Flesh as Food
A word now in regard to another matter that is of far more importance than is generally supposed—the matter of the excessive flesh-eating that is continually going on in our country.
After looking carefully into the matter, and after some years’ experience in its non-use, I can state without hesitancy that, contrary to the prevailing opinion, the flesh of animals is not neces-
sary as an article of food. But few are better off for its use, while the great majority are the worse off for it, and especially is this true when it is so excessively used as we find it now on every hand.
We shall find numerous articles of food, as we study the matter, that, so far as body nourishing, building, and sustaining qualities are concerned, contain twice, and in some cases over twice, as much as any flesh food that can be mentioned.
The liability to mistake in this matter lies in the fact that flesh foods when taken into the stomach burn, oxygenize, more quickly than most other foods do, and this short stimulating effect, resembling more or less the stimulating effects of alcohol, is mistaken for a body nourishing and sustaining effect.
Flesh foods stimulate the passions, and more, acting as a stimulant in the body, they call for other stimulants to feed and satisfy the appetites thus aroused; and some of the world’s most eminent physicians, who have looked carefully into the matter, are declaring that the excessive amount of whisky and beer drinking, with its attendant drunkenness and crime, will never be done away with, or materially lessened, so long as this excessive eating of flesh continues.
Numerous other things, such as the irritability it causes in the natures of large numbers of people who use it,
the almost unconscious blunting of many of the finer senses, as also the dangers attending its use, on account of the diseased or poisoned condition of meats in many cases, are worthy of a very serious consideration.
If space permitted, many facts regarding the exceedingly large number of diseased animals that are eventually sold in the form of meat, facts as reported by various boards of inquiry,
various commissions, etc., might be cited; and who can tell when such may not be the condition of that of which he himself is partaking?
And when we remember the vast numbers of animals—cattle especially—that are angered almost to desperation, in some cases literally maddened by anger, and when we remember the peculiar poison that reaches every part of the body when the mind is thus angered, and that in this state large numbers of animals are killed, we can readily see how important this aspect of the matter is.
" But is not flesh-eating natural ? " I hear it asked. " Does not man in his primitive, savage state make use of flesh naturally. Do not animals devour one another ? " Yes; but we are not savages, nor are we purely animals, and it is time for us to have outgrown this attendant-of-savage-life custom.
The truth of the matter is that considerably more than the one-half of the people in the world to-day are not flesh-eaters. And many peoples, whom large numbers in America and in England, for example, refer to as the heathen, and send missionaries to Christianize, are far ahead of us, and hence more Christian in this matter.
And one reason why missionaries in many parts ofIndia, among the Buddhists and Brahmins, for example, have been so comparatively unsuccessful in their work is because the majority of those keen-minded and spiritually unfolded people cannot see what superiority there is in the religion of the one whom it allows to kill, cook, and feast upon the bodies of his or her fellow-creatures, which they themselves could not do.
In Bombay, to have the carcasses of animals exposed to public view, as we see them in the stores and markets here, and at times scores of them decorating their windows and entire fronts, is prohibited by law.
No, experience will teach you that if you do away with flesh-eating and get in its place the other valuable foods, the time will quickly come when you will care less and less for it; then again, the time will come when you will have no desire for it, and finally, you will grow positively to dislike it and its effects, and nothing could induce you to return again to the flesh-pots.
And as for those who think that the ones who are not flesh – eaters are necessarily weaklings, I should like to match a friend of mine, an instructor in one of our great American universities, who for over eighteen years has eaten no flesh foods,—I should like to match him with any whom they may send forward, when it comes to a test of long-continued work and endurance.
In London there are already numbers of restaurants where no flesh foods are served; in Berlin there are already about twenty, and their number in these, as well as in numerous other cities, is continually increasing.
It is a matter of but a short time when there will be numbers of such in our own country. The only really consistent humanitarian is the one who is not a flesh-eater; and great, I am satisfied, will be the results, both to the human family and to the animal race, as children are wisely taught and judiciously directed along this line.
When one goes into the better restaurants where no flesh foods are served, in England and Germany for example, he is impressed with the foundationless excuse of so many people, that it is hard, or even impossible, to get along without flesh foods. In the other realms will be found an abundance, a hundred or a thousand times over, and especially when we begin to give some little attention to the great varieties of most valuable foods there, and to the exceedingly appetizing ways in which they can be prepared.
One reason why such large numbers of people feel that meat is a necessity, or almost a necessity with them as an article of food, is because in our hotels and restaurants and cafes, and, in fact, in the majority of our homes, the meat element forms the chief portion of the foods prepared for our tables, and to it, practically, all the skill in preparation is given; while the other things are looked upon more as accessories, and are many times prepared in an exceedingly careless manner, much as mere accessories would be.
But with a decreasing use of flesh foods and with more attention given to the skillful preparation of the large numbers of other still more valuable foods, we shall begin to wonder why we have so long been slaves to a mere custom, thinking it a necessity.
An eminent Hindu has presented some truths along the lines of non-flesh eating so ably, that I yield to the impulse to quote from him quite at length :
“Animal flesh enriches the blood with unnecessary fibrin and this produces unnatural heat in the system, and in turn is the cause of unusual activity and restlessness, ultimately leading to the nervous debility which afflicts many meat eaters. Constant use of meat increases the action of the heart and brings premature loss of vital forces.
Physiologists and comparative anatomists like Sir Everard Home have shown from the structure of the teeth, stomach, alimentary canal, the microscopic human blood-corpuscles and the digestive processes, that man is by nature more related to frugivorous animals than to the carnivora.
“From the chemical analysis of different vegetables, cereals, fruits, nuts, etc., and the flesh of different animals, and from the comparison of the constituent properties of vegetables with those of animal flesh, it can be shown that everything necessary for the growth of the muscles, for the strength of the nerves, and for the nourishment of the whole body can easily be obtained from the vegetable kingdom. This being the fact, the question arises.
- Why do we eat animal flesh ? Is it for nourishment ? No. The same nourishment can be obtained from vegetables, cereals, and pulses.
- Is it for health that we eat meat ? No ; because vegetarians, as a class, are healthier than the majority of meat-eaters. Why, then, is meat eaten ?
- Because of the habit transmitted from generation to generation, and because of superstition, prejudice and ignorance.
” Various objections have been raised by meat eaters against vegetarianism. Some say if animals are not used for food they will overrun the earth. In India the Hindus do not kill cows, but they are not overrun by them.
The Hindus did not have any slaughter-houses until the British Government established them. In the States that are still governed by the Hindu Rijas the wild animals and birds are protected by strict laws. But these States are not overrun by wild animals, nor are the inhabitants driven out by them.
Others hold that unless they eat animal flesh they will be weak and useless for work and will lack bravery and courage. This is a great mistake. You have heard of the Hindu Sikh soldiers in India, who are the bravest and strongest fighters in the British army.
They never turn their back to an enemy in the battlefield. One Sikh soldier can stand against three beef-eaters in hand-to-hand fight. But these soldiers never touch meat, nor fish, never drink wine, nor smoke tobacco. They are strict vegetarians.
A vegetarian diet gives great endurance and makes one even-tempered. People generally mistake a ferocious, restless, and rash temper for courage and strength. These say that a tiger or a wolf is stronger than a horse, a buffalo or an elephant.
They make ferocious nature the standard of strength. It is true that a tiger can kill a horse, but has he the muscular strength which enables a horse to draw a heavy load a long distance ?
A tiger can kill an elephant, but can he lift a cannon weighing hundreds of pounds ? Ferocity is one thing and muscular strength is another: we ought to distinguish the one from the other. The source of strength lies in the vegetable kingdom and not in flesh and blood. If flesh eating be the condition of physical strength, why do meat-eaters prefer the flesh of herbivorous animals and not that of the carnivora?
Some meat-eaters say that animal flesh has a large quantity of vegetable energy concentrated in a small compass. If that be their reason for the meat – eating habit, they ought to live on the flesh of carnivorous animals and birds, such as tigers, wolves, vultures, and hawks.
“As in the animal kingdom the carnivora are more restless than the herbivore, so amongst men we find that meat-eaters are more restless and less self-controlled than vegetarians. As a peaceful, poised and self-controlled nature is the first sign of spiritual progress, it is plain that animal food is not the most helpful diet for spiritual development.”
The time will come in the world's history, and a movement is setting in that direction even now, when it will be deemed as strange a thing to find a man or a woman who eats flesh as food, as it is now to find a man or a woman who refrains from eating it. And personally, I share the belief with many others, that the highest mental, physical, and spiritual excellence will come to a person only when, among other things, he refrains from a flesh and blood diet.
Personally, I shall be glad, as long as forces and agencies are at work that tend to keep armies in the field, if we awaken,
and that almost instantly, to the dangers attending the health of troops in service from the large amount of ” canned meats ” that are used in connection with army rations. I believe, and I think I should be fully borne out by the facts if they could be thoroughly known, that thousands of deaths due to disease have been to a great extent induced or helped on through this agency.
The evidence brought out in the investigations along this line, in connection with the American forces which served but recently in the Spanish-American war —the conclusions of which were presented to the people as skillfully as possible, and were then allowed to drop as quickly as possible—should have no small weight with us as a people. If it were to receive the attention it really demands, many thousands of lives might be saved in the future that otherwise may be needlessly sacrificed.
Were such a food necessary, it would then be a different matter; but when there are other foods, even more valuable so far as bodybuilding and nourishing and sustaining qualities are concerned, and more free from the poisoned and loathsome conditions that so much of the canned meats get into, especially in hot climates—foods that can be transported just as readily; in fact, prepared in a similar way and ready for immediate use—then we can readily see the criminal folly in allowing a continuance of its use, at least in such quantities as it is at present used.
Every Living Creature by Ralph W. Trine Published 1899