History of vegetarianism: Europe

Before the onset of the ice age, when people lived, if not in paradise, but in a completely blessed climate, the main occupation was gathering. Hunting and cattle breeding are younger than gathering and farming, as scientific facts confirm. This means that our ancestors did not eat meat. Unfortunately, the habit of eating meat, acquired during the climate crisis, has continued after the retreat of the glacier. And meat-eating is just a cultural habit, albeit provided by the need to survive in a short (compared to evolution) historical period.

The history of culture shows that vegetarianism was to a large extent associated with a spiritual tradition. So it was in the ancient East, where belief in reincarnation gave rise to a respectful and careful attitude towards animals as beings with a soul; and in the Middle East, for example, in ancient Egypt, the priests not only did not eat meat, but also did not touch the carcasses of animals. Ancient Egypt, as we know, was the birthplace of a powerful and efficient farming system. The cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia became the basis of a specific “agricultural” view of the world, – in which the season replaces the season, the sun goes in its circle, the cyclical movement is the key to stability and prosperity. Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79, natural history writer in Book XXXVII. A.D. 77) wrote of ancient Egyptian culture: “Isis, one of the most beloved goddesses of the Egyptians, taught them [as they believed] the art baking bread from cereals that had previously grown wild. However, in the earlier period, the Egyptians lived on fruits, roots, and plants. The goddess Isis was worshiped throughout Egypt, and majestic temples were built in her honor. Its priests, sworn to purity, were obliged to wear linen clothes without admixture of animal fibers, to refrain from animal food, as well as vegetables that were considered unclean – beans, garlic, ordinary onions and leeks.

In European culture, which grew out of the “Greek miracle of philosophy”, in fact, echoes of these ancient cultures are heard – with their mythology of stability and prosperity. It’s interesting that The Egyptian pantheon of gods used the images of animals to convey a spiritual message to people. So the goddess of love and beauty was Hathor, who appeared in the form of a beautiful cow, and the predatory jackal was one of the faces of Anubis, the god of death.

The Greek and Roman pantheons of gods have purely human faces and habits. Reading the “Myths of Ancient Greece”, you can recognize the conflicts of generations and families, see typical human traits in gods and heroes. But note – the gods ate nectar and ambrosia, there were no meat dishes on their table, unlike mortal, aggressive and narrow-minded people. So imperceptibly in European culture there was an ideal – the image of the divine, and vegetarian! “An excuse for those miserable creatures who first resorted to meat-eating can serve as a complete lack and lack of means of subsistence, since they (primitive peoples) acquired bloodthirsty habits not from indulgence to their whims, and not in order to indulge in abnormal voluptuousness in the midst of excess everything necessary, but out of need. But what excuse can there be for us in our time?‘ exclaimed Plutarch.

The Greeks considered plant foods good for the mind and body. Then, however, as now, there were a lot of vegetables, cheese, bread, olive oil on their tables. It is no coincidence that the goddess Athena became the patroness of Greece. Hitting a rock with a spear, she grew an olive tree, which became a symbol of prosperity for Greece. Much attention was paid to the system of proper nutrition Greek priests, philosophers and athletes. All of them preferred plant foods. It is known for sure that the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was a staunch vegetarian, he was initiated into ancient secret knowledge, not only sciences, but also gymnastics were taught at his school. The disciples, like Pythagoras himself, ate bread, honey and olives. And he himself lived a uniquely long life for those times and remained in excellent physical and mental shape until his advanced years. Plutarch writes in his treatise On Meat-Eating: “Can you really ask what motives Pythagoras abstained from meat-eating? For my part, I ask the question under what circumstances and in what state of mind a person first decided to taste the taste of blood, stretch his lips to the flesh of a corpse and decorate his table with dead, decaying bodies, and how he then allowed himself to call pieces of what shortly before this one still mooed and bleated, moved and lived … For the sake of the flesh, we steal from them the sun, light and life, to which they have the right to be born. Vegetarians were Socrates and his disciple Plato, Hippocrates, Ovid and Seneca.

With the advent of Christian ideas, vegetarianism became part of the philosophy of abstinence and asceticism.. It is known that many early church fathers adhered to a vegetarian diet, among them Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and others. The apostle Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Romans: “For the sake of food do not destroy the works of God. Everything is pure, but it is bad for a person who eats to tempt. It is better not to eat meat, not to drink wine, and not to do anything by which your brother stumbles, or is offended, or faints.”

In the Middle Ages, the idea of ​​vegetarianism as a proper diet consistent with human nature was lost. She was close to the idea of ​​asceticism and fasting, purification as a way of approaching God, repentance. True, most people in the Middle Ages ate little meat, or even did not eat at all. As historians write, the daily diet of most Europeans consisted of vegetables and cereals, rarely dairy products. But in the Renaissance, vegetarianism as an idea came back into fashion. Many artists and scientists adhered to it, it is known that Newton and Spinoza, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were supporters of a plant-based diet, and in the New Age, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Wolfgang Goethe, Lord Byron and Shelley, Bernard Shaw and Heinrich Ibsen were followers of vegetarianism.

For all “enlightened” vegetarianism was associated with the idea of ​​human nature, what is right and what leads to good functioning of the body and spiritual perfection. The XNUMXth century was generally obsessed idea of ​​”naturalness”, and, of course, this trend could not but affect the issues of proper nutrition. Cuvier, in his treatise on nutrition, reflected:Man is adapted, apparently, to feeding mainly on fruits, roots and other succulent parts of plants. Rousseau also agreed with him, defiantly not eating meat himself (which is a rarity for France with its culture of gastronomy!).

With the development of industrialization, these ideas were lost. Civilization has almost completely conquered nature, cattle breeding has taken on industrial forms, meat has become a cheap product. I must say that it was then in England that arose in Manchester the world’s first “British Vegetarian Society”. Its appearance dates back to 1847. The creators of the society played with pleasure with the meanings of the words “vegetus” – healthy, vigorous, fresh, and “vegetable” – vegetable. Thus, the English club system gave impetus to the new development of vegetarianism, which became a powerful social movement and is still developing.

In 1849 the journal of the Vegetarian Society, The Vegetarian Courier, was published. The “Courier” discussed issues of health and lifestyle, published recipes and literary stories “on the subject.” Published in this magazine and Bernard Shaw, known for his wit no less than vegetarian addictions. Shaw liked to say: “Animals are my friends. I don’t eat my friends.” He also owns one of the most famous pro-vegetarian aphorisms: “When a man kills a tiger, he calls it a sport; when a tiger kills a man, he considers it bloodlust.” The English wouldn’t be English if they weren’t obsessed with sports. Vegetarians are no exception. The Vegetarian Union has established its own sports society – Vegetarian sports club, whose members promoted then-fashionable cycling and athletics. Members of the club between 1887 and 1980 set 68 national and 77 local records in competitions, and won two gold medals at the IV Olympic Games in London in 1908. 

A little later than in England, the vegetarian movement began to take social forms on the continent. In Germany the ideology of vegetarianism was greatly facilitated by the spread of theosophy and anthroposophy, and initially, as was the case in the 1867th century, societies were created in the struggle for a healthy lifestyle. So, in 1868, pastor Eduard Balzer founded the “Union of Friends of the Natural Way of Life” in Nordhausen, and in 1892 Gustav von Struve created the “Vegetarian Society” in Stuttgart. The two societies merged in XNUMX to form the “German Vegetarian Union”. In the early twentieth century, vegetarianism was promoted by anthroposophists led by Rudolf Steiner. And the phrase of Franz Kafka, addressed to aquarium fish: “I can look at you calmly, I don’t eat you anymore,” became truly winged and turned into the motto of vegetarians all over the world.

History of vegetarianism in the Netherlands associated with famous names Ferdinand Domel Nieuwenhuis. A prominent public figure of the second half of the XNUMXth century became the first defender of vegetarianism. He argued that a civilized person in a just society has no right to kill animals. Domela was a socialist and anarchist, a man of ideas and passion. He failed to introduce his relatives to vegetarianism, but he sowed the idea. On September 30, 1894, the Netherlands Vegetarian Union was founded. on the initiative of the doctor Anton Verskhor, the Union included 33 people. Society met the first opponents of meat with hostility. The newspaper “Amsterdamets” published an article by Dr. Peter Teske: “There are idiots among us who believe that eggs, beans, lentils and giant portions of raw vegetables can replace a chop, entrecote or chicken leg. Anything can be expected from people with such delusional ideas: it is possible that they will soon be walking around the streets naked. Vegetarianism, not otherwise than with a light “hand” (or rather an example!) Domely began to associate with freethinking. The Hague newspaper “People” condemned most of all vegetarian women: “This is a special type of woman: one of those who cut their hair short and even apply for participation in elections!” Nevertheless, already in 1898 the first vegetarian restaurant was opened in The Hague, and 10 years after the founding of the Vegetarian Union, the number of its members exceeded 1000 people!

After the Second World War, the debate about vegetarianism subsided, and scientific research proved the need to eat animal protein. And only in the 70s of the twentieth century, Holland surprised everyone with a new approach to vegetarianism – Biologist Veren Van Putten’s research has proven that animals can think and feel! The scientist was especially shocked by the mental abilities of pigs, which turned out to be no lower than those of dogs. In 1972, the Tasty Beast Animal Rights Society was founded, its members opposed the appalling conditions of animals and their killing. They were no longer considered eccentrics – vegetarianism gradually began to be accepted as the norm. 

Interestingly, in traditionally Catholic lands, in FranceItaly, Spain, vegetarianism developed more slowly and did not become any noticeable social movement. Nevertheless, there were also adherents of the “anti-meat” diet, although most of the debate over the benefits or harms of vegetarianism was related to physiology and medicine – it was discussed how good it is for the body. 

In Italy vegetarianism developed, so to speak, in a natural way. Mediterranean cuisine, in principle, uses little meat, the main emphasis in nutrition is on vegetables and dairy products, in the manufacture of which the Italians are “ahead of the rest”. No one tried to make an ideology out of vegetarianism in the region, and no public anti-movements were noticed either. But in FranceVegetarianism hasn’t taken off yet. Only in the last two decades – that is, practically only in the XNUMXst century! Vegetarian cafes and restaurants began to appear. And if you try to ask for a vegetarian menu, say, in a restaurant of traditional French cuisine, then you will not be understood very well. The tradition of French cuisine is to enjoy the preparation of varied and tasty, beautifully presented food. And it’s seasonal! So, whatever one may say, at times it’s definitely meat. Vegetarianism came to France along with the fashion for oriental practices, the enthusiasm for which is gradually increasing. However, traditions are strong, and therefore France is the most “non-vegetarian” of all European countries.







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