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Vegetarian protests and movements

Amy Buzby

Subject History
Legal and Political » Political Philosophy
Sociology » Social Movements

Place World

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899, 1900-1999

Key-Topics ethics, food, revolution, social change

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01525.x


Vegetarianism has a long and varied history as a protest movement. Before the nineteenth century, the avoidance of meat and other animal products was generally justified with moral, religious, and metaphysical arguments: in ancient times writers like Plutarch and Ovid decried the killing of animals for food, while philosophers like Pythagoras and Porphyry argued that the consumption of animal flesh was an act of violence upon the human soul ( Whorton: 1994 ). This early vegetarian thought engendered a holistic view that connected and enmeshed physical and spiritual health and utilized the vegetarian diet as a means of transcending the status quo. During the early 1800s, an intensified drive for improved health, combined with the Enlightenment ascendancy of science, led to a new breed of vegetarians who also lobbied for vegetarianism as a healthful dietary alternative and means of protest against unsanitary conditions in the meat industry. By using the objective and convincing language of science as a forum for moral reaction and outcry, importantly, vegetarianism entered the social mainstream and began to attract a growing following, who flew first to the Bible Christian Church founded by Manchester minister John Cowherd. The first major publication of the nascent movement was John Oswald's The Cry of Nature, or, An Appeal to Mercy and to Justice, on Behalf of the Persecuted ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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