History and Information about Vegetarians and Vegetarianisms

About vegetarians, history and information regarding the reasons people choose to not eat meat, origins, numbers.

Leading Vegetarians

Vegetarianism appears to be as old as mankind. The Greeks called it antipreophogy, meaning anti-flesh eating. While such notables as Plato, Diogenes, and Pythagoras advocated vegetarianism in the West, in India the Buddha preached the doctrine of Ahimsa--harmlessness to all living things.

Since then many religions and other spiritual sects have advocated a vegetarian diet, either officially or unofficially. These include the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Essenes, the Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Tao, and Jain faiths, as well as the Trappist, Benedictine, and Carthusian orders of the Roman Catholic Church, and other Christian groups such as the Rosicrucian Fellowship.

The term "vegetarian," derived from the Latin word vegetus, meaning "whole, sound, fresh, lively," was coined in 1842. The 1st Vegetarian Society was formed in England in 1847. In the U.S., the vegetarian movement was greatly influenced by such men as Dr. Reuben D. Mussey, the 4th president of the American Medical Association, and Rev. Sylvester Graham, of graham cracker fame. J. H. Kellogg, MD, who developed cornflakes as a prepared breakfast food, was also an enthusiastic vegetarian.

Most vegetarians give one or more of the following reasons for not eating meat:

1. TASTE PREFERENCE. They simply don't like meat.

2. HEALTH. They believe that the human body was not built to digest meat, which putrefies quickly and puts great demands on the digestive system. Many medical authorities believe that meat is high in cholesterol, which leads to heart disease. An article in the June 3, 1961, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association said that, ". . . a vegetarian diet can prevent 90% of our thrombo-embolic disease and 97% of our coronary occlusions." Some also believe that animals are affected by diseases which can be passed on to humans and that meat from artificially fed animals is filled with excretory substances.

3. MORALITY. Vegetarians believe that eating dead flesh means something alive has suffered pain. Eating a dead animal brings with it all the violent energy involved in the slaughter. The meat eater consumes this violence and becomes more violent himself. How many meat eaters are willing to kill an animal, skin it, bleed it, and prepare it to be eaten? Most eaters of dead flesh not only depend on others to do the dirty work, but they also disguise the form of the food so it doesn't look like an animal and use bizarre euphemisms, such as hamburger, sausage, bologna, and frankfurter, so they won't be reminded of what they are really eating.

4. ECOLOGY AND WORLD FOOD SHORTAGE. Vegetarians claim that the protein we get from eating dead animals comes from the cereals and grains that are fed to the animals. Ninety-one percent of the corn, 77% of the soybean meal, 64% of the barley, 88% of the oats, and 99% of the grain sorghum crops used in the U.S. are fed directly to livestock animals. If these grains were fed straight to humans, much less land would be wasted and more food could be produced.

Today there are said to be between 3 and 4 million vegetarians in the U.S. alone.

Meat eaters often regard vegetarians as eccentrics, crackpots, freaks, but the fact remains that vegetarians have been in the mainstream of history and include some of the most familiar names in the human saga. Herewith follows a chronological list of some of the best-known or most interesting personalities, from past to present day, who practiced vegetarianism for the rest of their lives after the time they took it up, as well as those who for some shorter period in their lives were avid vegetarians.

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