“Food for thought” from the world’s elite figures of humanity – a different view on the history of vegetarianism
As nowadays more and more people adopt a vegetarian diet, for its obvious and numerous benefits, let’s not forget our famous predecessors who chose to keep meat off their plates.
All of them were incredibly smart and talented people; famous inventors, philosophers, scientists and writers, they all made a rational choice that consequently benefited their health and also animals’ well-being. Not to mention the high morality these people showed by choosing not to eat meat and driven by ethical reasons.
Some of them were proud activists and promoters of animal welfare awareness and had very eloquent opinions on the matter, considering the times they were living in.
Let’s have a look at few of the brightest minds in history and their high ethical standard quotes.
Albert Einstein – German theoretical physicist, 1921 Nobel Laureate in Physics.
He became a vegetarian for the last year of his life. Nevertheless, he repeatedly supported the idea of vegetarianism throughout his entire life. World’s most appreciated genius states about not eating meat:
“Nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Leonardo Da Vinci – Italian Renaissance architect, anatomist, sculptor, engineer, inventor, geometer, musician and painter, he was the archetypal universal genius. Many of his biographers mentioned his alleged vegetarianism. Da Vinci himself stated about the immorality of eating animals:
“Man and the animals are merely a passage and channel for food, a tomb for other animals, a haven for the dead, giving life by the death of others, a coffer full of corruption.” – Codex Atlanticus
Benjamin Franklin – American author, journalist, scientist, inventor and statesman.
Starting at age 16, Franklin spent most of his life being a vegetarian.
“My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chided for my singularity, but, with this lighter repast, I made the greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension. Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.”
George Bernard Shaw – Irish playwright, 1925 Nobel Laureate in Literature.
The plight of animals was of great concern to G.B Shaw. He became a strict vegetarian in 1881 and died as one in 1950.
“A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.”
“My situation is a solemn one. Life is offered to me on condition of eating beefsteaks. But death is better than cannibalism.”
His vertical opinions about vivisection and animal experiments were stated in a clear and firm manner in his writings at the time:
“Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.”
“Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research.”
Leo Tolstoy – Novelist, humanitarian, Russian philosopher. Tolstoy became a vegetarian after visiting a slaughter-house in Russian city of Tula. He lived a very simple life and he ate bread, fruits, and vegetables.
“If a man’s aspirations towards a righteous life are serious.. .if he earnestly and sincerely seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food, because, not to mention the excitement of the passions produced by such food, it is plainly immoral, as it requires an act contrary to moral feeling, i. e., killing – and is called forth only by greed.”
“It is horrible! It is not the suffering and the death of the animals that is horrible, but the fact that the man without any need for so doing crushes his lofty feeling of sympathy and mercy for living creatures and does violence to himself that he may be cruel. The first element of moral life is abstinence.”
Thomas Edison – American inventor and businessman loved animals and condemned animal abuse. He stopped eating meat for health related reasons too.
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
Nikola Tesla – Serbian-American inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer.
Best known for his contributions in electricity and magnetism domains, considered to be one of the most important scientists and inventors of modern age, Tesla was also a vegetarian and an animal lover.
“It is certainly preferable to raise vegetables, and I think, therefore, that vegetarianism is a commendable departure from the established barbarous habit. That we can subsist on plant food and perform our work even to advantage is not a theory, but a well-demonstrated fact. Many races living almost exclusively on vegetables are of superior physique and strength. There is no doubt that some plant food, such as oatmeal, is more economical than meat, and superior to it in regard to both mechanical and mental performance. Such food, moreover, taxes our digestive organs decidedly less, and, in making us more contented and sociable, produces an amount of good difficult to estimate. In view of these facts every effort should be made to stop the wanton and cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals.”
Inspiring Mahatma Ghandi, leader of the Indian independence movement, initiator of non-violent resistance, is the top authority on peace. Author of “The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism” and many writings on human ethics regarding animals, Ghandi clearly makes his point:
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
“I hold today the same opinion as I held then. To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”
Pythagoras – Greek mathematician and philosopher. Perhaps one of the first campaigners of ethical vegetarianism, Pythagoras taught others that all animals had souls and that eating meat was unhealthy.
“As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
His legacy, as seen by Plutarch:
“Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? … It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace. But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches. No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.” – Moralia
Either they were philosophers, writers, mathematicians, inventors or artists, these great minds had at least one thing in common, of great importance: compassion towards life. Love and respect for all the animals. Non-violence. Their superior understanding about the moral principles of the world that we live in should serve as an eloquent example for all of us as well as for the generations to come.