Dr. A. Carpenter is certainly sagacious, but it necessarily assumes a vast reduction in the quantity of flesh-meat and milk consumed. For the "open" pastures of this country would not support enough cattle in the "natural" condition of which he speaks to meet a fifth part of the present demand for animal food.
In the same section of the Congress, Mr. F. Vacher presented an address on "The Influence of Various Articles of Food in spreading Parasitic, Zymotic, Tubercular, and other Diseases." Corroborating Dr. Creighton, he said: –
"The foods which alone can spread their own diseases to the subjects by whom they are ingested are necessarily meat and milk, or their derivatives. There is abundant evidence in support of the view that foot-and-mouth disease may be spread to the human subject by means of milk, also tubercle: and as regards meat, there is evidence that a specific disease may be communicated to man by the ingestion of meat tainted with splenic fever or anthracoid disease, and erysipelas (a common symptom in many animal diseases) may spread to man by means of flesh. (...) Other diseases can be spread by means of meat infected by entozoa." (1)
Mr. Ernest Hart, in a long and careful paper, fortified by copious statistics, proved that typhoid fever, scarlatina, and diphteria had been all largely propagated by the use of milk.
"There is nothing," he said, "in the analogy of epidemics to limit the list to these three maladies, and already we are seeing indications of other cognate diseases being spread by the same agency. The number of epidemics of typhoid fever recorded in the abstract as due to milk is fifty; of scarlatina, fifteen; and of diphtheria, seven. The total number of cases during the epidemics traced to the use of infected milk may be reckoned in round numbers as 3500 of typhoid fever, 800 of scarlet fever, and 500 of diphtheria. When it is remembered that barely ten years ago we were utterly ignorant that milk was a carrier of infection, and that all these observations have been taken within one short decade, it will be seen how vitally important is the safe-guarding of our milk supplies from contamination. That so common an article of food as milk should be so readily capable of absorbing infection is a question of
greatest moment. The houses invaded during these epidemics were found to be commonly of the better class, and in healthy situations. The poor, who take very little milk, and that only in tea or coffee, generally escaped."
Entozoic diseases, due to the presence in various parts of the body of small parasites – some varieties of which are microscopic – are largely communicable to man, and the consequence of eating the flesh of animals so affected is often fatal, especially in the case of the common pork malady known as trichinosis. The large tape-worm, or taenia, which in the intestinal cavity of man often acquires a length of many feet, is derived from the bullock, the calf, and the pig; fluke, or liver-worm, is common in the sheep. Usually, in thickly populated districts, the livers of all sheep supplying the markets are riddled with these small worms.
In connection with this part of my subject, I should like to offer a few remarks in regard to the new method of "inoculation" as a preservative against certain forms of cattle and sheep disease. As you are aware, this method, to which Pasteur has attached his name, consists of the introduction into the blood of healthy animals of the attenuated or "cultivated" virus of anthrax, a malignant disease which for some time past has occasionally attacked districts devoted to the rearing of herds and flocks. Now, Pasteurism is the means by which modern science seeks to combat Nature's determination to put down redundant numbers, and to maintain a just equilibrium. Man, for purposes at once unnatural and immoral, has artificially multiplied to an enormous extent certain species of animals, and has given up to their support vast areas of otherwise serviceable land. Whenever any particular kind of animal, not excepting man himself, increases beyond a certain ratio over a limited area, Nature provides means to check the increase, and to restore the balance of species. The flesh-eating propensities of all classes of mankind have, during the last few decades, been steadily growing, and to minister to these propensities domesticated eatable animals have been bred all over the western half of the world in incredible numbers. Cause has brought about effect; overcrowding, artificial living, the impossibility of maintaining invariable sanitary conditions, and other inconveniences connected with breeding, have produced their inevitable nemesis. Pasteur proposes to get the better of Nature by anticipating
her hand, and by infecting the yet unsmitten cattle and sheep with a mild form of disease, which shall prevent them from succumbing to its deadlier type. This means simply that so long as the animals are under the influence of the disease, whether mild or malignant, they will not be liable to contract a fresh bout of it. If a person has small-pox in his economy, he will not be liable to any fresh contagion from extraneous sources. But there comes a time, perhaps in seven years or less, perhaps in ten or more – in some persons much sooner – when the influence of the disease will have wholly passed out of the economy, and then the body again becomes liable to contagion. So it is with anthrax in cattle. Pasteur and his followers know this, and they recommend therefore re-inoculations at certain intervals. All of which means that in order to keep our flocks and herds from diminishing, and to be able to meet the unnatural demand for abundance of flesh, and to eat oxen and sheep without stint, we must keep them in a constant state of splenic infection. For be sure that so long as they are "protected," as it is called, so long the deadly bacillus anthracis is somewhere about in the tissues and humours of the inoculated animal. Were it not, the "protection" would cease. The system is based on the principle of setting a thief in the house to keep other thieves out. But when once the house-keeping thief departs and leaves the house clean of his presence, the gang outside are liable to break in. Nor is the bacillus anthracis, even when fully in possession of the economy, able to keep out other diseases. On the contrary, an official report recently made to the Hungarian Department of Public Health on Pasteur's inoculation declares that "deaths from other complaints, such as catarrh, pneumonia, pericarditis, etc., occurred exclusively amongst the inoculated. It follows from this that a fatal issue from other severe diseases is accelerated by protective inoculation." Of this fact also Pasteur and his school are aware, for they now recommend, as Mr. Fleming informs us in the Nineteenth Century, the application of the "protective" method to all infectious forms of disease! All the zymotic diseases are believed to be inoculable by means of their special bacilli, and it is gravely argued, nay, even urged with all the pompous air of scientific authority, that henceforth the blood of both man and beast should be infected by every one of these germs, and thus be maintained in a continual state of ferment
and impurity. "Disease is king," cry the scientists; "long live Disease!" Truly, we may despair of successfully eradicating by means of hygiene and sanitation the myriad forms of living dirt, while "prophylactic medicine," as it is sarcastically termed, industriously multiplies, preserves, circulates, transmits, and sows the fatal germs broadcast over all the earth.
There is, besides, another grave consideration connected with Pasteurism, and one which is specially related to our subject. We have seen how transmissible from cattle to man by means of milk and meat are tubercular disease, foot-and-mouth disease, and other complaints. Why not then splenic disease in similar fashion? Anthrax is communicable to wool-sorters and tanners by mere contact with infected hides; what warrant have we that the secretion and flesh of creatures suffering under the influence of attenuated virus will prove harmless eating and drinking? Such ingesta may not perhaps set up true anthrax, but might develop unpleasant blood-symptoms, and predispose to such diseases as erysipelas, septicaemia, cutaneous eruptions, inflammatory tendencies, or general ill-defined morbid conditions. On this subject the Hungarian Report says: –
"When we consider that the inoculative material contains anthrax microzymes in colossal quantities, although of diminished virulence, and that the microzymes multiply to a gigantic extent in the organism of the inoculated animals, we see that the general employment of protective inoculations would spread these germs in inconceivable quantities through the whole country. Deaths will occur at all times, even among the inoculated animals, and the possibility is not excluded that the microzymes which would be liberated from the dead bodies when they became scattered, might regain their original virulence, and thus, despite all trouble and cost, attack both men and animals. This is all the more to be feared, as the carelessness with which people even now treat the bodies of animals which have died from anthrax would then be increased by belief in the omnipotence of protective inoculation."
So far, I have briefly placed before you a few arguments drawn from comparative anatomy, chemistry, physiology, domestic economy, and hygiene. All these considerations belong to the utilitarian aspects of the subject, and affect us rather as physical than as spiritual beings. But the cause of
akreophagy may be pleaded yet more strongly from a higher and distinctly human point of view, intimately related to the arts which beautify life and civilise our race, and, better and worthier still than these, to those just, compassionate, and gentle instincts of man, in virtue of which alone he is man, differing from and surpassing all other creatures. (1) (...)
Ouida, the novelist, who has contributed to the Gentleman's Magazine a very good article against vivisection, writes thus in regard to the practice of flesh-eating.
[Here the lecturer read the passage quoted by her in the first of her Letters on Pure Diet in The Food Reform Magazine. (2)]
To those of us who have lifted the veil which polite society in general finds it convenient to draw between the fashionable dining-room and the slaughter-house, it is no longer possible to sit down with placid mind and complacent face to a table loaded with carcases, and to bend piously forward while the stereotyped "grace" is murmured, and the Lord is thanked for the mercies graciously bestowed on the carnivorous company! "The mercies!" Heaven save the mark! But the Vegetarian host and his guests have no cause for shame. Their lentils, their rice, their fruits, their savoury dishes have been bought at no cost of suffering, terror, despair, or degradation to man or beast. The gardener, the agriculturist, the reaper, the fruit-gatherer are all of them in the enjoyment of healthy, invigorating, and ennobling pursuits. No odours of blood or death pollute the air they daily breathe, nor do hideous spectacles of pain and carnage occupy their sight from morn to night, and quench for them all the manifold loveliness and sweetness of life. The aroma of fields, of vineyards, of orchards, accompanies the beautiful repast of the man whose meal is such as Nature prompts; but over the banquet of the eater of dead flesh hangs the filthy smell of the shambles.
We are told that great things in the interests of progress, enlightenment, and other sacred names, are being done for the present generation by means of compulsory education and the facilities everywhere provided for instruction in science and literature. We are told that among all classes of the people knowledge is to be increased, intellect cultivated, and
civilisation spread. But if, as seems too probable, the chariot of popular education is to be made a vehicle for the propaganda of flesh-eating and vivisection, it will prove but a car of Juggernaut, whose wheels will assuredly crush the heart out of the people. A system of education merely intellectual tends not to civilise, but to bewilder and to harden. It is idle to speak of "civilising" the children of the new generation by such means as those provided by the Paul Berts of the day, and by others of the modern school of materialistic biology. Education, if it is to be really humanising, refining, and elevating in its results, must be moral and spiritual as well as intellectual. And such an education as this will never be given by men who inculcate on human beings the diet of the tiger, and who teach science by the method of the Spanish Inquisition. Flesh-eating and vivisection are in principle closely related, and both are defended by their advocates on common premises, of which the catch-cries are Utility and the Law of Nature.
As regards the consumption of flesh, it has been shown that being unsuited to the structure and organs of man, comparatively innutritious, largely impure and unsafe, and extremely costly, it certainly cannot be recommended on utilitarian grounds. And in respect to vivisection, though it would be passing strange if a practice carried on throughout Europe for the past two thousand years had effected nothing, its scanty uses have been dearly bought indeed at the cost of the agony involved, and of the rare waste of time, of talent, industry, and intellect over a method mostly vague and futile in its results, other infinitely more exact and valuable means of research being meanwhile neglected. And if such low utilities be veritably of paramount import in the evolution of the race, why have not the vivisectors the courage of their opinions, and why should they not claim – what their arguments legitimately cover – the right to vivisect human creatures? Why, while admitting the principle of vicarious sacrifice, should they shrink from its logical outcome? Is it because of the foolish popular notion that man only has a "soul," while other animals have not? All the more reason then, surely, for sparing these in their one brief life the infliction of suffering which Nature does not impose. Man, with eternity before him, may well afford, for the good of his kind, a few hours or even days of suffering. It is, however, the strange fact that the most atrocious of
laboratory tortures are inflicted by men who profess to believe the nature and destiny of the brute and of man identical, and who hold that for both, death is the irrevocable finale of being. From the point of view of this doctrine – a doctrine rapidly gaining power, numbers, and importance in Europe – it is not less difficult to conceive why the brain of the ape should be deemed a fitting object for experiment, and that of the human infant or savage should be spared; why the innocent and serviceable horse or dog should be given over to the tormentors, and the criminal, lunatic, idiot, or pauper should be respected.
As to the second contention, that Nature's law is the law of prey, and that therefore man has a priori a natural right to rend and torment, it should be answered that the term "Nature" implies neither individuality nor responsibility, but simply condition. All that Nature does is to permit the manifestation of acquired qualities in individuals. In such sense we must understand the phrase "habit is Nature." This fact does not justify responsible humanity in the manifestation of cruelties which put to shame the worst of the carnivora. It is by dint of following what Mr. Matthew Arnold calls "the stream of tendency which makes for righteousness" that man has risen out of the baser elements of his nature to the recognition of the standard known as the "golden rule." And it is precisely in proportion as he has set himself, on every plane of his activity, to
"Move upward, working out the beast,
And let the wolf and tiger die"
within him, that he has become higher, nobler, – in a word, more manly. The modern advocates of flesh-eating and vivisection, on the contrary, would reverse the sentiment of the lines just quoted, and would have us
"Move down, returning to the beast,
And letting heart and conscience die,"
making thereby the practice of the lowest in the scale of Nature the rule of the highest, and abasing the moral standard of mankind to the level of the habits of the most dangerous or noxious orders of brutes.
Our opponents are fond of calling arguments such as these "sentimental," and seem to imagine that the word completely
disposes of their value. But that this should be the case serves but to reveal more clearly their own position. For it shows either that they are ignorant of what the word "sentiment" means – ignorant that honour is a sentiment, that courage, truthfulness, love, sympathy, friendship, and every moral quality, the possession of which constitutes the superiority of civilised man over the savage and the brute, are sentiments; or else that they deliberately intend to obliterate these qualities from the curriculum of future generations of mankind, and to exclude them from their definition of humanity. The pretence of modern civilisation is to aim only at the acquirement of intellectual knowledge and physical gratification, with but scant, if any, regard to moral limits. In the creed of the nineteenth century man is man, not because he has it in him to love justice and to refrain from doing wrong, but because, being a pre-eminently clever beast, he is the strongest and most successful of all beasts.
But the disciple of Buddha and of Pythagoras, the
preacher of the Pure Life and of the
To appreciate and comprehend fully the spirit of Vegetarianism, to explain the enthusiasm with which it inspires its professors, a man must be at heart a poet. By this word "poet" I indicate that order of mind which sees intuitively; which seeks Beauty and Perfection as the end of all study and organisation; which formulates a clear Ideal, and makes it everywhere the criterion and guide, as did the Hebrews the Pillar of Flame in the wilderness. Only one of such mind, capable of knowing the Ideal, and of sacrificing all lower attractions to the love of the highest, is able fully to understand the enthusiasm of the Pythagorean, the Buddhist, the abstainer from flesh; the gratification of being innocent of blood- guiltiness,
– of knowing that no corpses strew the way to Paradise; and that when voice or pen is employed against cruelty, against oppression, against any one of the many forms of injustice rife among men under the reign of Physical Force, no mortal adversary, no inward conscience can reproach the reformer himself with the daily sacrifice of innocent victims to the false gods of bodily appetite.
Long since, one who has been called the king of poets, Shelley – the sweetest, because the tenderest of singers – in a poem (1) which most of us know as the sustained and earnest protest of a just soul against all modes of tyranny, wrote these words, so pregnant with power and wise love that they seem almost the utterance of a prophetic spirit, foreseeing in a vision the far-off light of the Perfect Day that shall be when the Kingdom of God shall come:
"My brethren, we are free! The fruits are glowing
Beneath the stars, and the night winds are flowing
O'er the ripe corn, the birds and beasts are dreaming –
Never again may blood of bird or beast
Stain with its venomous stream a human feast,
To the pure skies in accusation steaming.
Avenging poisons shall have ceased
To feed disease and fear and madness;
The dwellers of the earth and air
Shall throng around our steps in gladness,
Seeking their food or refuge there.
Our toil from thought all glorious forms shall cull,
To make this Earth, our home, more beautiful;
And Science, and her sister Poesy,
Shall clothe in light the fields and cities of the free!"
(77:1) This lecture was given
by Anna Kingsford on the 24th April 1882, before the Students of Girton College, Cambridge; ''And Inscribed to them with
Sincere Regard." It was printed as a pamphlet, a second edition of which was
issued in 1884, by the Vegetarian Society (
(91:1) "Scarlet Fever and Butcher's Meat. – The rapidly accumulating evidence as to the influence of food in spreading infectious disease has recently received a remarkable addition at the hands of Dr. Robertson, who, in his last annual report on the health of the Penrith Rural District, includes an account of several cases of scarlet fever, which he is strongly inclined to believe were communicated through butcher's meat. In a butcher's family there was an exceedingly mild case of scarlet fever, so mild that no medical man was called in, – the disease, in fact, not being recognised; but the free desquamation of the skin, and the former history of slight fever with sore throat, the leaves no doubt as to the nature of the illness. The occurrence of such a case in a small house, and where no precautions were taken, renders it an easy matter to spread the disease in the manner Dr. Robertson suggests. The number of cases in the neighbourhood continued to increase, notwithstanding all the precautions that were used, in addition to the closure of the schools. The meat is the only means by which Dr. Robertson can imagine the disease was carried in several of the cases; in others, the wanton carelessness of the public, after being fully warned of the danger of having public meetings and private gatherings, was a fruitful cause of its spread. In another village, a large number of cases of scarlet fever occurred, and the health officer has strong reason for suspecting the butcher's meal as a medium by which the infection was spread. The circumstances here were almost identical with those of the first outbreak. The first case was at a butcher's house; it was a slight one, not recognisable by the parents at first; free desquamation took place, and the child was allowed to run all over the premises." – From the British Medical Journal, 15th April 1882.
"Outbreak of Typhoid in an Infirmary. – Within the past few days Leicester Infirmary has been the scene of an outbreak of typhoid fever, by which no fewer than ten of the dressers, nurses, and servants have been prostrated, and two others have died. Dr. Buck, the Medical Officer of Health, has instituted an investigation, from which it appears that all the victims had drunk raw milk. As the house-drains appeared to be in good condition, an inquiry was instituted. It was then found that the person who supplied the milk had been affected by similar symptoms, and that the owner of the farm from which it came had also suffered. The farm premises were next inspected. It was ascertained that the well was situated near an overflowing and leaky cesspool, and that it stood near the end of the house-drain. An analysis of three samples was made, and it was shown that the water used for domestic purposes, and with which the milk-cans were washed, was quite unfit for use, being polluted with sewage. It was therefore inferred that the outbreak had arisen from the use of contaminated milk. The patients were, at the last report, progressing favourably."
(96:1) Here follows a passage, beginning with the words "The Perfectionist" and ending with the words "once explicable," similar to that in the first of Anna Kingsford's Letters on Pure Diet in The Food Reform Magazine (see pp. 65-66, ante).
(96:2) See pp. 66-67, ante.
(100:1) The Revolt of Islam, Canto V. (li. 5).