Oakland, Berkeley, And East Bay News, Events, Restaurants, Music, & Arts
Like pacifists or pro-lifers: vegetarianism, in itself, is merely an ethic -- not necessarily a religion.
In the Table of Contents to Rynn Berry's 1993 book, Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes: Lives & Lore from Buddha to the Beatles, Pythagoras is described as an ancient Greek religious teacher.
Gautama the Buddha is similarly described as an ancient Indian savant and religious teacher.
Mahavira is described as the historical founder of the world's oldest vegetarian religion---the Jains of India.
Plato (and Socrates) are described as Pythagorean philosophers who are the founders of the Western philosophical tradition.
Plutarch is described as an ancient essayist and biographer, famous for his Lives of notable Greeks and Romans.
Leonardo da Vinci is described as an "Italian Renaissance man; Leonardo is one of Western Civilization's greatest geniuses."
Percy Shelley is described as a "scientist, classicist, aesthete, Shelley was probably the most gifted English Romantic poet."
Leo Tolstoy: "Nineteenth century Russian author, Tolstoy is considered to be the world's greatest novelist."
Annie Besant: "Nineteenth century English social reformer and spiritual leader...at once a feminist, a labor leader, a theosophist, a freethinker, a devoted mother and a founder of the planned parenthood movement. She is one of the most remarkable women of modern times."
Mohandas Gandhi: "Indian civic and spiritual leader; inventor of the hunger strike; architect of Indian independence; father of modern India."
George Bernard Shaw: "Celebrated wit; peerless music and drama critic; essayist and dramatist of genius."
Bronson Alcott: "American transcendentalist philosopher; father of Louisa May Alcott; founder of the first vegetarian commune, Fruitlands."
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg: "World-class surgeon, pioneering nutritionist, and food inventor extraordinaire. Kellogg invented peanut butter, flaked cereals, and the first meat substitutes made from nuts and grains."
Henry Salt: "Venerable figure in the vegetarian movement; author of such vegetarian classics as Seventy Years Among the Savages, and Animal Rights."
Frances Moore Lappe: "Author of Diet for a Small Planet (1971), Lappe's two million copy bestseller put vegetarianism on the map, and awakened Westerners to the nutritional and economic benefits of a vegetarian diet."
Isaac Bashevis Singer and Malcolm Muggeridge are described as "the first major literary figures in the West to turn vegetarian since Tolstoy."
Brigid Brophy: "Noted for her formidable intellect, Brigid Brophy is an English novelist, biographer, and critic of the first rank. She is the first major woman novelist to become a vegetarian."
Ethical considerations influenced Benjamin Franklin, who became a vegetarian at age sixteen. Franklin noted "greater progress from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension." In his autobiographical writings, Benjamin Franklin called flesh-eating "unprovoked murder."
The poet Percy Shelley was a committed vegetarian. In his essay, "A Vindication of Natural Diet," he wrote, "Let the advocate of animal food...tear a living lamb with his teeth and, plunging his head into its vitals, slake his thirst with the steaming blood... Then, and only then only, would he be consistent."
Shelley's interest in vegetarianism began when he was a student at Oxford, and he and his wife Harriet took up the diet soon after their marriage. In a letter dated March 14, 1812, his wife wrote to a friend, "We have foresworn meat and adopted the Pythagorean system." Shelley, in his poem "Queen Mab," described a world where humans do not kill animals for food.
"It is necessary to correct the error that vegetarianism has made us weak in mind, or passive or inert in action," wrote Mohandas Gandhi. "I do not regard flesh-food as necessary at any stage."
Gandhi wrote several books in which he discussed vegetarianism. His own daily diet included wheat sprouts, almond paste, greens, lemons, and honey. He founded Tolstoy Farm, a community based on vegetarian principles.
In his Moral Basis of Vegetarianism, Gandhi wrote, "I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species. We err in copying the lower animal world if we are superior to it...I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants."
Kim Bartlett of Animal People in Clinton, WA, similarly writes:
"Something to think about: We believe that the Golden Rule applies to animals, too. We don't accept the prevailing notion that 'people come first' or that 'people are more important than animals.' Animals feel pain and suffer just as we do, and it is almost always humans making animals suffer and not the other way around. Yet in spite of how cruelly people behave towards animals -- not to mention human cruelty to other humans -- we are supposed to believe that humans are superior to other animals.
"If people want to fancy themselves as being of greater moral worth than the other creatures on this earth, we should begin behaving better than they do, and not worse. Let's start treating everyone as we would like to be treated ourselves."
Food expert Frances Moore Lappe, author of the bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, once said in a television interview that we should look at a piece of steak as if it were a Cadillac.
"What I mean," she explained, "is that we in America are hooked on gas-guzzling automobiles because of the illusion of cheap petroleum. Likewise, we got hooked on a grain-fed, meat-centered diet because of the illusion of cheap grain."
As it stands now, about half of the harvested acreage in America and in a number of European, African, and Asian countries is used to feed animals. If the earth's arable land were used primarily for the production of vegetarian foods, the planet could easily support a human population several times its present size.
I understand there are conservative Christians who fear vegetarianism... which is kind of like being afraid of nonsmoking, nondrinking, or recycling.
Ronald J. Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, in his 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, pointed out that 220 million Americans were eating enough food (largely because of the high consumption of grain fed to livestock) to feed over one billion people in the poorer countries.
The following points and facts are excerpted from Please Don't Eat the Animals (2007) by the mother-daughter writing team of Jennifer Horsman and Jaime Flowers:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
"Each year, the meat industrial complex abuses and butchers nearly nine billion cows, pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens, and other innocent, feeling animals just for the enjoyment of consumers.
"Each year, nearly 1.5 million of these consumers are crippled and killed prematurely by heart failure, cancer, stroke, and other chronic diseases that have been linked conclusively with the consumption of these animals.
"Each year, millions of other animals are abused and sacrificed in a vain search for a 'magic pill' that would vanquish these largely self-inflicted diseases."
--Alex Hershaft, PhD, president, Farm Animal Reform Movement
When analyzing 8,300 deaths in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany among 76,000 men and women in five different, large studies, researchers concluded that vegetarians have a 24 percent reduction in death from heart disease.
Similarly, in the famous Oxford Vegetarian Study, where 6,000 vegetarians were compared with 5,000 meat-eaters over nearly two decades, scientists found that the rate of death from heart disease was 28 percent lower in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.
One study analyzed eighty scientific studies in leading medical journals. The analysis found that vegetarians had lower blood pressure, and were less likely to suffer from stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.
A large German study of nearly 2,000 vegetarians found that deaths from heart disease were reduced by over one-third, and that heart disease itself was far less than that of the general population.
Another large study examined the coronary artery disease risk of young adults ages 18 to 30 and vegetarians were found to have much higher levels of cardiovascular fitness and a greatly reduced risk of heart disease.
"The process of gradual blocking of the coronary arteries begins not in adulthood but in childhood...and the main cause of this arteriosclerosis is the steadily increasing amount of fat in the American diet, particularly saturated animal fats such as those found in meat, chicken, milk and cheeses.
"If there was another disease that caused half a million deaths a year, you can be sure that the public would be acutely aware of the danger, and that the cure or prevention would be universally practiced."
--Dr. Benjamin Spock, author, child expert
"I don't understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives."
--Dr. Dean Ornish, author, Reversing Heart Disease
Stroke is the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Vegetarians have a 20 to 30 percent reduced risk of having a stroke. Stroke, like heart disease, is associated with diets high in saturated fats, and the vegetarian diet is naturally low in these fats.
The Oxford Vegetarian Study found cancer mortality to be 39 percent lower among vegetarians when compared with meat-eaters. The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer found vegetarians suffer 40 percent fewer cancers than the general population.
Studies have shown that decreasing a woman's animal fat intake can reduce the chances that she will die from breast cancer. A large-scale, long-term study in the Netherlands found a powerful connection between the amount of animal fat consumed and the rate of prostate cancer. A review of a dozen studies found dietary fat strongly correlated with prostate cancer.
Ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers have all been shown to be strongly correlated to the amount of animal fat in one's diet, and vegetarian women have significantly lower rates of these cancers.
"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all the natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined."
--Dr. Neal Barnard, Executive Director, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
"Vegetarians have the best diet. They have the lowest rate of coronary disease of any group in the country. They have a fraction of our heart attack rate and they have only 40 percent of our cancer rate."
--William Castelli, MD, Director, Framingham Heart Study
"Human beings are not natural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings..."
--Dr. William Roberts, editor-in-chief, American Journal of Cardiology
Les Brown of the Overseas Development Council calculates that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only ten percent per year, it would free at least twelve million tons of grain for human consumption--or enough to feed sixty million people.
There must be a moral or an ethical basis for one’s vegetarianism, otherwise one is likely to backslide, and return to flesh-eating. The nutritional data keeps changing, which causes opponents of animal liberation to react with amusement.
Opponents of animal liberation liken it to a scene in Woody Allen’s 1973 movie, Sleeper, in which a natural food faddist, unwillingly placed in suspended animation, wakes up two hundred years into the future, to find that what he’d thought would be the wave of the future, didn’t happen…
…the foods that were thought to be unhealthy in the 20th century were found to be health-supporting in the 22nd century.
In the ’70s, Dr. Tarnower’s Scarsdale Diet had a vegetarian option which was practically vegan, as dairy products were excluded. But Dr. Tarnower permitted diet sodas without restriction, which nutritionalists now are saying should be consumed less frequently.
In The MacDougall Plan (1983), Dr. John MacDougall advocated a plant-based diet, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, with no animal products, oil or salt. And no intoxication, including no caffeine.
Keith Akers in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983), similarly said:
“Almost any vegetarian diet is an improvement over the typical Western diet, but the best diet of all would also eliminate refined and processed foods, as well as most (if not all) animal products — in short, a total vegetarian (vegan), whole foods diet. This is a fairly radical claim, and one which should not be accepted uncritically…”
John Robbins’ Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987) makes veganism appear as reasonable and mainstream as recycling.
John Robbins shows in easy-to-read language, with charts and graphs, that most of the degenerative diseases plaguing the affluent West are self-inflicted wounds, and are virtually unknown in other parts of the world…
…and migration studies show that when persons immigrate to the United States and begin eating animal products in excess, they’re plagued by the same diseases as everyone else. Genetics and heredity are not a discernible factor.
My friend Greg Sims and I heard John Robbins speak in Solana Beach, CA in July 1989, where John Robbins said he’d recently appeared on the television talk show Geraldo… indirectly indicating just how mainstream his vegan views in Diet for a New America really are!
John Robbins said the evidence continues to mount: autopsies on heart patients show saturated fat and cholesterol as the problem — not spinach and tofu!
And that a diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in cholesterol is health supporting.
The Atkins diet (popular over a decade ago) went against the mounting evidence, although the real intent of the Atkins diet was not good health but quick weight loss.
When Dr. Atkins passed away, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) said his death was indicative of the dangers posed by the Atkins diet.
Peter Singer (author, Animal Liberation) himself admits his Introduction to Keith Akers’ A Vegetarian Sourcebook:
“Despite all the books on vegetarianism, there is a need for a thoroughly reliable sourcebook covering all the main arguments for being a vegetarian of one sort or another. There cannot be a definitive book that will do this for all time, for new medical evidence keeps coming in, and the ecological situation and the treatment of farm animals are gradually changing.”
At the World Vegetarian Day festival at Fort Mason in San Francisco, CA, in September 2000, Elliot Gang, a writer for the now-defunct Animals’ Agenda told Gaverick Matheny of Vegan Action and myself that advocating vegetarianism for health reasons is comparable to saying, “Rape is wrong, because you might catch venereal disease.”
No. In each case the moral reason is the real reason to abstain. Because we live in such a narcissistic society, it’s not surprising people are won over by the health arguments first.
It’s comparable to the bumper sticker which reads:
“Don’t Drink and Drive. You Might Hit a Bump and Spill Your Drink.”
Again: my understanding is there must be a moral basis for one’s abstaining from meat, fish, fowl, etc., just like abstaining from cannibalism, because otherwise it’s very easy to backslide and return to flesh-eating.
As an example, in the late ’80s, I met a woman volunteering with San Diego Animal Advocates. She said when she first became a vegetarian, she was doing so for health reasons, and didn’t think a piece of turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas would hurt her. But she said when she learned about factory farming, animal abuse, etc. she won’t touch meat, period!
Congressman Dennis Kucinich first went vegan in the ’90s, influenced by a past girlfriend. I’ve heard that Ingrid Newkirk (Executive Director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) encourages vegans to sleep around, convince their significant other to go vegan, and then move on to someone else, to increase the number of vegans!
This could have adverse effects: if the break-up is less than pleasant, one of the partners might return to meat-eating out of spite!
Again, a moral or ethical basis must be at the heart of one’s vegetarianism. The nutritional data keeps changing…
But as an ethic, vegetarianism (not harming animals), like pacifists or pro-lifers, has stood the test of time and has served as the basis for entire religious traditions. (Buddhism, Jainism, Pythagoreanism, and possibly early Christianity all immediately come to mind.)
Misturu Kakimoto of the Japanese Vegetarian Society writes: A survey that I conducted of 80 Westerners, including Americans, Englishmen and Canadians, revealed that approximately half of them believed that vegetarianism originated in India. Some respondents assumed that vegetarianism had its origin in China or Japan. It seems to me that the reason Westerners associate vegetarianism with China or Japan is Buddhism. It is no wonder, and in fact we could say that Japan used to be a country where vegetarianism prevailed.
Gishi-wajin-denn, a history book on Japan written in China around the third century BC, says, There are no cattle, no horses, no tigers, no leopards, no goats and no magpies in that land. The climate is mild and people over there eat fresh vegetables both in summer and in winter. It also says that people catch fish and shellfish in the water. Apparently, the Japanese ate fresh vegetables as well as rice and other cereals as staple foods. They also took some fish and shellfish, but hardly any meat.
Shinto, the prevailing religion at the time, is essentially pantheistic, based upon the worship of the forces of nature. According to writer Steven Rosen, in the early days of Shinto, no animal food was offered in sacrifice because of the injunction against shedding blood in the sacred area of the shrine.
Several hundred years later, Buddhism came to Japan and the prohibition of hunting and fishing permeated the Japanese people. In 7th century Japan, the Empress Jito encouraged hojo, or the releasing of captive animals, and established wildlife preserves, where animals could not be hunted.
There are many similarities between the Hindu literature and the Buddhist religions of the Far East. For example, the word Chaan of the Chaan school of Chinese Buddhism is Chinese for the Sanskrit word dhyana, which means meditation, as does the word Zen in Japanese. In 676 AD, then Japanese emperor Tenmu proclaimed an ordinance prohibiting the eating of fish and shellfish as well as animal flesh and fowl. Subsequently, in the year 737 of the Nara period, the emperor Seimu approved the eating of fish and shellfish.
During the twelve hundred years from the Nara period to the Meiji restoration in the second half of the 19th century, Japanese people enjoyed vegetarian style meals. They usually ate rice as staple food and beans and vegetables. It was only on special occasions or celebrations that fish was served. Under these circumstances the Japanese people developed a vegetarian cuisine, Shojin Ryori (ryori means cooking or cuisine), which was native to Japan.
The word shojin is a Japanese translation of vyria in Sanskrit, meaning to have the goodness and keep away evils. Buddhist priests of the Tendai-shu and Shingon-shu sects, whose founders studied in China in the ninth century before they founded their respective sects, have handed down vegetarian cooking practices from Chinese temples strictly in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha.
In the 13th century, Dogen, the founder of the Soto sect of Zen, formally established Shojin Ryori or Japanese vegetarian cuisine. Dogen studied and learned the Zen teachings abroad in China, during the Sung Dynasty. He fixed rules aiming to establish the pure vegetarian life as a means of training the mind.
One of the other influences Zen exerted on the Japanese people manifested itself in Sado, the Japanese tea ceremony. It is believed that Esai, founder of the Rinazi-shu sect, introduced tea to Japan and it is the custom for Zen followers to drink tea. The customs preserved in the teaching of Zen lead to a systematic rule called Sado
a Cha-shitsu or tea ceremony room is so constructed as to resemble the Shojin, where the chief priest is at a Buddhist temple.
Food served at a tea ceremony is called Kaiseki in Japanese, which literally means a stone in the breast. Monks practicing asceticism used to press heated stones to their bosom to suppress hunger. Then the word Kaiseki itself came to mean a light meal served at Shojin, and Kaiseki meals had great influence on the Japanese.
The Temple of the Butchered Cow can be found in Shimoda, Japan. It was erected shortly after Japan opened its doors to the West in the 1850s. It was erected in honor of the first cow slaughtered in Japan, marking the first violation of the Buddhist tenet against the eating of meat.
An example of a Buddhist vegetarian in the modern age: Kenji Miyazawa, a Japanese writer and poet of the early 20th century, who wrote a novel entitled Vegetarian-Taisai, in which he depicted a fictitious vegetarian congress
His works played an important role in the advocacy of modern vegetarianism. Today, no animal flesh is ever eaten in a Zen Buddhist monastery, and such Buddhist denominations as the Cao Dai sect (which originated in South Vietnam), now boasts some two million followers, all of whom are vegetarian.
The Buddhist teachings are not the only source contributing to the growth of vegetarianism in Japan. in the late 19th century, Dr. Gensai Ishizuka published an academic book in which he advocated vegetarian cooking with an emphasis on brown rice and vegetables. His method is called Seisyoku (Macrobiotics) and is based upon ancient Chinese philosophy such as the principles of Yin and Yang and Taoism. Now some people support his method of preventative medicine. Japanese macrobiotics suggest taking brown rice as half of the whole intake, with vegetables, beans, seaweeds, and a small amount of fish.
In his 1923 book, The Natural Diet of Man, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg writes: According to Mori, the Japanese peasant of the interior is almost an exclusive vegetarian. He eats fish once or twice a month and meat once or twice a year. Dr. Kellogg writes that in 1899, the Emperor of Japan appointed a commission to determine whether it was necessary to add meat to the nations diet to improve the peoples strength and stature. The commission concluded that as far as meat was concerned, the Japanese had always managed to do without it, and that their powers of endurance and their athletic prowess exceeded that of any of the Caucasian races. Japans diet stands on a foundation of rice.
According to Dr. Kellogg: the rice diet of the Japanese is supplemented by the free use of peanuts, soy beans and greens, which
constitute a wholly sufficient bill of fare. Throughout the Island Empire, rice is largely used, together with buckwheat, barley, wheat and millet. Turnips and radishes, yams and sweet potatoes are frequently used, also cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes. The soy bean is held in high esteem and used largely in the form of miso, a puree prepared from the bean and fermented; also tofu, a sort of cheese; and cho-yu, which is prepared by mixing the pulverized beans with wheat flour, salt, and water and fermenting from one and a half to five years.
The Chinese peasant lives on essentially the same diet, as do also the Siamese, the Koreans, and most other Oriental peoples. Three-fourths of the worlds population eats so little meat that it cannot be regarded as anything more than an incidental factor in their bill of fare. The countless millions of China, writes Dr. Kellogg, are for the most part flesh-abstainers. In fact at least two-thirds of the inhabitants of the world make so little use of flesh that it can hardly be considered an essential part of their dietary
Misturu Kakimoto concludes: Japanese people started eating meat some 150 years ago and now suffer the crippling diseases caused by the excess intake of fat in flesh and the possible hazards from the use of agricultural chemicals and additives. This is persuading them to seek natural and safe food and to adopt once again the traditional Japanese cuisine.
Leading Protestant theologian, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, taught: We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also. Schweitzer opposed the use of animals in entertainment. I never go to a menagerie, he once wrote, because I cannot endure the sight of the misery of the captive animals. The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor. What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure to give a few minutes of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling for them.
Leading Protestant theologian, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, taught: We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.
Schweitzer opposed the use of animals in entertainment. I never go to a menagerie, he once wrote, because I cannot endure the sight of the misery of the captive animals. The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor. What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure to give a few minutes of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling for them.
East Bay Express All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation