["Vegetarianism": Letter of F. W. Newman to the Editor of The Times.]

 

        Sir, — I have to thank you for your long and useful article on vegetarianism of January 13.[*] Your mention of my name in the close emboldens me to hope that you will allow me to offer some elucidation. Perhaps you hardly realize how far we (I mean the majority of vegetarians) agree with you. Personally, I have striven to remind our friends that our aim is not to found a sect but to influence a nation — indeed, to influence Christian civilization, and that we ought more to rejoice in implanting our germs for future expansion than in rearing sporadic entire converts. We know what the family table and mutual conviviality imply, and how reasonable it is to fear dislocation of connexions by strange food. We are thankful for your aid against gormandizing and unthrifty festivity, even when you continue to justify flesh-eating; and we have such faith in our own doctrines that even scornful banter fell harmless on us. Much more are we encouraged by serious criticism and banter in which respect is mingled.

        In your article I wish to remark — abruptly in order to be concise: —

        1. You say we "do not appear to make very many converts in this country." Our society began in 1847. It was at first like a single congregation. A few years back enumeration showed that in the previous ten years it had multiplied both numbers and funds by ten — of course, least in those classes which feel bound to give dinner parties. They will be last converted. 2. You erroneously state that we advocate a dinner of herbs. Man is not herbivorous but frugivorous. Herbs are our condiment, not our staple food. We live on fruits, grain, pulse, roots, besides eggs, milk, and its products in sub-dued quantity. 3. You say we look forward calmly to the extinction of sheep and oxen, which is the certain result of the triumph of our principles. We do not expect such result. We believe that on limestone and other mountainous downs very superior wool will always be produced, amply repaying the graziers, and that if we return to the practice of other nations — indeed, of our nation until recent time — and restore the bull to agriculture, fondling him from his birth, he is far stronger than the horse, and it will always pay to keep him. 4. Temperate climates make no difficulty to the vegetarian, nor do even Arctic climates, if only some grain will ripen in them, such as barley, oats, rye; and so long are the days of Arctic summer than even wheat ripens in higher latitudes of Norway and Finland than until of late was known. Flesh-eating extended itself through barbaric roving; in a settled population it ought to decline with cultivation of the soil, and with us is kept up by old habits chiefly. It was dying out with the mass of our workers until 1842, when the late Sir R. Peel brought in foreign cattle. 5. You assume that flesh food is required for hard manual work and by brain-exhausting sedentary occupations. But we have abundant proof to the contrary, and chemical science is entirely on our side. The same assertions used to be made as to the necessity of alcoholic drinks. This is now exploded as a gross error; we believe the like assertion concerning flesh food is sure to be exploded in all schools of science. 6. You remark that few men of science profess themselves on our side; but the most eminent physiologists who are not practitioners living by fees give us wonderful support, from Haller downwards. Teetotal physicians tell us that not long back it was almost ruinous to a physician to be a teetotaler. A like cause intimidates physicians now from avowing vegetarianism; and we make mild allowance for their difficulty. They look up to physiologists, and physiology is with us. 7. It is not only the Irish cattle trade that is inhuman. All transference of cattle in mass by sea, whether from America or Germany or Ireland, is liable to horrible results. The rail is often very bad. Fever of various forms follows, and disease to poorer eaters of meat who are tempted by low price.

        We do not recommend Nebuchadnezzar's food of grass, and with you we deprecate luxurious expenditure on our lowest wants. We trust that the day is coming in which either the rich will cease to tempt the poor to imitate their festivities, or (what begins to appear possible) the poor will despise the rich as foolish devotees of the palate.

Respectfully yours,            
F. W. NEWMAN (Emer. Prof.).        
Weston-super-Mare.    

 

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* click to open "The Vegetarian Society."