12 November 2010

Henry S. Salt (1851-1939) on the Ridicule of Vegetarians

Henry S. Salt (1851-1939) But what of the many individual failures, it is asked, among those who make trial of Vegetarianism? Taking the circumstances into account, the failures cannot be regarded as numerous; for in every such movement there are half-hearted people who are impelled by motives of restlessness and curiosity, rather than of real conviction, and in view of the personal obstacles that beset the path of the Vegetarian, it is not surprising that in food-reform, as in drink-reform, there are a certain number of backsliders. In an ordinary household every possible influence, social and domestic, is brought to bear on the heretic who abstains from flesh foods. Anxious relatives and indignant friends adjure him to remember the duty he owes to himself and to his family, and urge him for the sake of those dear to him, if not for his own, to return to that great sacramental bond of union between man and man—the eating of our non-human fellow-beings. Is he smitten by one of the numberless ailments that are the stock-in-trade of the physician, and of which flesh-eaters are daily the victims in every part of the world? The doctor looks wise, shakes his head, and informs a sorrowing circle that it is the direct result of "his vegetarianism." Above all, the fear of ridicule, acting on the natural unwillingness of mankind to venture along unknown paths, is a strong deterrent; for there are still many persons to whom the idea of abstinence from butchers' meat is positively a matter for merriment, and it seems fated that Vegetarianism, like every new principle, must be a target for such shafts. Well, so be it! We know that the struggle will be a long one; and if Vegetarianism has got to run the blockade of Noodledom, and a huge amount of foolish talk must perforce be fired off, the sooner the battle commences, and the sooner it is concluded, the better for all concerned. And ridicule, as the flesh-eater will learn, is a weapon which can be wielded by more parties than one.

(Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues [London: The Ideal Publishing Union, 1899], 114-5)