SOME time since, a well-known temperance reformer who is not himself a vegetarian said that ” there was not a single argument that could be advanced against the principles of vegetarianism and in favour of meat-eating, that could not with equal force be put forward against the practice of abstinence from strong drink, and in favour of moderation”.
Without endorsing this statement in its entirety, I venture to assert that it contains more philosophy than the majority dreams of. I purpose to treat the subject under review in as simple ma manner as possible, and to lay before my readers a few of the many parallels existing between the vegetarian and temperance movements, with the view, not of finding out where we differ, but rather to see where we are in accord. A doctor in Birmingham said some years ago that he had no doubt whatever that he could cure nine-tenths of his patients without medicine of any kind, and with but one and the same prescription, which was, ” Abstain ! Starve !” I have no reason for doubting the truth of this; but what does it mean?
It means that nine out of every ten of the people who become unwell, bring their ill-health upon themselves by their unwise eating and drinking. When a man drinks too much he becomes ill; then he abstains, and he becomes ill; if he ceases altogether to eat, drinking only pure water he will most likely soon be well again, but the majority act otherwise; but Nature in these cases will most likely assert itself, and the man or woman will say, “No, I dont want any meat to-day; I am not up to the mark, my appetite has gone,” and so they live, for the time being, on a restricted and purer diet, and their usual health is soon restored to them.
How many teetotallers, I should like to ask, can truthfully say that they feel better, and more fit for work, after having partaken of what they call ” a good dinner “? Many, I am afraid, at such times prefer sleep to work. At tea-time we generally abstain from the fleshpots, and so, following that meal, we experience no such ill effects. But why, it may be asked, do so many eat so much that illness follows? The explanation is simple; because they live largely on animal flesh strong meat the most stimulating of diets; while if they lived on a pure vegetarian diet they would know quite well when to stop, but stimulants deceive, whether partaken of as liquids or solids, and they always ask for more.
There are things which happen in most lives, through which we become endowed with eyes whereby we see things that we never saw before, which also enlarge our hearts and broaden our sympathies. Many of us know that the fact of our becoming teetotallers, of having set our faces against the drink traffic, has opened our eyes to the awful cruelty springing out of and caused by this unholy liquor traffic, to which our eyes were closed before, and we rejoice that we have washed our hands of the acursed thing.
The eyes of those of us who have discarded an animal diet for a bloodless one have necessarily become opened also to the awful and horrible cruelty practised on our fellow- creatures, for whose care we are responsible, and not one of whom, the old Book says, “Falling to the ground, receives not our Fathers sympathy”. Cruelty which our past mode of living made imperative, and will continue necessary, so long and no longer than thin mode of living continues. It would be easy to utilize the whole of the space at my disposal and disgust many of my readers by quoting cases of cruelty which every day take place, to provide this nation of our with animal flesh.
There are some earnest men and women who are charged with using intemperate language with regard to the evils attending the drink traffic, but those who take the trouble to find out believe nothing has yet been said half had enough against it. Likewise those who are conversant with the cruelty attending the transport and slaughter of these our fellow-creatures, know full well that there is no language capable of portraying half its horrors. Truly we feel with the abstainer from strong drink, that it is a joyous thing to have no part or lot in the business.
Could the majority of my readers but realize the horrors and untold suffering of the poor creatures in a cattle-boat in mid-ocean in rough weather, they would be willing to make any sacrifice to rid us of so great a blot upon our civilization. The fact that many thousands of animals every year die in course of transit to this country, should cause the greatest lover of animal flesh to pause, and think.
One word with reference to the slaughter-house. I once knew a hide merchant who became converted to the principles of vegetarianism by discovering no less than twenty-seven punctures in the head of one bullocks skin; and remember, as long as this killing continues, this kind of thing is more or less unpreventable, for apprenticeships must be served in this as in all other businesses.
But this is but one aspect of the cruelty practised on animal life. Another side altogether will be revealed to the observant eye by a walk through a cattle show. Many of the poor creatures there have become, by a process of stuffing, so fat that they cannot be got out of the show alive, and it is the flesh of those animals that the public seeks for their Christmas dinner, believing it to be good healthy flesh, when their common-sense should tell them, what a powerful microscope would reveal, that it is not healthy flesh, but mountains of corruption.
And this is still how Christian England commemorates the birth of the Prince of Peace, by a wholesale slaughter of cattle, together with hundreds of thousands of turkeys and geese, expressly fatted for the occasion; and the more food we eat as a nation of this nature, so in proportion do we desire a alcohol, to keep it company.
We as teetotallers used to be asked oftener than we now are, ” What did God send ale, wine and brandy for, if it was not to be consumed ?” Our answer has been that God never sent it in that form at all. God sent the golden grain, but man destroyed it and turned it into an agency of destruction. Vegetarian are now asked, more or less every day of their lives, ” What did God send beef and mutton for, if not to be eaten ?”
We answer, He did not sent it. He may have sent sentiment life, but we have destroyed it, in face if the fact that God has provided for our use food in abundance and variety, on which we can live healthier and happier lives, without continuing thus to destroy those creatures of God, for ” He prayeth best, who loveth best all things, both great and small; for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all”.
Teetotallers in the past have had to combat the argument that we could not live in a healthy state without alcohol, and we have marshalled our facts again and again to prove otherwise; and when we have been told, “Oh, it may suit you, but it wouldnt suit everybody; I could not do my work without alcohol,” we have pitied them, believing that they were as deluded with regard to the latter assertion as the former.
These are exactly the objections that are now put to the vegetarians with reference to their mode of living, as if abstinence from the flesh of animals is but a thing of yesterday when it is as old as the hills. In Genesis i. 29 we read that God said to Adam and Eve. “Behold I have given you every herb-yielding seed which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, top you it shall be for meat”.
Then look all the way through the Old Testament; when God required a man to do a special work, He invariably I believe I am correct in saying always chose a Nazarite ( from these sprang also the prophets), those who not only abstained from strong drink, but from touching the flesh of dead animals also; and the sooner we follow in their footsteps, the better it will be for us as individuals and as a nation. The argument that only some classes of people can do without it, and only some kinds of work can be done without its assistance, falls to the ground in the light of facts.
From a report of the food of the agricultural labourers of Europe, taken by the Government as far back as 1872, we learn that the labourers of Sweden, Russia, Italy, Bavaria, Ireland and the Low Countries do not as a rule eat flesh; while in Scotland, Switzerland, Spain and Prussia the labourers take it but rarely. The Japanese, the Buddhists of China, the Brahmins and Hindus of India, many Arabs, the famous porters of Turkey and Greece, the Norwegians and Finns, also the Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican and Trappist monks, numbering collectively hundreds of millions, inhabiting every variety of climate, and engaged in every manner of occupation, all live without eating flesh.
The conquering soldiers of Rome and Sparta, the athletes and wrestlers of Greece, also abstained from flesh meat, and thousands of vegetarians of long experience in this country can testify that they are happier, healthier and more vigorous than when they fed on animal flesh, not forgetting the wonderful testimony of Sir Issac Pitman, the inventor of phonography, one of the hardest worked men of the last century, who at the time of his death had abstained for fifty eight years.
Among the many recent giants of the world, all staunch vegetarians, may be mentioned Edison, Annie Besant, Bernard Shaw, and Tolstoy, of whom it may be said in their respective spheres there were no greater.
We are told, both as teetotallers and vegetarians, that these are medical questions; and if we find that either meat or alcohol does not agree with us, it is best to abstain, but to make it a matter of principle is silly. Teetotallers will not admit this for a moment with regard to the drink question, and those who are not vegetarians should be equally charitable in the matter of meat, for we have not turned it into a question of principle; but rather it has become to us a great living energizing principle, through force of circumstances, and in spite of our old inclination to cling to the fleshpots of the past.
Flesh meat, like alcohol, as has already been said, is a stimulant; it therefore stirs up both in men and animals all that is pugnacious, selfish and cruel, when partaken of. This fact must be patent to all. Sum up in your minds all the different kinds of animals you can think of that are vegetarians, and you will find that cruelty is the exception. Then put the carnivorous ones together those who prey on each other and you find cruelty to be the rule; and whether in man or animal, these qualities are developed in like proportion to the carnivorous food partaken of.
And mark the difference in the two extremes, viz. the gentle herbivorous also to note that from the vegetarian animals we get all the workers, while from the flesh eaters we get practically none. It is remarkable also what a preference there is for eating the flesh of animals that have been fed on vegetarian diet. Of the pit that lives on a mixed diet, meat eaters much prefer the “farm” or “home-fed” that has been fed on barley meal, rather than one that has been kept at the back of a slaughter-house.