Despite the fact that many people are trying to prove with enviable perseverance that the plant diet is nothing more than a fashionable trend, everything is completely different. We decided to prepare a short excursion into the history of vegetarianism. We’re sure you’ll find a lot of surprises for yourself!
Vegetarianism in the world
The first mentions
According to researches of historians, the very first mentions about conscious refusal of meat, dated IV-V millennium B.C., have been found out in Ancient Egypt. The priests deliberately switched to plant nutrition to be closer to the gods. They believed that the souls of dead animals could become an obstacle in communication with higher spiritual beings. But it is not necessary to deny and that fact that many Egyptian gods were represented by half-men-semi-animals that too could influence the decision of priests to pass on vegetarianism.
Heritage of India
Hatha yoga, which originated and took place in ancient India in the VI-II millennia BC, was certainly directly related to the refusal to eat meat. The first yogis saw how their body and soul changed after the transition to vegetarianism, and considered the relationship between diet and character inseparable. Thus, the first treatises on the art of yoga say that the refusal to hurt a living being is something without which the highest state of mind and body cannot be achieved. Indians quickly joined the vegetarianism and adhere to it to this day.
Buddhism in the history of vegetarianism
Along with Indian yogis and Buddhists came to the conclusion that the use of animal food leads to aggression and bad mood. The Buddha himself said that it is unworthy of killing an innocent animal, so his followers are still trying to adhere to vegetarianism. However, there are areas where Buddhist monks are unable to completely exclude animal proteins from the diet. This applies to areas with harsh climate – Tibet, Mongolia, etc. There, meat is allowed to be eaten in limited quantities so that monks can continue to serve in front of the highest power on earth.
“All beings are afraid of danger, life is precious to all. If a person thinks about it, he will not kill or be the cause of murder. (Dhammapads, pp. 129, 130)
“The Green Diet of the ancient Greeks
One of the most enlightened corners of the planet – Ancient Greece – has been an oasis of vegetarianism since ancient times. The idea of abandoning animal food was promoted by numerous works of great Greek thinkers: Plato, Socrates, Diogenes and other philosophers of the ancient world expressed their unequivocal disapproval of meat. And the most active supporter of the green diet was Pythagoras. Together with his students, he created the first “Society of vegetarians”, which was engaged in the promotion of rejection of animal food. Finally, all the fears of ordinary people about health and vegetarianism in the IV century BC dispelled the famous Hippocrates.
This is interesting! In many areas of ancient Greece lived mostly poor people. Because of the climate, getting a piece of meat was quite a challenge, so they were involuntarily vegetarians.
Ancient Greeks believed that after the death of the body the soul moves to another living being, doubts in this postulate were only with Aristotle, one of the followers of Pythagoras. The scientist died without believing that the animals also had a soul.
“Sending animals to the slaughterhouse and the cauldron, thus participating in the murder, and not from the gastronomic inevitability, following the natural laws of nature, but for the sake of pleasure and indulging the demon of gluttony – a monstrous injustice. (Porphyria, philosopher of Ancient Greece)
Christian influence on the development of vegetarianism
Along with Aristotle, we did not believe in the existence of souls among our smaller brothers and most of the first Christians. Even though the ministers of the church were an example of modesty, constantly holding fast and experiencing all the virtues of a vegetable diet, at some point meat became available even to the poor. As a result, animals were consumed everywhere, and those who did not agree with this situation, waited for a terrible punishment – the fire of the Inquisition.
“Before the Flood, the eating of the meat itself was unknown. After the Flood, our mouths were dirty in the blood of the animals, and we exude the smell of their meat… Jesus Christ, who came at the right time, put an end to it, and to this day eating meat is forbidden to us” (Priest Jerome, 331-420 BC).
Bloody executions of vegetarian Christians lasted for thousands of years – from 400 to 1400 AD. And only then, with development of Christianity on all planet and its arrival in corners where to get meat it was not represented possible, similar methods of influence on “food apostates” have stopped.
The Renaissance in Europe and the first successes of the vegetarian movement
In the early Middle Ages vegetarianism was unpopular, but with the advent of the Renaissance, the emergence of new propagandists of healthy plant nutrition, the situation changed for the better. One of the main supporters of this lifestyle was the famous Leonardo da Vinci. His views were supported by the French philosopher Hassendi, English scientist John Ray and many others.
“From an early age I avoided eating meat and believe that the time will come when people like me will look at killing an animal the way they now look at killing a human being. (Leonardo da Vinci)
the 19th century and new successes
By the middle of the XIX century vegetarianism has acquired the status of a fashionable recovery system, so the seven-mile steps began to develop in Europe, and then regained popularity in the United States.
It is believed that the greatest impact on the revival of interest in plant food was made by British colonizers. Along with the Vedic religious views, the British “brought” from their colony in India the habit of eating without animal proteins. And in 1842 the first “British Vegetarian Society” appeared, and the new system of nutrition gradually began to turn into an actual way of life.
“I’d rather lie fifty times under oath than torture an animal that licked my hands friendly” (Bernard Shaw, writer)
Vegetarianism in the twenty-first century
Today, vegetarianism is recognized worldwide as a form of balanced diet. Despite the fact that WHO has no official point of view on the usefulness of plant nutrition and its positive impact on human health, vegetarianism is approved as a diet for various diseases, complications caused by the exacerbation of chronic illnesses, etc.
In almost every developed country’s major cities, there are a variety of cafes and restaurants serving vegetarian and vegan foods, and major festivals and forums on ethical living are held every year around the world. The plant’s diet is maintained by eminent athletes, writers, scientists, musicians and actors.
“Every time we sit at the table, we make a choice. Please choose vegetarianism. Do it for the animals. Do it for the environment and your health” (Alec Baldwin, actor)
Vegetarianism in Russia
Great at the source
One of the first propagandists of plant nutrition in our country was the writer Leo Tolstoy. He changed his diet back in the 80s of the XIX century, when he met with his colleague and vegetarian ideologist William Frey. Having received convincing arguments to the fact that the human body is not able to digest meat correctly and quickly, Lev Nikolaevich immediately changed the order of nutrition in his home. His children quickly picked up the idea, and then, together with his eminent father held explanatory talks with fellow villagers on the topic of vegetarianism. So, in fact, the first forums and conferences dedicated to healthy lifestyle appeared. Subsequently, Tolstoy even opened vegetarian canteens for the poor, in his own way solving the problem of poverty.
“Murder and eating of animals occurs, the main thing, because people were assured that the animals are intended by God to be used by people, and that there is nothing wrong with killing animals. But this is not true. Whatever books are written that it is not a sin to kill animals, it is more clearly written in the hearts of all of us than it is in the books that animals should be pitied as well as humans, and we all know it if we do not drown out our consciences. (Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer)
In the 60s of the XIX century in St. Petersburg appeared the first Russian vegetarian society, which was headed by a famous surgeon A.P. Zelenkov. Disappointed with traditional medical methods of fighting diseases, the doctor first tried to improve his health with the help of a vegetarian diet on himself. Amazed how effective it turned out to be, Zelenkov decided to devote the rest of his life to spreading the idea of vegetarianism and recovery by natural means. It is funny that his society in St. Petersburg jokingly liked to call “Neither fish nor meat”.
The surgeon’s wife, Olga Zelenkova, also took a great interest in a new way of life and even published several books on the scientific basis of vegetarianism. And in 1913 her famous collection of vegetarian recipes “I don’t eat anybody” was published.
The beginning of the century – the beginning of success
At the beginning of the XX century vegetarianism in Russia strengthened its position. The first thematic media appeared – “Vegetarian Herald”, but the newspaper did not exist for long.
In 1909, the first Moscow Vegetarian Society opened, which became the starting point for the further development of the “green” lifestyle in the country. In 4 years in Moscow the first All-Russian congress of vegetarians which was visited by more than 200 persons from different corners of Russia took place.
Numerous vegetarian canteens were opened, where peas cutlets, cabbages and pancakes were prepared. People liked everything new, so the vegetarianism was accepted with interest and enthusiasm.
Revolution and destruction of culture
The overthrow of the state power regime, the revolution and the renaming of the country into the USSR imposed certain restrictions on the movement of the first Russian vegetarians. And by 1961 all vegetarian societies in Russia were forcibly closed, and in the Big Soviet Encyclopedia there was a record: “The ideas of vegetarianism, based on false hypotheses, do not have adherents in the Soviet Union”.
Interest to a vegetative food in our country again has arisen only in the beginning of 90th And though persecutions of non-standard thinking people proceeded, the general situation with acceptance of vegetarianism in the country was improved.
Today, the popularity of vegetarianism and veganism in Russia is hard to miss. In large cities you can find many different institutions with vegetarian menus, regularly held festivals and conferences, where the future of plant nutrition is discussed. The era of the Internet allows you to find recipes for delicious plant foods, gather in the circle of like-minded people and promote their views in the open.
We hope that the success of vegetarianism will become ubiquitous in Russia and as many people as possible will dare to experiment, leading to health and longevity!