Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Van Dyck to Yaper >> Vegetarianism


diet, vegetarian, food, flesh, eggs, author, milk and products

VEGETARIANISM, the theory and prac tice of living on vegetables and abstaining en tirely from flesh food, or from all food obtained by the killing of animals. The abstinence from flesh food is the essential element in the con notation of the word vegetarianism; but vege tarians are usually also total abstainers from alcoholic liquors, and in regard to the use of such animal products as eggs, milk, butter and cheese, and of cereals, as well as on the ad visability of cooking food, different views are held among them. The average vegetarian ad mits into his diet the animal products above mentioned, and there are semi-vegetarians who also eat fish. The arguments for and against a vegetarian diet fall into three main classes, physiolgical and hygienic, ethical, economic.

Vegetarians claim that man is closely akin to an exclusively frugivorous group, the apes, and widely different from carnivora, her bivora and omnivora. They assert, what is universally admitted, that the actual state of mankind and the science of physiology both show that a complete fleshless diet is possible and readily procurable, and they argue that if such be the case any moral arguments that may be advanced against the eating of flesh ought to have decisive weight. Anti-vegetarians object, that with a purely vegetable diet an enor mous amount must be consumed in order to obtain sufficient nutriment, and that the waste products are excessive in quantity; but it is to be noticed that whatever be the force of this argument against extreme vegetarians, it can hardly be maintained against those who admit eggs, milk, etc. Vegetarians maintain that flesh eating is responsible for the propagation of some of the most serious diseases, notably tuberculosis and cancer, and they contend that it hinders the development of the higher nature of man both by its physiological influence and by the necessity of systematic slaughter en tailed by it. It has been objected, that if ani mals now regularly slaughtered were allowed to breed unchecked the country would be over run by them, but the possible answers to this argument are obvious. It is also claimed by vegetarianism that it is in such products as nuts, seeds, roots, eggs and milk, and not in the comparatively degenerate form of flesh, that nature provides the means of supporting life in its best and most nutritive form.

In a work on the subject M. Gautier says: The vegetarian diet is not suited to European organs. But relieved by the addition of milk, grain, butter, cheese, eggs, etc., it offers many advantages. It alkalizes the blood, it regulates the circulation, and preserves the elasticity of the arteries; . . . it makes one less liable to

danger from maladies of the skin and of the joints, and to congestions of the internal organs. It tends to soften the disposition,— to make us more calm and less agitated, aggressive and violent. It is practical and rational. It ought to be accepted, if one follows an ideal for the establishment of an education for races of men who are to be sweet-tempered, intelligent, artistic, peace-loving, yet nevertheless prolific, vigorous and active?' Vegetarianism is as old as the ancient re ligion of Hindustan, and was taught by Plato, Plutarch and other writers of classical an tiquity. One of the oldest pioneers of the move ment in Great Britain was George Cheyne (1671-1743), a Scottish doctor, who supported it in an (Essay on Regimen,' published in 1740. Shelley's vindication of natural diet is well known. J. F. Newton's (Return to Nature, or Defense of Vegetable Regimen,' was published in 1811, and in 1847 the Vegetarian Society was founded at Manchester. Eduard Baltzer (1814-87), a German liberal clergyman, intro duced the movement into Germany, and founded at Nordhausen in 1868 a “Verein von Freunden der Natiirlichen Lebensweise.p His book on (Die Natiirliche Lebensweise> reached a fourth edition. Other leading German pioneers of vegetarianism are Gustave von Struve (1805 70), author of Pflanzenkost, die Grund lage einer neuen Weltanschauung> (1869), in which he associates vegetarianism with social ism ; and Theodore Hahn, author of Naturgemasse Dia> (1859) and (Der Vege tarianismus' (1869). Vegetarianism has ob tained less hold in France than in Great Britain andGermany. Among the chief French works i on it are the (1891) ; Hills, (Essay on Vegetarianism) (1893), and Oldfield, culosis: Flesh-eating a Cause of