History of vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is a fashionable food system that, according to experts, is only gaining popularity. It is adhered to by stars and their fans, famous athletes and scientists, writers, poets and even doctors. Moreover, regardless of their social status and age. But each of them, like, indeed, other people, sooner or later the same question arises: “How did it all begin?”

When and why did people first give up meat?

Contrary to popular belief that the origins of vegetarianism originate in England, when the term of the same name was introduced, it was known in antiquity. The first confirmed mentions of people who deliberately abandoned meat date back to the XNUMXth – XNUMXth millennium BC. At that time, this helped them in the process of communicating with the gods, as well as in performing magical rites. Of course, in the first place, it was the priests who turned to vegetarianism. And they lived in Ancient Egypt.

Modern scholars suggest that such thoughts were prompted by the bestial appearance of most of the Egyptian gods. True, they do not exclude the fact that the Egyptians believed in the spirits of killed animals, which could interfere with conversations with higher powers. But, be that as it may in reality, vegetarianism existed at least in several peoples, and then successfully inherited by others.


Vegetarianism in Ancient India

It is reliably known that in the period from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXnd millennium BC, a special system began to emerge in Ancient India, helping a person to improve not only spiritually, but also physically – hatha yoga. Moreover, one of her postulates was the rejection of meat. Simply because it transfers to a person all the ailments and sufferings of a killed animal and does not make him happy. It was in eating meat during that period that people saw the cause of human aggression and anger. And the best proof of this was the changes that happened to everyone who switched to plant foods. These people became healthier and stronger in spirit.

Importance of Buddhism in the Development of Vegetarianism

Scientists consider the emergence of Buddhism to be a separate stage in the development of vegetarianism. It happened in the XNUMXst millennium BC, when Buddha, the founder of this religion, together with his followers, began to advocate the rejection of wine and meat food, condemning the killing of any living being.

Of course, not all modern Buddhists are vegetarians. This is explained primarily by the harsh climatic conditions in which they are forced to live, for example, when it comes to Tibet or Mongolia. However, they all believe in the Buddha’s commandments, according to which unclean meat should not be eaten. This is meat, to the appearance of which a person has the most direct relation. For example, if the animal was killed specifically for him, by his order, or by himself.

Vegetarianism in Ancient Greece

It is known that the love for plant foods was born here in antiquity. The best confirmation of this is the works of Socrates, Plato, Plutarch, Diogenes and many other philosophers who willingly reflected on the benefits of such a diet. True, the thoughts of the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras stood out especially among them. He, along with his many students who came from influential families, switched to plant foods, thus creating the first “Society of Vegetarians”. Of course, people around them were constantly worried about whether the new nutritional system could harm their health. But in the IV century BC. e. the famous Hippocrates answered all their questions and dispelled their doubts.

The interest in her was fueled by the fact that in those days it was quite difficult to find an extra piece of meat, perhaps only during sacrifices to the gods. Therefore, it was mostly rich people who ate it. The poor, inevitably, became vegetarians.

True, pundits perfectly understood the benefits that vegetarianism brings to people and have always talked about it. They emphasized that avoiding meat is a direct path to good health, efficient land use and, most importantly, minimizing the violence that involuntarily revives when a person decides to take the life of an animal. Moreover, then people believed in the presence of a soul in them and in the possibility of its relocation.

By the way, it was in Ancient Greece that the first controversies about vegetarianism began to appear. The fact is that Aristotle, a follower of Pythagoras, denied the existence of souls in animals, as a result of which he ate their meat himself and advised others. And his pupil, Theophrastus, constantly argued with him, pointing out that the latter are able to feel pain, and, therefore, have feelings and a soul.

Christianity and vegetarianism

In the era of its inception, views on this food system were rather contradictory. Judge for yourself: according to Christian canons, animals do not have souls, therefore they can be safely eaten. At the same time, people who have dedicated their lives to the church and God, unwittingly gravitate towards plant foods, because it does not contribute to the manifestation of passions.

True, already in the 1000rd century AD, when the popularity of Christianity began to grow, everyone remembered Aristotle with his arguments in favor of meat and began to actively use it for food. Finally, it ceased to be the lot of the rich, which was fully supported by the church. Those who did not think so ended up at the stake of the Inquisition. Needless to say, there are thousands of true vegetarians among them. And it lasted almost 400 years – from 1400 to XNUMX AD. e.

Who else was vegetarian

  • The ancient Incas, whose lifestyle is still of great interest to many.
  • The ancient Romans in the early period of the republic, who even developed scientific dietology, however, designed for fairly wealthy people.
  • Taoists of Ancient China.
  • Spartans who lived in conditions of complete asceticism, but at the same time were famous for their strength and endurance.

And this is not a complete list. It is reliably known that one of the first caliphs, after Muhammad, urged his disciples to give up meat and not turn their stomachs into graves for slain animals. There are statements about the need to eat plant foods in the Bible, in the book of Genesis.


It can be safely called the era of the revival of vegetarianism. Indeed, in the early Middle Ages, mankind forgot about him. Later, one of its brightest representatives was Leonardo da Vinci. He assumed that in the near future, the killing of innocent animals would be treated in the same way as the killing of a person. In turn, Gassendi, a French philosopher, said that eating meat is not characteristic of people, and in favor of his theory he described the structure of teeth, focusing on the fact that they are not intended for chewing meat.

J. Ray, a scientist from England, wrote that meat food does not bring strength. And the great English writer Thomas Tryon went even further, stating in the pages of his book “The Way to Health” that meat is the cause of many diseases. Simply because the animals themselves, existing in difficult conditions, suffer from them, and then involuntarily pass them on to people. In addition, he insisted that taking the life of any creature for the sake of food is pointless.

True, despite all these arguments, there were not so many who wanted to give up meat in favor of plant foods. But everything changed in the middle of the XNUMXth century.

A new stage in the development of vegetarianism

It was during this period that the fashionable food system began to gain its popularity. The British played an important role in this. Rumor has it that they brought her from India, their colony, along with the Vedic religion. Like everything eastern, it quickly began to acquire a mass character. Moreover, other factors contributed to this.

In 1842, the term “vegetarianism“Thanks to the efforts of the founders of the British Vegetarian Society in Manchester. He was born from the already existing Latin word “vegetus”, which translated means “fresh, vigorous, healthy.” In addition, it was quite symbolic, because in its sound it resembled “vegetable” – “vegetable”. And before that, the well-known food system was simply called “Indian”.

From England, it spread throughout Europe and America. This was largely due to the desire to give up killing for food. However, according to some political analysts, the economic crisis, which led to a rise in the price of meat products, played an important role here. At the same time, famous people of their time spoke out in favor of vegetarianism.

Schopenhauer said that people who deliberately switch to plant foods have higher moral values. And Bernard Shaw believed that he behaved like a decent person, refusing to eat the meat of innocent animals.

The emergence of vegetarianism in Russia

Leo Tolstoy made a huge contribution to the development of this food system at the beginning of the twentieth century. He himself gave up meat back in 1885 after meeting with William Frey, who proved to him that the human body was not designed to digest such tough food. It is known that some of his children helped to promote vegetarianism. Thanks to this, several years later in Russia, they began to give lectures on the benefits of vegetarianism and hold conferences of the same name.

Moreover, Tolstoy helped the development of vegetarianism not only in word, but also in deed. He wrote about it in books, opened children’s educational institutions and folk canteens with ordinary vegetarian food for people in need.

In 1901, the first vegetarian society appeared in St. Petersburg. During this period, active educational work began, followed by the appearance of the first full-fledged vegetarian canteens. One of them was in Moscow on Nikitsky Boulevard.

After the October Revolution, vegetarianism was banned, but after a few decades it was revived again. It is known that today there are over 1 billion vegetarians in the world, who still declare about its benefits publicly, trying to make it popular and, thereby, save the lives of innocent animals.

The process of development and formation of vegetarianism goes back thousands of years. There were periods in it when it was at the peak of popularity or, conversely, in oblivion, but, despite them, it continues to exist and find its admirers all over the world. Among celebrities and their fans, athletes, scientists, writers, poets and ordinary people.

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