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I think it is important that people be made aware that the vegetarian movement has a venerable history behind it. It didn't spring full-blown from the head of a flower child in the 1960's. It really begins with Pythagoras in the West in the 6th century BC and has reasserted itself periodically ever since. Some of the greatest thinkers in the history of civilization have been vegetarians--people like Plato, St. Francis of Assisi, Leonardo da Vinci, Ghandi, George Bernard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy, inter alios. Likewise, people tend to think that vegetarianism is strictly a secular movement. But in fact the religion that one is born into very often determines that person's dietary habits. For example if one is born into the Jain or Hindu faiths in India, the chances are that one will grow up eating vegetarian food. Wheras, if one is born into one of the Western faiths--Christianity, Judaism or Islam, chances are that one will grow up eating dead animals. So religion plays a formative role in our dietary choices. Many of the secular vegetarian groups that have sprung up in the West have had religious auspices. For instance the Bible Christian Church, which was the first vegetarian Church in America (founded in 1817 by William Metcalfe) impelled Sylvester Graham and the Alcott cousins, Bronson and William to become vegetarian activists. William Metcalfe, the founder of the Bible Christian Church also helped found the first secular vegetarian society in New York in 1850. Similarily Seventh Day Adventism gave rise to such a formidable vegetarian food reformer as John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of such all-American foods as Corn Flakes, Peanut Butter, and meat analogs made from wheat gluten, nuts and soy. More recently Yoga, Vashnav Hinduism in the form of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism have been instrumental in popularizing vegetarianism and non-violent eating in the West.

 


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