10 April 2009

Henry S. Salt (1851-1939) on Beefy Morals

Nor is it only among schoolboys that over-eating is rampant, for the tables of the wealthy are everywhere loaded with flesh-meat, and the example thus set is naturally followed, first in the servants' hall, and then, as far as may be, in the homes of the working classes. To consume much flesh is regarded as the sign and symbol of well-being—witness the popular English manner of keeping the festival of Christmas. "We interknit ourselves with every part of the English-speaking world," said the journal of the Cosme colony, in Paraguay, describing its Christmas celebration of 1898, "by the most sacred ceremony of over-eating." A nice moral bond of union, truly, between colonies and motherland! What is likely to be the effect on the national character of such swinish gorging?

We come back, then, to the point that though it is not absolutely true that "Man is what he eats," there is, nevertheless, a large element of truth in the saying, and the Vegetarian has just ground for suspecting that beefy meals are not infrequently the precursors of beefy morals. Carnalities of one kind are apt to lead to carnalities of another, and fleshly modes of diet to fleshly modes of thought. "Good living," unfortunately, is a somewhat equivocal term.

(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 81)