ONE of the strange ideas that many seem to possess is the belief that those men and women who are particularly interested in the propagation of any one reform are, or must necessarily be, men and women of one idea only. The truth rather that owing to the would-be reformers zeal to accomplish the one thing, he is soon faced with the fact that no one reforms is going to revolutionize the world, and more or less all reforms are so dovetailed into each other that the success of one must help every other. In like manner everything that may take place prejudicial to one likewise is detrimental to all.
Nothing in the propagation of any reform illustrates this fact more clearly than the difficulties now experienced with all moral movements owing to the devastating upheaval brought about by the Great War. So great, in fact, do such difficulties appear to many that they seem hopeless and insurmountable. Such backward waves, however, must eventually give place to other that will lead to success. The idealist of to-day who stands or falls by a philosophy said to be “not for this world” is but the practical man of to-morrow.
No better illustration of this is needed than that provided by the title of this article. “Vegetarianism v. War.” The very basic principle of Vegetarianism is that “Life is sacred, we cannot give it and we therefore have no right to take it”. If this simple doctrine were put into practice to-day what a different world it would be when we awakened to-marrow. a man, for health or some other reasons, decides to abstain from the partaking of animal flesh as food.
If he acts wisely he soon finds that such foods that he considered were the necessities of life are quite unnecessary, and he soon begins to see that all the cruelty connected with the meat trade is quite unnecessary also, with his altered mode of living. He has climbed a further rung of the human ladder and recognizes the fact that the flesh of animals is not more necessary for perfect health than is human flesh for the cannibal. By his living this truth “he learns of the doctrine”, and the world to him becomes a cleaner and a sweeter place to live in.
The Great War brought the writer, as an employer of labour, into contact with some of the noblest characters he ever met. When all the world appeared to have gone mad in a “war to end war” they were willing to stand alone and try to put their principles into practice, facing ridicule, contempt, prison, the firing squad, financial loss and the loss of parents, friend,s health a nd life. Greater bravery I never saw, but did they live in cain? Many who took part in and went through the war now think otherwise, and are fighting for peace with the sword of the spirit.
In the words of Lord Birkenhead, “war is hateful in its destruction of moral as well as physical capital. The Vegetarian likewise believes that this cannot be “termed a moral universe in which he must needs outrage his conscience in order to keep his body healthy” Nothing connected with the war was more surprising than the facts one learnt of what Vegetarianism meant to many who claimed the title.
The truth of the matter was clearly set forth recently by Professor Jahannes Ude of the University of Graz, Austrian in an address on “Vegetarianism as a Bulwark of Defence against the Approaching World-Chaos.” Extracts from this address appear very appropriate at this time and place.
“There is fundamental basis for the law, Thou shalt not kill. Human life needs to be accounted sacred, and not less the life of those creatures whom man is now so often content to kill and eat. Thus, vegetarianism and war are antithetical the one to the other.
The vegetarian must needs be true to his inner and ethical convictions. For the vegetarian the military problem cannot be said to exist at all, and, for the same reason, the subject of animal protection is for him likewise of fundamental importance. If such spirit as this were world-wide, war would become impossible. Furthermore, the sciences of medicine, biology and physiology, coupled with a manifold experience, alike proclaim that the vegetarian way of living lies at the very foundation of a healthy and useful existence”.
“Europe to-day feeds a population of approximately 452 millions, but were he space and energies devoted to a system of lacto- vegetable cultivation, instead of to the breeding of cattle for slaughter, a population of 1,704 millions could quite easily be nourished. In the production of animals for food and enormous waste is involved, as may be instanced by the fact that, as has been calculated, in one year, in Austria, food to the extent of 804 millions of calories was fed to swine, of which no less than 648 millions must be accounted to have been wasted-which means (on a basis of 3,000 calories per day for each worker) that about 592,000 persons might have been provided for”.
“This single example may serve to show what tremendous significance is bound with the practice of vegetarianism from the standpoint of the well-being of the people as a whole. Broadly, it may be said that a given area of land sufficient to nourish one flesh-eater would suffice to feed ten vegetarians.
In face of such eye-opening facts as these, it seems unnecessary to stress the enormous importance which the practice of vegetarianism must entail in the economic sphere. And if, as contingent advantages, with the coming of vegetarianism, the reign of militarism, of alcohol and of nicotine may also be taken as coming to an end, there would also be enough saving, by means of these latter categories alone, to provide homes for 780,000 people, work thus being found for the six millions of German unemployed. Germany, indeed, has more than enough land for her own purposes. We must learn to look facts in the face.
The production of flesh foods demands, be it here repeated, more land, much more work and immeasurably more of financial resources than a corresponding amount of production on vegetarian lines-in addition to which, as already explained, the fodder needed for flesh-production consists of valuable foods of which 80 per cent., at least, may be said to have been lost”.
“And coupled with this must be conceded the peoples own right to the products of the soil. There can be no real salvation from the general chaos that threatens until the people, through adoption of the vegetarian way of life, become rooted and grounded in all that is summed up in the word home. All else is mere waste of breath. He who elects to obey natures laws without compromise thereby at once proceeds to mould chaos into cosmos. our destiny, if we will have it so, is in our own hands and each man carries, both for himself and for his fellows, a great responsibility.
Individual realization is the measure of that responsibility, and the time to set to work is now. “Let each one listen to that voice which is within himself. Let him, at the same time, sharpen also both proclaim. The twin-processes of that inward peace and of the establishment of a bulwark of defence against the oncoming of world-chaos are one, and vegetarianism, with all that it implies of peace and harmony, as likewise of understanding, is an essential means to the desired end”.
If this rather long quotation from an admirable address given in Germany presents the truth, and who can dispute it, more than one political leader in Europe, who claims to be a vegetarian in practice, might do well to take it to heart. We might then hear less of “the rights and needs of expansion” and more of peace on earth.
With this I close in the hope writing on “Vegetarianism and Peace in” in the Christmas number.