WHY I AM IN FAVOUR OF VEGETARIANISM


Whether this attitude of mind is a discontent with the present order of things, a striving to reach a higher plane, or mere sentimentalism, I am quite certain that it cannot be suppressed, but must bear fruit. We find expression given to it amongst all classes of people.


A FEW years ago, soon after my first article appeared in “HEAL THYSELF”, or rather in “THE HOMOEOPATHIC WORLD”, by which title it had been known for many years, the Editor did me the honour of adding my name to the list of many illustrious contributors that appears month by month on inside of front cover. By the hints since received from time to time from the Editor, it may be that the many articles that have since appeared have not justified his bracketing my name with that of “Vegetarianism”, hence the present article.

I am often asked, “Why did you take up the Food Reform Movement?” “Why did you take up Vegetarianism?” or some similar question. The reply is “I did not take it up, it took me up, which makes all the difference”.

The first time I remember encountering the word “vegetarianism” was more than fifty years ago. It was in Queen Street, Portsmouth, when I went into a Vegetarian Restaurant and had a “three course dinner for six pence”. The price suited both my “Scotch” blood and my pocket, and I remember how much I enjoyed that dinner, thanks to the most piquant and health-giving of all sauces-hunger.

But it did nothing, as far as I remember, to convert me to vegetarianism. Later I discarded the use of ham and bacon, recognizing the fact that the pig, the dirtiest creature on Gods earth, as kept by man, provided this choice breakfast dish. I further found that I could keep fitter on wholemeal bread and butter and oatmeal porridge, but it require more than that to make me a confirmed disciple of vegetarianism.

Later still I was refused acceptance by three Life Insurance Companies, and I found that if I was ever going to live to enjoy good health I had to learn to do without all such stimulating solids and liquids as beef and mutton and tea and coffee. Experience also taught me that if one “fixed upon that course of life which is best, custom would render it most delightful”. Further, I found that for every one thing I gave up and learnt to do without, I found two better things to take its place. I had also come to see that there was some truth in the dictum, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”.

In all foods partaken of from the Vegetable Kingdom there are produced more or less waste products than the human digestive organs, or the system as a whole, has to dispose of. If these waste products amount to, say, sixteen ounces per day and fifteen ounces only are disposed of, the remaining ounce will eventually lay one on his or her back, in spite of the assertion” I have eaten so and so for twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years.” When one dies, the greater the amount of these impurities the body contains the quicker will putrefaction set in.

The same will be true, after being slaughtered, of the pig and the cow I saw wallowing in six inches of slush in a farmers yard only last week. If vegetable products taken first hand produce such results in the human organism, what results can one expect when such impurities are taken second hand and ready made, from the animal kingdom? In other words, we are given the choice of obtaining nourishment at first hand by eating barley porridge, or allowing the pig to eat the barley meal (if it ever has the chance of eating anything so clean) and then eating the pig ourselves, thus taking our nourishment second hand.

About that time all my spare time was occupied with work connected with the Temperance Movement. I had been instrumental in starting two Bands of Hope and one Good Templar Lodge, and at one and the same time I was secretary of no less than three such organizations.

When I was asked, “Why do you, in conversations and debates, always take the side of the vegetarian when you are not a vegetarian?” the reply was “I have not been in the employ of an enthusiastic vegetarian for five years without learning that the vegetarians have the best of the argument from all standpoints, so I support them to be on the winning side in spite of the fact that I still hanker after the flesh pots. The moral aspect of the question has never appealed to me sufficiently, but I believe the time will come when it will do so, then I shall have to become almost and altogether a vegetarian”.

This-the humanitarian aspect – I consider to be the unassailable portion of the vegetarian argument. This I hope to deal with in the July issue of “HEAL THYSELF”, believing that the mode of living that has been, and is daily being, proved by thousands in all walks of life to be physically right, cannot be other than morally and ethically right also.

As promised in the June issue, I will now endeavour to deal with the humanitarian, or if preferred, the ethical, aspect of Vegetarianism. In doing this it should be quite understood that I am voicing my own views. No one else is responsible for them, and no reader is called upon to endorse them.

While claiming the right to hold the views I may express, I consider that others have an equal right to hold views to the contrary. The following illustration may make my position clear. I have, on different occasions, been asked: “Do you think it wrong to drink a glass of beer?” I reply emphatically: “Yes, I consider it wrong for one man to drink a glass of beer, and that one man is myself, but I claim no right to be the judge of others, or to say that such action would be wrong of anyone else.” I take up the same attitude regarding the movement under consideration.

I sometimes think that I am not granted the like liberty by others. As an example I may mention that I recently, by request, spoke at a young mens Bible Class of Vegetarianism. In the discussion that followed I was informed that, holding the views I did, I ought not to wear leather shoes. As I had been told the same thing, on a number of previous occasions, I was prepared with a reply to the effect that it so happened that the shoes I was wearing did not contain a particle of leather. In spite of that I did not claim to be consistent.

I was only a pilgrim after perfection, and I sometimes thought ” a long way after”. Another very good example of this lack of toleration appears under “Notes and News” in the Vegetarian News for April. The Editor calls attention to the warning given by the Rev. H. T. Wigley, part of which reads: “Vegetarianism founded on health grounds may be sound, but vegetarianism founded on Kinship of Life is unsound and sentimental”.

The Editor of the Vegetarian News, in reply, quotes a powerful passage from one of John Wesleys sermons, entitled “The Great Deliverance”, which is well worth the reading by anyone interested. The Editor concluded as follows: ” As for Mr. Wigley, good Methodist though he is, he must straightaway, we suggest, if he be consistent, proceed also to dub the founder of Methodism with that unpleasant epithet sentimentalist. But, for ourselves, if John Wesley indeed be on our side, after all, what does it matter what the Rev. H. T. Wigley thinks of us ?” I think this needs no comment of mine.

After all, I find a great deal of sentimentalism among all classes of people, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, that does much to enrich the world. I once heard a little girl, not then four years old, on passing a butchers shop say, “How awful, and what a dreadful smell”. That little girl is now nearer thirty than twenty-five years of age and has never yet tasted meat, or had a days illness. In that same butchers shop and at the same time I noticed a lady turning over pieces of those carcasses.

Another little maiden once said, “What a sweet little lamb, I do love it”, and the father said, “So do I, with mint sauce”. I once read of two men commenting on a delightful landscape. One said to the other, “How beautiful, and even the cattle lend entrancement to the scene”. The other replied, “Yes, and theyve got a good bit of beef on em too”. Need an explanation be given as to which was the poet and which the butcher? In any case I would rather be on the side of the children and the poet and run the risk of being dubbed a sentimentalist.

There is one aspect of this sentimentalism I have never been able to fathom. I have known a number of different young people between the ages of four years and twenty, living in homes where vegetarianism has never been spoken of, who, for no accountable reason, have taken a violent aversion to flesh meats of all kinds, and have fought for years against every protest and obstacle purposely put in their paths, but have always refused meat. I would like to receive from readers their explanation for this.

In looking up dates I find that I became an out-and-out vegetarian by conviction on May 28th, 1895. Things were very different then. When one dined at a friends house an apology was considered necessary for being a vegetarian. Now the tables are turned.

Whatever may appear on the tables when I am not there, it is very seldom that any meat appears on the tables of meat-eaters when I am, and if there is, they apologize and inform me that they “eat but very little meat.” If one is at home enough to reply to the lady without offence, ” I suppose you would eat less if you had to do your own killing,” the reply is, “Oh ! I should not eat any if I had to do that.” If she would but pay a visit to one of our big city shambles, and see the slaughtermen drenched in blood all day, my lady friend might refuse to be a butcher by deputy any longer.

Whether this attitude of mind is a discontent with the present order of things, a striving to reach a higher plane, or mere sentimentalism, I am quite certain that it cannot be suppressed, but must bear fruit. We find expression given to it amongst all classes of people. Some years ago when Robert Blatchford was Editor of the Clarion at the height of his fame, I heard him tell the following story of himself:.

“I was walking through the streets of a part of London one Sunday afternoon when I saw a drover behaving in a most cruel manner to a herd of pigs, many bearing the marks of his whip. I went up to him and said, You cruel beggar, why dont you treat them in a humane manner? The drovers reply was: Mind your own business; you will be pleased enough to eat them presently, wont you.

Blatchfords comment was, ” The reply cut me to the quick, I have never eaten any meat since.” My inward thoughts were, whatever some religious people may say of you, you are a pal of mine. As Mr. Blatchford, at that time, at any rate, was not considered by most people to be a religious man, a story of one who was a deacon of one of the most noted churches in the Midlands, and who had in his young mens class one who eventually reached a high position in H.M. Government, may not be considered out of place.

The story he told me was relative to his honeymoon. He and his wife, after being married earlier in the day, reached a small Welsh town late on Saturday evening. The landlady asked what would they like for dinner on Sunday. The reply was “a little chicken”. This the newly-married arranged to get from the market. The obliging stall-keeper informed them that she was sorry but she had sold out. She had, however, some live chickens in a pen and would have much pleasure in killing one for them. This happened more than sixty years ago, and doubtless my friend had never heard of VEGETARIANISM, but to commence married life with slaughter was too much for him. They went back without the chicken and he added, “I have never eaten fish, flesh or fowl since”.

The many-sidedness and breadth of this question is such that one feels however much may be written, only a fringe of the question has been touched. There is no doubt that vegetarianism would settle the drink question. It would also render war and all the cruelties connected therewith, an impossibility. These aspects of the question may be dealt with in a later issue of “HEAL THYSELF”. Those who wish to learn more of the subject cannot do better than get a copy of Every Living Creature, that powerful little book by Ralph Waldo Trine.

James Henry Cook