What Is Vegetarianism?

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

What Is Vegetarianism?

President of the Vegetarian Society.





An Address at the Annual Meeting of the Vegetarian Society,
held at Manchester, Oct.
14th, 1885, and now revised.


IN the June and July numbers of the Nineteenth Century, for 1879,[1] Sir Henry Thompson confessed (a) that the vegetable eater, pure and simple, can extract from his food all the principles necessary for the growth and support of the body, as well as for the production of heat and force; (b) that by most stomachs haricot beans are more easily digested than meat is, and consuming weight for weight, the eater feels lighter and less oppressed, as a rule, after the beans, while the comparative cost is greatly in favour of the latter; (c) a given area of land cropped with cereals and pulse will support a population more than three times as numerous as that which can besustained on the same land devoted to the growth of cattle.

In the May number of the same magazine for this year (1885, pp. 777-799), Sir Henry, in an article on diet, approves our teaching, but threatens to rob us of our name. The Rev. James Clark (D.R. for July, pp. 189-192) has appealed from the charge there brought against us, to the definition of Vegetarianism, not only as given by those who, in 1847, gave currency to the name, but as contained in the official documents of the Society, and blazoned on the frontispiece of the D.R.[2]
I propose more particularly to investigate:

I.—The profession and practice of Vegetarians in regard to the consumption of animal products, i.e., milk with butter and cheese; eggs, honey.

II.—The profession of a Greek and a Roman—Pythagoras and Musonius—to whom no one denies the name Vegetarians.

III.—The physical distinction between flesh and animal products, as attested by the low or antiphlogistic regimen of the medical faculty.

IV.—The moral distinction between the same, as attested by church rules of fasting.

V.—The origin and meaning of the word Vegetarian, considered philologically.

Before adducing my authorities, I cite the string of Sir Henry Thompson's censure (p. 780):—

As happens in nineteen cases out of twenty,[3] my young and blooming Vegetarian replied that she took an egg and milk in quantity, besides butter, not only at breakfast, but again in the form of pastry, fritter, or cake, &c., to say nothing of cheese at each of the two subsequent meals of the day—animal food, it is unnecessary to say, of a choice, and some of it in a concentrated form. To call a person thus fed a Vegetarian is a palpable error; to proclaim oneself so almost requires a stronger term to denote the departure from accuracy involved. Yet so attractive to some possessing a moral sense not too punctilious is the small distinction attained by becoming sectarian and partisans of a quasi novel and somewhat questioned doctrine, that an equivocal position is accepted in order to retain, if possible, the term Vegetarian as the ensign of a party, the members of which consume abundantly strong animal food, abjuring it only in its grosser forms of flesh and fish. And hence it happens, as I have lately learned, that milk, butter, eggs, and cheese, are now designated in the language of Vegetarianism by the term animal products, an ingenious but evasive expedient to avoid the necessity for speaking of them as animal food!

If Sir Henry Thompson had ever glanced at the title-page of the Dietetic Reformer, he would have learnt that the aim of the Vegetarian Society is "to induce habits of abstinence from the Flesh of Animals (fish, flesh, fowl) as Food."

If he thinks by a change of name to shield us from cavil, I refer him to a master of English, writing near thirty years before the prevalence of the word Vegetarian:—

Sir Richard Phillips once rang a peal in my ears against shooting and hunting. He does indeed eat neither fish, flesh, nor fowl. His abstinence surpasses that of a Carmelite, while his bulk would not disgrace a Benedictine monk or a Protestant dean. But he forgets that his shoes and breeches and gloves are made of the skins of animals, and he writes (and very eloquently, too) with what has been cruelly taken from a fowl; and that, in order to cover the books which he has made and sold, hundreds of flocks and scores of droves must have perished. Nay, that for his beaver hat a beaver must have been hunted and killed, in doing which many beavers may have been wounded and left to pine away the rest of their lives, and perhaps many little orphan beavers left to lament the murder of their parents. Ben Ley was the only real and sincere Pythagorean of modern times that I have ever heard of. He protested not only against eating the flesh of animals, but against robbing their backs, and therefore his dress consisted wholly of flax. But he, like Sir Richard Phillips, ate milk, butter, cheese, and eggs, though this was cruelly robbing the hens, cows, and calves, and indeed causing the murder of the calves!—A Year's Residence in the United States. By William Cobbett, 1818. (D.R. 1880, p. 280.)

Do Vegetarians take eggs, milk, cheese, butter, honey? Yes and no; some do, some do not. Officially, the Society proscribes fish, flesh, fowl. Outside the three F's, our members are free to range as other men; the Society is neutral. So the use of tobacco, tea, coffee, fermented drinks, is an open question with us. Yet very few Vegetarians use strong drinks or smoke. Many drink water only; some do not drink at all; the tendency is towards simplicity. Our action is providing substitutes for all animal substances.[4] A German firm advertises in our German organs vegetable milk and cheese. The demand of our kitchens has created a supply of many vegetable oils, e.g., Nucoline and Albene. Dr. Oldfield wears Vegetarian boots of pannuscorium and vegetable belting. Major Richardson has appeared clothed in vegetable fibres from top to toe.

I will now shew that Sir Henry's criticisms are as old as our movement, and cite answers given on authority. It is to be regretted that he has not found leisure to study our classics for himself. At the third annual meeting of the Vegetarian Society,18th July, 1850, Mr. John Smith, of Malton, author of "Fruits and Farinacea," commented[5] on an article in the British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review, July, 1850, pp. 76-98:—

The reviewer had first pointed out the difference between the principles and practice of Vegetarians, alleging that while they professed to derive their food exclusively from the vegetable kingdom, they consumed, in their various culinary preparations, very large quantities of cream, milk, butter, eggs, &c. He had also remarked on the great amount of nutriment contained in the preparations which they consumed at a meal, and the immense amount of trouble and expense required to prepare them, and then said: "We should like to know who may most consistently place omelets and egg fritters upon his table—the man who believes that the Creator intended him to eat the products of animal as well as of vegetable life, or he who maintains that the welfare of the human race, both physically, morally, and intellectually, is best consulted by a diet of fruit and farinacea? Answer us that, Mr. Smith." He felt bound to admit the general correctness of those observations, and to express his conviction that much mischief resulted to health by indulgence in rich compounds of food of any kind, and that in a physiological point of view, and probably on one or two other accounts, large quantities of these highly-seasoned and rich dishes were almost as objectionable as the flesh of animals. He would, therefore, caution all Vegetarians against too free a use of them. They might be advisable at their banquets and soirées, to demonstrate to strangers and inquirers what an immense variety of rich and nutritious dishes could be produced without animal slaughter; they might also be used as a transition diet of which flesh formed no part, but when circumstances would permit, an entire rejection of whatever was not simple in composition would be undoubtedly an advantage with regard to health and economy, as some Vegetarians had already found. The limits within which the dietary of the Vegetarian Society was restricted excluded nothing but the flesh and blood of animals. To have made the conditions of membership more exclusive would have greatly impaired the usefulness of the Society. Judging of the Vegetarians as a body, therefore, their principles and practice were not inconsistent with each other, their rules expressing their principles, and the consistency of individuals should be judged of by the opinions they privately entertained. (Hear, hear.) Some had become Vegetarians because they believed that God had forbidden man to kill animals and to feed upon their flesh and blood; others because they considered it inconsistent with the character of a moral, benevolent, and rational being, and contrary to the instinctive feeling of man, to kill and eat animals. If their inquiries proceeded no further than that, they might possibly consider milk, eggs, &c., as a necessary part of human diet; consequently their opinions and practice would be in harmony, though they made a free use of those articles, and the charge of inconsistency could not be maintained against them. (Applause.) Others, again, rejected animal food from their diet because, from a careful study of the organisation of man and from an unprejudiced investigation of anatomy and physiology, they saw plain indications that man had been specially adapted to a fruit and farinaceous diet, and inferred that, when climate and other circumstances permitted, an exclusive adoption of that diet would be most conducive to health, and, as far as food was concerned, to the highest development of which man was susceptible. Yet, though they held those views, they might not deem themselves called upon at once to dispense with milk, eggs, &c., until improved modes of cooking, family arrangements, the usages of society, and other influences would allow them to relinquish those products without causing inconvenience, discomfort, or injury to health. Principles might be true in the abstract, and the reduction of them to practice might be of the greatest possible benefit, when not opposed by adventitious circumstances, which might be such as to render the principles inoperative. No one would lower the standard of Christian morals because of his inability to reach it in his present social position; nor should the Vegetarian flinch from the acknowledgement of his mental convictions with regard to the best and most natural food of man, although unfavorable conditions might, for the present, render the carrying out of them impracticable or inconvenient. When, therefore, a Vegetarian advocated an exclusively fruit and farinaceous diet, he might take circumstances into consideration, and believe he had a right to make use of milk, eggs, &c., if he found it more convenient, more agreeable, or more to his advantage to do so. If even he determined to exclude all such articles at home, he might find it almost impossible at present to avoid the use of them when separated from his own domestic circle; but, entertaining those opinions, the conscientious Vegetarian would endeavour to dispense with them as much as possible, and he (Mr. Smith) felt persuaded that a purely fruit and farinaceous diet would be attended with the most satisfactory results, when domestic and social arrangements favoured its adoption. (Applause.) There were some earnest members who thus carried out their convictions, and rejected all animal productions from their diet, and he trusted the apparent sacrifices they made would be amply compensated by sound health and a happy life. (Hear, hear, and applause.) Any discrepancies, however, between the principles and practices of Vegetarians, were no more a confutation of the evidence they advanced in favour of their diet, than the inconsistent conduct of Christians was a refutation of the truth of Christianity (Applause.)

Vegetarian Messenger, vol. i (1851), appendix, p. ii. G. P. (Bramley) says: "Having a desire to be convinced of the truth of the Vegetarian principle, and having tried a little of the Vegetarian practice, and doubt [sic] not but it is conducive to health, I offer the following questions for your consideration, and if answered satisfactorily, I doubt not but I may become a Vegetarian in the fullest sense of the term: 1. Can a man be called a Vegetarian who takes milk, butter, cheese, and eggs?" We beg to reply that the majority of Vegetarians partake of these articles, and that a few only do not, whilst all are alike denominated Vegetarians, the principle of the movement being simply to abstain from the flesh and blood of animals, which cannot be procured except by means of slaughter; the abstinence from, or use of, the animal substances named, being regulated by the choice of the individual. "2. Do not milk, butter, cheese, and eggs contain the same kind of matter as animal food does?" Strictly speaking, inasmuch as any article of food contains elements of nutrition, these elements are identical; but the form of the matter in which they are contained may be very different in producing or not the heating and stimulating effects which are opposed to the healthy condition of the body. Chemistry shews, moreover, that the elements of nutrition originate in vegetables. . . . Blood, perhaps, is the most objectionable form of nutriment; flesh, being principally composed of blood, is next to it in its gross, stimulating, and exciting qualities; whilst eggs, cheese, butter, cream, and milk are less and less stimulating in the order in which they are here placed, approaching, as they do, to the qualities of vegetables and fruits.

The Vegetarian Messenger, vol. ix pp. 79, 80: Another hindrance to our cause is misconception. It may be that the term Vegetarian misleads many. We repeat what is, no doubt, well known to some persons, that it is used for want of a better. Most Vegetarians use everything which others do, except flesh-meat, and food in the preparation of which lard, suet, or dripping may have been used. The proportion and quantity of vegetable productions, &c., which they use will, in many cases, be somewhat different.

In a letter on "Human Food," by Dr. Garrett, of Hastings (Hastings and St. Leonard's News, of June 18th, 1858), it is insinuated that "the diet of a strict Vegetarian" consists entirely of "fruits, roots, or green vegetables." Dr. Garrett ought to know that a "strict Vegetarian uses different kinds of grain—the cerealia, such as wheat, oats, barley, rice," &c., as well as "fruit, roots, and green vegetables." When a medical man makes such a mistake, it is no wonder that other persons have strangely erroneous ideas as to our diet. This is one instance among hundreds by which the public are misled and deceived, it may be unwittingly, as to what Vegetarianism really is. Each member is left free to use milk, butter, eggs, and cheese, or not, as he may think proper.

Ibid., pp. 190, 191: In Dr. Garrett's Nineteenth Letter on "Human Food," in the Hastings and St. Leonard's News, for October 1st, there is the following passage, which requires a passing notice: "Having reviewed the physiological, chemical, and dietetic qualities of milk, having proved its richness in every constituent of animal flesh, we may fairly compliment our waggish friends, the Vegetarians, in having added to their vegetable bill-of-fare, milk and eggs, two of the best, most concentrated, and nutritious articles of human food." We do not wish to manifest any undue degree of sensitiveness, but it is evident that Dr. Garrett is disposed to excite a laugh at Vegetarians by his left-handed compliment. His language is intended to shew that those Vegetarians who use milk and eggs are chargeable with inconsistency. We are not conscious of this. We have agreed to abstain from the flesh of animals. Milk and eggs may be termed animal products, but they are not flesh.

You see that Mr. Clark (D. R., 1885, p. 190) is justified in saying that we have from the first adopted the term "animal products."

I will only add one more authority on the use of eggs and milk. Surely Sir Henry Thompson, when preparing to impugn the honesty of Vegetarians, might have found time to consult the oracle of our late president:—

F. W. Newman. Essays on Diet. London: Kegan Paul & Co., 1883,pp. 21, 22: As the word Vegetarianism does not wholly explain itself, we may justly ask its meaning. Many suppose it to mean a diet consisting of table vegetables. It is true that these are an essential part of Vegetarian diet, yet they are by no means the most important. Vegetarian foods consist mainly of four heads—farinacea, pulse, fruit, and table vegetables.

Ibid., pp. 23, 24: One who confines himself to these four heads of diet is indisputably a Vegetarian. Yet, in fact, few Vegetarians do confine themselves to this diet; and herein consists my difficulty in definition. We are open to the scoff of being, not Vegetarians but Brahmins, who do not object to animal food, but only to the taking of animal life. Few of us refuse eggs, or milk and its products. This is highly illogical, if we seek consistency with an abstract theory. I do not shut my eyes to it. The truth is, that in cookery we need some grease, and it is hard to eat dry bread without butter or cheese. Our climate does not produce the nicer oils. It is not easy to buy oil delicate enough for food; and oil (to most Englishmen) is offensive, from tasting like degenerate butter. Cheese, like nuts, is maligned as indigestible, barely because it is heaped on a full stomach. However, since most Vegetarians admit eggs and milk, I define the diet as consisting of food which is substantially the growth of the earth without animal slaughter. If you prefer to call this Brahminism, I will not object. But my friend, the late Professor Jarrett, of Cambridge, entitled our rule the V.E.M.[6] diet. I heartily applaud the convenient and truthful name.

Ibid. p. 44: Recurring to the inconsistency of milk and eggs with strict Vegetarianism, I will observe that, by the avowal of medical science, milk has none of the inflammatory properties of flesh-meat; in so far it is akin to Vegetarian food. But undoubtedly the pressure of dense population for milk is an evil, and tends to the adulteration of the milk, to a deterioration of it, by giving to the cow whatever will increase its quantity, and to an enfeebling of cows generally, by asking too much milk of them, and by breeding them too quickly. Therefore I take pains to make no increased use of milk since I am a Vegetarian, nor yet of eggs. We have not yet learned to get substitutes from oleaginous nuts. We are in a state of transition. A future age will look back on this barbarism; yet we are moving towards the higher and nobler development in becoming even thus partial Vegetarians.

II.—The Vegetarians of the V. E. M. persuasion may fortify themselves by the authority of Pythagoras and Musonius; they may remember the words of Ovid:—

Ye mortall men, forbeare to franke your flesh with wicked food.
Ye have both corn and fruits of trees and grapes and herbs right good,
And though that some be harsh and hard, yet fire may make them well
Both soft and sweet. Ye may haue milke, and honey which doth smell
Of flowers of thyme
. The lauish earth doth yeeld you plenteously
Most gentle food, and riches to content both mind and eie;
There needs no slaughter nor no blood to get your liuing by.
The beasts do breake their fast with flesh, and yet not all beasts either,
For horses, sheepe, and other beasts to live by grasse had leuer.
The nature of the beast that doth delight in bloody food,
Is cruell, and vnmercifull. As lions fierce of mood,
Armenian tigers, bears, and woolues. Oh what wickednes
It is to cram the maw with maw, and franke vp flesh with flesh,
And for one liuing thing to liue by killing of another.

Ovid, Metamorphoses, xv 75-90.—Golding’s Translation.

But what have you poore sheepe misdone, a cattell meck and meeld,
Created for to mainteine man, whose fulsome dugs do yeeld
Sweete nectar
, who doo clooth vs with your wooll in soft aray,
Whose life doth more vs benefite than doth your death farre way?
What trespasse hath the oxen done? a beast without all guile
Of craft he is, vnhurtfull, simple, borne to labour every while.
In faith he is vnmindful and vnworthie of increase
Of corne, that in his heart can finde his tilman to release
From plough, to cut his throte :  that in his heart can find (I say)
Those neckes with hatchets off to strike, whose skin is worn away
With labouring ay for him :  who turn’d so oft his land most tough,
Who brought so many haruests home.—Ibid. 116-126.

And let vs not Thyestes-like thus furnish vp our boords
With bloody bowels.  Oh, how lewd example he affoords!
How wickedly prepareth he himselfe to murther man!
That with a cruell knife doth cut the throat of calfe, and can
Vnmoueably giue hearing to the lowing of the dam!
Or sticke the kid that waileth like the little babe! or eate
The foule that he himselfe before had often fed with meate!
What wants of vtter wickedness in working such a feate?
What may he after passe to do? Wel, either let your steers
Weare out themselues with worke, or else impute their death to yeers.
Against the wind and weather cold let wethers yeeld ye cotes,
And vdders full of batling milke receive ye of the gotes.
Away with springes, snarnes, and ginnes, away with rispe[7] and net,
Away with guileful feats: for foules no lime-twigs see yee set.
No feared feathers pitch ye vp to keepe the red deere in,

Ne with deceitfull baited hooke seeke fishes for to win.—Ibid. 462-476.

Musonius, the teacher of Epictetus, ranked by Origen with Socrates, taught ( D. R., 1881, p. 139 Ethics of Diet, 304):—

As we should prefer cheap fare to costly, and that which is easy to that which is hard to procure, so also that which is akin to man to that which is not so. Akin to us is that from plants, grains, and such other vegetable products as nourish man well; also what is derived from animals, not slaughtered, but otherwise serviceable. Of these foods the most suitable are such as we may use at once without fire, for such are readiest to hand. Such are fruits in season and some herbs, milk, cheese, and honeycombs. Moreover, such as need fire, and belong to the classes of grains and herbs, are also not unsuitable, but are all, without exception, akin to man.

III.—I will cite but one witness—the adviser of John Wesley—to prove that the distinction between animal products and flesh-meat is not new-fangled, but familiar to medical science. Dr. Beaumont, peeping into the stomach of Alexis St. Martin, found that beef inflamed the mucous membrane just as alcohol did. In fact, beef is "the brandy of diet." Eggs and milk are not inflammatory. In The English Malady; or, a Treatise of Nervous Diseases of all Kinds (2nd ed. Lond. 1734, pp. 361, 362), Dr. Cheyne describes the regimen by which he conquered gout and a complication of disorders which had made life intolerable:

My regimen, at present, is milk, with tea, coffee, bread and butter, mild cheese, salladin, fruits, and seeds of all kinds, with tender roots (as potatoes, turnips, carrots), and, in short, everything that has not life, dressed or not, as I like it (in which there is as much, or a greater variety, than in animal foods),[8] so that the stomach need never be cloyed. I drink no wine, nor any fermented liquors, and am rarely dry, most of my food being liquid, moist, or juicy; only, after dinner, I drink either coffee or green tea, but seldom both in the same day, and sometimes a glass of soft small cider. The thinner my diet is, the easier, more cheerful and lightsome, I find myself; my sleep is also the sounder, though perhaps somewhat shorter than formerly under my full animal diet. But, then, I am more alive than ever I was, as soon as I awake and get up. I rise commonly at six, and go to bed at ten. The order I find in this diet, from much experience, is, that milk is the lightest and best of all foods, being a medium between animal substances and vegetables; dressed vegetables, less windy and griping than raw; ripe fruit than unripe; the mealy roots more than the fibrous; and the dry than the crude vegetables. I find much butter, cream, fat and oily vegetables, and especially nuts, both hard of digestion, stuffing, and inflating. When I am dry (which is rarely), I drink Bath, Bristol, or Pyrmont water.

Many Vegetarians bear witness that abstinence from flesh, fish, and fowl restored them to health long unknown; they have not found it necessary to renounce milk and eggs for physical regeneration. Read the case of Mr. Collyns. One remark before leaving the dairy. Many of our critics forget that herbivorous and frugivorous, not less than carnivorous animals, suck the breast. No sane man ever denied that milk is a natural human food, at least for babes.

Sir Henry Thompson complains of our narrowness (Nineteenth Century, May, 1885, p. 778):

I have no sympathy with any dietary system which excludes the present generally recognised sources and varieties of food.

A catholic dispensation this for purveyors of polonies, pâtés de foie gras,[9] rotten (or "high") game, raw sausages with their attendant trichinosis, oleomargarine and butterine, and the latest delicacy, Schnepfendreck.[10] From all these delights of the carnivorous the Vegetarian is debarred by his principles; from their deserved punishment he is free.
IV.—Fasting is not, as some have thought, a trick of priestcraft. The great Destroyer of priestcraft coupled fasting with prayer. The Old Catholics, when they left the kind and degree and time of fasting to each man's conscience, were careful not to reject it altogether. Our Puritans 250 years ago fasted as rigorously as any hermit. Now we know that the meagre or Lenten fare includes eggs, milk, butter, even fish. These rules of fasting are bequest of vast experience. They show that a low diet tends to mortify the flesh. Vegetarian testimony may not wholly bear out the strong assertion of Dr. Jas. C Jackson[11]:—

It is morally and physically impossible for any man to remain a drunkard who can be induced to forego the use of tobacco, tea, coffee, spicy condi ments, common salt, flesh meats, and medicinal drugs.

But certainly the vast majority of Vegetarians are teetotalers, though bound by no official pledge. The henroost, the milk-pail, the churn, the hive, do not brutalise, do not offend our instincts of mercy as do the shambles, cattle transports and trucks, the port industry of Chicago, the pigeon-shooting of Hurlingham, the wholesale slaughter of game, the deer forest supplanting our native peasantry. Mr. Collyns declares:—

Morally, I am clearer, happier, and more anxious to serve my fellow-creatures than before.

Vegetarians, even of the V.E.M. persuasion, take an active part in many works of mercy and charity. Many can say, with Mr. Collyns:—

It was not the thought of sickness or death that moved me primarily to change my mode of living. It was rather a higher and, I believe, God-sent feeling within me that a nobler and better course was asked of me, and was due from me.

V.—Our name. Sir H. Thompson says (Nineteenth Century, May 1885, p. 781):—

It is incumbent on the supporters of this system of mixed diet to find a term which conveys the truth, that truth being that they abjure the use, as food, of all animal flesh. The words "vegetable" and "Vegetarian" have not the remotest claim to express that fact, while they have an express meaning of their own in daily use—namely, the obvious one of designating products of the vegetable kingdom. It may not be easy to construct a simple term which differentiates clearly from the true Vegetarian, the person who also uses various foods belonging to the animal kingdom, and who abjures only the flesh of animals. But it is high time that we should be spared the obscure language, or rather the inaccurate statement to which milk and egg consumers are committed, in assuming a title which has for centuries belonged to that not inconsiderable body of persons whose habits of life confer the right to use it. And I feel sure that my friends "the Vegetarians," living on a mixed diet, will see the necessity of seeking a more appropriate designation to distinguish them; if not, we must endeavour to invent one for them.

Our friendly censor, you will observe, uses "vegetable" and "Vegetarian" as synonyms, and declares that the name Vegetarian has been in use for centuries. Speaking with due diffidence, I believe that the name was born only a little before the Society; i.e., I challenge Sir Henry Thompson and all the world to produce an example of it 40[12] years old.[13] Several of us on this platform are older, I imagine, than our official name; according to Sir Henry our name is centuries old. Be it so; it is Vegetarianism that makes Methuselah look so youthful.

What does Vegetarian mean? Turn to the dictionaries.

The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language. By John Ogilvie. New edition. By Charles Annandale. London: Blackie & Son:

Vegetarian: 1. One who abstains from animal food, and lives exclusively on vegetables, eggs, milk, &c. Strict Vegetarians eat vegetable and farinaceous food only, and will not eat butter, eggs, or even milk. 2. One who maintains that vegetable and farinaceous substances constitute the only proper food for man.

Vegetarianism: The theory and practice of living solely on vegetables.

No lexicographer has learnt our secret, "fruit and farinacea." The vulgar error that we devour a wheelbarrow load of cabbages at a meal is fostered by definitions like these. The great Oxford dictionary of Dr. Murray, instructed by Mr. Axon, will do us justice, and make such strictures as Sir Henry Thompson's impossible.

W. W. Skeat, An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (Oxford, 1882), classes amongst derivatives from vegetare, "Veget-ar-i-an, a modern coined word, to denote a vegetable-arian, or one who lives on vegetables." Dr. Webster, Complete Dictionary of the English Language. Revised by C. A. Goodrich and Noah Porter (George Bell): "Vegetarian: One who holds that vegetables constitute the only proper food for man, and who lives solely upon them. Dunglison." The word is unknown to Heyse (Fremdwörterbuch. 14th edition. Hannover, 1859). The Fremdwörterbuch of Daniel Sanders (Leipzig, 1871) defines Vegetarianer "Wer nur von Vegetabilien lebt," he who lives on vegetables alone. This nur, "solely," is not foisted in elsewhere; e.g.,  Botanophag is "Pflanzenesser," "plant-eater;" Hippophag, "Pferdefleisch-esser," "horse-flesh-eater;" Carnivor, "fleishfressend," "flesh-eating;" Anthropophag, "kannibal."

The fairest interpretation is given under Galaktophag: "Milch-esser, Einer der sich hauptsächlich von Milch nährt, "milk-eater, one who principally feeds on milk.

Littré, Dictionnaire de la Langue Française. Supplément. Paris: Hachette, 1877:—

Végétarianisme, s.m. Alimentation par les végétaux.

Le vrai végétarianisme n'est pas l'état primitif de l'humanité. H. de parville. Journ. de Débats, 25 oct., 1877, Feuilleton, 1re page, 3e col.

Végétarien. s.m. Celui qui ne vit que de substances végétales.

Les mêmes aliments que nous, carnassiers, nous tirons de la viande, le végétarien, secte plus religieuse que scientifique, les tire de ses choux, L. Hermann, le Muscle, dans Biblioth. univ. el Rev. suisse, t. liii, juin, 1875, p. 215.

If we called ourselves botanophagists, or phytophagists, or cerealians, that would not of necessity imply the exclusive, but only the customary use of vegetable diet or of grain. Two little words continually skulk into the definition of our name—only and all. "Do you take tea?" "No." "Why, tea's a vegetable." So with tobacco and countless other noxious herbs. As Vegetarians, we are supposed to eat all vegetable products—hemlock and the rest. You have seen that, as Vegetarians, we are commanded by Sir Henry Thompson and lexicons to eat only vegetable products. Would you be surprised to learn that, as Vegetarians, looking at the word etymologically, not historically or in the light of our official definition, we are neither required to eat all vegetable products, nor vegetable products only, nor even vegetable products at all? Far from committing us to abstain from milk and eggs, the name derives its connexion with diet exclusively from the definition given to it by our Society.

When librarian means an "eater of books," antiquarian "an eater of antiques," even then vegetarian will not, cannot, mean "an eater of vegetables." Your learned townsman, my old friend Mr. Roby,[14] has cited many nouns substantive and adjective ending in—arius = Engl.—arian.[15]

All of these are derived from nouns substantive or adjective, none from verbs. Professor Skeat was misled by a borrowed definition. Antiquus, "ancient;" antiqua, "antiques;" antiquarius, "one who studies, deals in, has to do with, antiques—an antiquary or antiquarian." So vegetarius, "one who studies, has to do with, vegeta." What vegetus means you shall hear from impartial lips:—

Vegetus, whole, sound, strong, quick, fresh, lively, lusty, gallant, trim, brave; vegeto, to refresh, recreate, or make lively, lusty, quick and strong, to make sound.Thomas Holyoke, Latin Dictionary. London. 1677.

Ainsworth adds to the senses of "Vegetus," agile, alert, brisk, crank, pert, flourishing, vigorous, fine, seasonable; and renders the primitive "vegeo" to be lusty and strong, or sound and whole; to make brisk or mettlesome; to refresh.

The word vegetarius belongs to an illustrious family.  Vegetable, which has been called its mother, is really its niece.[16]Vegetation, vigil, vigilant, vigour, invigorate, wake, watch, wax, augment, authority; the Gr. ὑγιὴς (sound);  Hygieia, the goddess of health; hygiene, the science of health; all these are more or less distant relatives.

The Vegetarian, then, is one who aims at wholeness, soundness, strength, quickness, vigour, growth, wakefulness, health. These must be won by a return to nature, and the natural food for man is a diet of fruit and farinacea, with which some combine such animal products as may be enjoyed without destroying sentient life.

In the German journals of kindred societies the true derivation has frequently been insisted on. Eduard Baltzer's Vortrag über Vegetarianismus, am 27 Juni 1870 im sächischen Hof zu Nürnberg gehalten. (Nürnberg, G. Meyer.)

Explaining the meaning of the term Vegetarianism, for the benefit of those to whom it may be unknown, Baltzer says (pp. 8, 9):—

Homo vegetus denoted for the ancient Roman one whose whole appearance betokened a healthy vigour of nature; mens vegeta a soul sound to the core and full of activity; ingenium vegetum an intellect possessed of energy and force. . . In its origin, therefore, the word has nothing whatever to do with that sense which modern usage would thrust upon it, or which jesters apply, when they take an opportunity to invite us to the meadow as grass-eaters.

At a meeting of the German Vegetarian Society, at Cologne, 7th June, 1876, Securius, proposing to change the name, was left in a minority of one, Dr. Dock declaring that the name continually improved upon one; by degrees we feel it to be an honour to be called Vegetarians. [Vereinsblatt für Freunde der natürlichen Lebensweise (Vegetarianer) No. 87, p. 1381, Nordhausen, 3rd July, 1876.] In No. 88 (Aug. 1876, p. 1395) Baltzer states that at the first constitution of the Society, after much consideration, the members adopted the name "German Union to Promote a Natural Mode of Living," adding in brackets (Vegetarians), for the sake of historical continuity. Afterwards much pains was taken to find a short, plain substitute for Vegetarianism, but in vain. Es wird wohl auch vergeblich bleiben ("I believe the endeavour will remain fruitless").

Baltzer himself (Vereinsblatt, No 2, 1st August, 1868, p. 18) once shared Prof. Skeat's error:—

If we choose to call ourselves "Vegetarians," from vegetables, that is very inexact, and we ourselves not only give occasion to others to christen us, in mockery, "grass-eaters," but, what is worse, by the obscure name we obscure the thing itself.

By the first meeting of the Union, Nordhausen, 19th May, 1869 (Ibid. No. 10, pp. 149, 150), Baltzer had learnt better.Various names had been proposed, "Self-reformers," "Frugalists," "Fruit-eaters." Vienna friends wished to retain the term Vegetarian, as it had been naturalised and was historically significant. It was resolved to keep it, understanding that it denoted "the vigour of the whole man" (die Kräftigkeit des gesammten Menschen).

At the same meeting (p. 156) the question was put, milk, eggs, honey? "Are animal products (pace Sir H. Thompson) of living creatures allowable as food, or to be recommended?" After some discussion, the President remarked that such questions could only be settled by very detailed investigations from various points of view. The German society proscribes narcotics and intoxicants, but is still neutral with regard to animal products.[17]

In No. 33, p. 516 (9th Oct., 1871), K. Fischer is rebuked by Baltzer for deriving Vegetarian from "vegetable"; we do not call ourselves "Vegetabilians"; yet even here Baltzer has not quite learnt the truth. He still makes vegetare the root.[18]

In No. 39 (26th April, 1872), pp. 614-6, after some unfortunate suggestions, Colonel Altmann sensibly urges that it is a little too late to change the name, though the captious may insist on understanding that the grasses are our chief dish; or that we barely "vegetate," lead a life too low for an animate creature.

In No. 43 (10th September, 1872), p. 686, Baltzer clearly defines the relation of Vegetarianism to medicine:—

Vegetarianism is the theory, and, so far as it is reduced to practice, the art, of healthy life: it lays down the standard and teaches us to follow it. Medicine has to do with the diseased man, and should teach how, in the given case, to aid nature in her efforts to cure.

Theodore Hahn, Baltzer's father in Vegetarianism, in his Paradise of Health, Lost and Regained ("Das Paradies der Gesundheit, das verlorene und das wiedergewonnene, Cöthen, Schettler, 1879") p. 2, says that what was known to the Greeks as hygiene or general dietetics,—to Hufeland as Makrobiotik or the art of long life,—has, of late, from the Latin word vegetus, lively, brisk, active, vigorous, been called Vegetarianism.
Dr. Fr. Wilh. Dock (medical director of the "Untern Wald," St. Gallen), Ueber die sittliche und gesundheitliche Bedeutung des Vegetarianismus (naturgemässe Lebensweise[19]), St. Gallen, Zollikofer, 1878, p. 7:—

The name Vegetarian will probably stick to us; men do indeed laugh at it, because they understand by it only a plant-eater; but it has a very different meaning. For we derive the name from the Latin word vegetus, which signified among the Romans a man sound in body and intellect, brisk and energetic.

Our own magazine has not, I think, anywhere given the true etymology of our title. See Dietetic Reformer for 1880, pp. 27, 28:—

Mrs. Buxton speaks in one of her lectures as if she thought that Vegetarians were ignorant that milk and eggs, and cheese are animal products. . . . We are quite aware that, if we use milk and other animal products, we are not strictly what the word “Vegetarian” implies. Some of our members, we may say, are really what the name implies, but our Society itself commands[20] to its members, as a necessity, abstinence from the flesh only, but not from the products, of live animals.

On the 5th September, 1850, Mr. Jonathan Wright, of Philadelphia (Vegetarian Messenger, vol. ii p. 44), shewed some inkling of the truth.

The Vegetarian Messenger, vol. i append. p. vii, teaches in what sense a man becomes vegetus by our rule. G. E., a stonemason, wrote in February, 1850:—

"I am 41 years of age, have been a teetotaler 14 years, but have had a great deal of sickness, and have generally been suffering from some ailment or other, arising, I believe, from improper diet, even from my boy-hood. I have suffered so immensely from pills, draughts, &c., that my constitution is become quite weak." He was advised to live entirely upon fruits and farinacea. On the 3rd of June he wrote: "I get on now first-rate, being able to regulate the action of my system like clock-work, and keep in excellent health, entirely without the use of medicine of any description; and altogether I feel in a blessed state of existence. I am more buoyant in spirits—more agile. My physical energy is increased, and altogether I enjoy a new life. It was a blessed day for me when Providence first led me to see the Vegetarian tracts, simply by accident, in a shop window."

I have shewn, in reply to Sir Henry Thompson—

I. If we say nothing in our profession about milk and eggs—if we can neither endorse nor disprove by a counter statement of figures, though we gravely question, his formal statistics, "Nineteen-twentieths of Vegetarians make large use of milk and its products and eggs"—if, I say, we cannot satisfy his curiosity on this head, it is because our Society formally, from the first, proclaimed its neutrality with regard to such substances, making war in its corporate capacity solely on fish, flesh, and fowl. Among the Danielite Order Sir Henry will find what his soul longs for in the Garden of Eden.

II. If we are inconsistent, Pythagoras and Musonius, to whom one may add the Brahmins and most Vegetarian races, are inconsistent also.

III. Milk and its products and eggs are allowed by the faculty where they forbid flesh-meat, and our converts recover on a V.E.M. diet from gout and other disorders brought on by a riotous use of flesh.

IV. A V.E.M. diet is distinguished from a flesh diet in ecclesiastical rules of fasting, and tends to subdue the grosser appetites.

V. The word Vegetarian, far from being hundreds of years old, is a modern coined word, as Sir Henry might learn from Professor Skeat; far from committing us to eschew animal products, it no more implies eating or abstinence on the face of it, than do 'antiquary,' 'librarian.'

I am an antiquary. I was for three years librarian at Cambridge. No man ever summoned me to eat antiquities, or in a literal sense to become heluo librorum. Why, in the name of wonder, should an eminent surgeon let slip the dogs of scorn and indignation upon me, and call me in effect a liar, if, as a Vegetarian, I use the liberty allowed by my profession, and return sometimes to the diet of my cradle?

I have not been pleading pro domo. Personally, when alone, I am a Vegetarian of the straitest sect, never hearing of an experiment in plain living, but I am eager to try it. Yet from the first I resolved, when abroad, to give no offence by high-flown scruples.  Fish, flesh, fowl, soup, with stock, are refused as easily as cauliflowers or turnips ;  but if I pry into every pudding or cake—"you are quite sure there is no milk, no eggs, no butter here?"—I become a nuisance. If ladies heap eggs on your plate, flattering themselves that they are saving you from starvation, who so stony-hearted as to undeceive them?  It pleases them, and does no harm to you.  In my rooms I never take milk, but at refreshment bars I encourage the demand as against alcohol; so I buy honey, not because I cannot do perfectly well without it, but in order to promote bee-keeping.
One word more. Europe has been called a hospital, a lazar-house. As Vegetarians — seeking a sound mind in a sound body—we would convert it into a paradise of health. Every staunch Vegetarian is an unpaid officer of health. Europe has been called the hell of animals, shambles, an Akeldama, or field of blood; our reform would turn it into a garden, a pleasance, a preserve for all innocent life. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain. Strong meat will go the way of strong drink. The staff of life—wholemeal bread—is no rotten reed that will break under our weight; trust that primeval word:—

Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

We accept the omen. Fruits and farinacea—the seed-bearing herb, the fruit-bearing tree—were the alpha of man's diet; they shall be the omega. From a garden to a garden, through slaughters and errors innumerable, winds the journey of the human race; through wars and bloodshed to perfect peace.

Were it not for gratitude due to past services, I should not notice Sir Henry Thompson's lack of Latin scholarship, or his travesty of Vegetarian profession and practice. Out of his mouth issues blessing as well as cursing. A surgeon of mark, he betrays to brawn-fed Philistines—thriving townsmen in Europe—mysteries hidden for ages, revealed in these last days by Vegetarians. Over-eating is more baneful even than over-drinking. Plures gula quam gladius. The sword slays its thousands, gluttony its ten thousands.

The oracle of the Nineteenth Century, like other oracles, may be duped by vanity. But Mr. Knowles sticks to his colours. His plan of action was—find men of note in one field; bid them air their whims in other fields. Fancy, on these terms, may riot at will. Not the world known to the ancients, but the 'world unexplored'—terra incognita—is peopled in old maps with shapes of wonder and fear, 'Gorgons and Hydras and Chimaeras dire.' Sir Henry Thompson on the use of the knife, would have been tame and wary. In the domain of Latin etymology and Vegetarian history, he frisks at ease, cumbered by no ballast of knowledge. There he

Up to the great might-have-been upsoaring sublime and ideal,
Gives to historical questions a free poetical treatment.

P.S.—In the April number of the Nineteenth Century for 1898, Sir Henry has an article: "Why Vegetarian?" from which I cull a flower or two.
Page 560:—

It is most desirable, therefore, that an intelligible definition should be framed to indicate accurately the diet thus erroneously described as "Vegetarian," a term which denotes the consumption of food only obtained from the vegetable kingdom, and can by no possibility be accurately, that is, honestly, used to include anything else.

We forgive Sir Henry's ignorance of the origin and use of our official title, but he need not denounce as dishonest those who reject his authority in matters of scholarship. What he calls impossible, I say is necessary. Vegetarian cannot, whether you look to the form of the word, or to the meaning assigned to it by its inventors, mean an eater of vegetables.

Mr. Leslie Stephen, in a far-fetched joke, invited beef-eating moralists (the Ethical Society) to thank God that they are not as the Vegetarian Publican, who by his abstinence would doom herds and flocks to extinction. Whatever grounds we may allege for our heresy, we must make no pretence to humanity. Sir Henry borrows this sophism, though, lacking the pen of a ready writer, he cannot set it off to advantage. Mr. H. S. Salt has said all that need to be said on the matter. To men of sense the following passage confutes itself:—

Ibid, p. 558 :—

Grant them that conscious life is a boon to its possessors. The "mixed feeder," in a civilised society, at all events, ought to be aware that he is not the mere occasion of death to animals, but is, on the other hand, promoting life by propagating them for the purpose of food, and that he may conscientiously feel pleasure in the fact that he plays a humble part in promoting the happiness of his fellow creatures by furthering the great scheme which has associated joy with life. For the breeding of animals of all kinds for human food confers life on millions of beings possessing considerable capacity for enjoyment in their own way, on the best conditions attainable; conditions far superior in point of comfort, freedom from pain, accident, &c., to those which govern the wild breeds inhabiting the prairie or the forest. Better conditions than those which affect and constitute the mean of human experience; for those organised by man, when he acts as a temporary vice-providence to the beast, exclude as far as possible all suffering from famine, exposure, from prolonged disease, and slow decay. He confers a brief life, perhaps, but one which is well protected, thanks to vigilant oversight of the flocks and herds. For it is the manifest interest of the proprietor to maintain a healthy and happy condition for every one of his creatures during the entire term of their existence. And when the last hour has arrived, which is happily unforseen, unsuspected, without the anxiety or dread it often brings to man, the stroke of death is arranged to take place almost instantaneously and without pain. Or it should be so, for this can always be accomplished if ordinary care and skill be employed.

The Editor of the Nineteenth Century, by publishing optimistic pictures like this, shews that he has never heard of cattle-ships or cattle-trucks, of Chicago or Deptford. Flesh-eaters may wash their hands of these scandals, and blame drovers and butchers, but it is a cowardly shift. No "care and skill," "ordinary" or extraordinary, can make the trade other than cruel; the diet other than unwholesome.

I have now looked at Sir Henry Thompsons's article in the Nineteenth Century, June, 1898, pp. 966-976, "Why Vegetarian? a Reply to Critics." He serves up his old errors (except as to the date of our name), without any hint that they were confuted thirteen years ago. Thus he says (p. 974):—

Lastly, I venture to advise my old friends, the "Vegetarians," as I sincerely believe for their advantage, to change their distinctive name. They emphatically state that they no longer rely for their diet on the produce of the vegetable kingdom, differing from those who originally adopted the name at a date by no means remote. I give this merely to fix the period in relation to the name, and to what was assuredly then the practice of Vegetarians.

Assuredly the rule of Vegetarians, as declared from the birth of the Society, was abstinence from fish, flesh, and fowl, neutrality as to the use of honey, eggs, milk, and its products.

Again (p. 975)—

All the world knew what the meaning of the word had been, and that for years it had designated the eating of vegetable food and nothing else.

In proof of this Sir Henry cites Latham's Dictionary, 1870. To one who spends his life in lexicographical studies, this trust in lexicons as final, absolute authorities, and not rather as rough essays, needing the file throughout, is nothing short of pathetic. Dr. Latham himself, as I knew him, would have been the first to disclaim such papal pretensions.


  1. Reviewed by our late V.P., the Rev. C. H. Collyns, in D.R., 1880, pp. 49–52.

    That is, the practice of living on the products of the Vegetable kingdom, with or without the addition of Eggs, and Milk and its products (butter and cheese), to the exclusion of fish, flesh, and fowl.
  3. These statistics are evolved out of the inner consciousness of our "irresponsible, indolent reviewer." I, for one, have not been examined as to my consumption of milk and eggs by Sir H. Thompson, or on his behalf. We resign ourselves to being unknown even to the most eminent of doctors. Who would aspire to be known to the police?
  4. See Why am I a Vegetarian? pp. 80, 81, in Plain Living and High Thinking,vol. iii. of the Vegetarian Jubilee Library, 1897. To the (mineral or vegetable) substitutes for animal power or substances (animal or mineral) there named, add for power, the waters of Niagara and the lower St. Lawrence; for the cocoon of the worm, artificial silk of wood pulp; paper supplies horse-shoes, wheels and rails for railroads; olive oil, palm oil, cocoanut, maize, etc., instead of fat and blubber, are used by soap-boilers; glass and agate pens; straw paper; wood for horn; pegamoid for leather and bladder; all bear witness to Carey's law: "The course of civilisation is the triumph of vegetable (and mineral) over animal (and mineral) in all the arts."
  5. Vegetarian Messenger, vol. 1 p. 136.
  6. V=vegetables, E=eggs, M=milk.
  7. Twig.
  8. Here Cheyne draws the distinction—for which Vegetarians are taken to task by Sir Henry Thompson—between milk and its products and animal foods.
  9. Elsewhere (p. 783) Sir Henry Thompson holds up the Strassburg geese as awful examples of liver derangement; but as human food "foie gras offers an irrestistible charm to the gourmet at most well-furnished tables"
  10. Listen to Pierer’s Conversations-Lexikon (6th ed. Oberhausen and Leipzig, 1879. xvi 103): "Die Schnepfen gelten für das feinschmeckendste Wildpret; im Herbste sind sie sehr fett, doch im Frühling schmecken sie besser. Ihr Darmkanal ist häufig mit Bandwürmern dicht angefüllt, welche als besondere Leckerbissen gelten. Das Gescheide der Schnepfen wird haüfig ausgezogen, die fette Feuchtigkeit, welche beim Braten der Schnepfen aus dem Mastdarm tritt, wird mit gerösteten Semmelschnitten aufgesaugt und als Schnepfendreck für eine Delicatesse gehalten."Dove's dung was sold for food in Israel (2 Kings vi 25), but it was in the extremity of famine.
  11. The Drink Crave—How To Cure, p. 3.
  12. Written in 1885.
  13. The true birthyear of our name can only be fixed when our early literature is sifted for the express purpose. In Horsell's Truth-Tester, second series, i (1847) 83b, I find a correspondent from Hull, in November, 1846, mentions only a few Vegetarians in one house in 1843. Did he antedate the name? As far as I can yet learn, it must have arisen among the founders of the Society. Letters stored in the Brotherton or Harvey archives, or among the Bible Christians of Salford, may furnish a clue to the maze.
  14. Latin Grammar. Vol. I, paragraph 942.
  15. "Pap- (or porridge-) eater" is not pultarius, but pultiphagus, a name applied by Plautus to the Roman of the Punic wars. So highly among the ancients in their prime, was breadcorn honoured as the staff of life. In Greek-Latin glossaries the Gr. termination πὠλης, Lat.—pola, Engl. monger, seller or dealer, answers in many cases to Lat.—arius. Thus, caeparius, carnarius, cerarius, frumentarius, lactarius, lactucarius, lardarius, piscarius, pomarius, rosarius, suarius = a dealer in onions, flesh-meat, wax, corn, milk, lettuces, bacon, fish, apples, roses, swine, respectively. Armamentarius is a neat-herd; caprarius, a goat-herd; equarius, a groom; lanarius, a worker in wool; porcarius, also suarius, a swine-herd;ovarius (not egg-eater, but) egg-keeper; pullarius, a keeper of the sacred chickens. Even vegetabiliarian (portentous birth!) would denote, not vegetable-eater, but greengrocer or market-gardener. To be fair and above-board, I throw out a straw for drowning men to catch at: vinarius, elsewhere "vintner," is once cited from the Digest in the sense of "wine-bibber." Here is a crumb of comfort for carpers at our name. They may search long for a second.
  16. WhatIsVegetarianism-page15.png
  17. See No. 24, 2nd Dec., 1870, p. 369.
  18. See Ed. Baltzer, Die natürliche Lebeusweise. Erster Theil: Der Weg zu Gesundheit und sozialem Heil. 2nd ed., Nordhausen, 1871, pp. 161-2, on the "beautiful word" Vegetarian, as derived from vegetus.
  19. "On the Moral and Sanitary Significance of Vegetarianism" (the Natural Mode of Life).
  20. So in D.R., probably a misprint for “commends.”—J. E. B. M.