People tend to look at veganism as a newly emerged ‘trend’ which has come together with social media and iphones.
They could not be more wrong.
Veganism is simply part of a movement of awakening, which seeds have been planted centuries ago by figures who have contributed in one way or another to the evolution of the human race. These historical figures have shed their light on people’s minds through their ideas, discoveries, and masterpieces. These are people, whose word should be loud enough for each of us to hear and take note of.
Some of the names have long been associated with the promotion of peace and animal rights, yet some of these are less known figures that do deserve to be acknowledged for their compassion!
12 Less Known Historical Figures Of Influence Who Promoted Veganism
(Starting with the less known ones)
Important early feminist. Mary Wollstonecraft and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley were both vegetarians and advocates of animal rights.
Best known for her book – A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) which was one of the earliest expositions of the equality of women and men.
“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”
Leo Tolstoy was one of the world’s pre-eminent writers becoming famous through his epic novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
His philosophy began to attract disciples and idealistic Tolstoy communes. He became ex-communicated from the Orthodox church but his legacy as a writer and unique thinker were enhanced throughout the world. He gained a status as being the world’s leading writer.
In the evening of his life he developed a close relationship with a young Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was very impressed with Tolstoy’s belief in non-violent resistance, vegetarianism and brand of ‘anarchist Christianity’.
Master Beinsa Douno
‘The future of humankind depends on the food we consume. The purer the food we consume, the brighter future lies before us.
Meat eating leads to suffering and disease. In order to get rid of them, a man should eat a pure vegan diet.’
Albert Einstein said in an interview for a Swiss radio:
“All the world renders homage to me and I render homage to the Master Beinsa Douno from Bulgaria”.
Master Beinsa Douno is one of the most influential philosophers and spiritual leaders, most of whose teachings have been collected in over 7000 lectures he gave during his lifetime.
“As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
Pythagoras was an influential philosopher, who is said to be one of the first men to describe himself as a philosopher – a ‘lover of wisdom’. His life and teachings had a profound effect on Plato, and through Plato, Pythagoras helped to shape Western philosophy. Pythagoras is best known today for his contributions to mathematics, in particular the Pythagorean theorem relating to right angled triangles.
“I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench?”
Plutarch was a Greek historian, who later became a Roman citizen, a biographer and essayist. He was born 46 -120 CE into a prominent family in Chaeronea, Boeotia, a town about twenty miles east of Delphi.
His literacy accomplishments were enormous, but he was most known for his biographical studies of Greek and Latin Statesmen and philosophers, entitled Parallel lives, consisting of 46 biographies planned to be ethical examples in pairs, one Greek figure and one similar Roman, though the last four lives are single.
He also authored a number of treatises on matters of ethics, on topics such as education, marriage, religious observances and reason in non-human animals and the practice of ethical vegetarianism. This collection of about 60 in fifteen volumes is Known as the “Moralia” Or moral essays.
Of particular note is Plutarch’s essay On the Eating of Animal Flesh, in Volume 12 of The Moralia, in which he challenges the idea that man is naturally carnivorous, and maintains the argument that animals deserve ethical consideration because they possess the attributes of intelligence and sentience.
“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
Albert Schweitzer, born 1875 in the province of Alsace-Lorraine in the German Empire, is mostly remembered for his work in Africa as a missionary. He was also a theologian, organist, philosopher, and physician. He set in motion important ideas concerning our ethical treatment of animals and played an important role in the evolution of our concept of animal rights.
Schweitzer developed a philosophy which he called a “Reverence for Life”, for which he received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. He thought that Western civilisations were decaying as a result of the abandonment of its ethical foundation, namely the affirmation of and respect for life.The reverence for life philosophy has had a profound effect on the environmental movement. Rachel Carson dedicated her book A Silent Spring, widely attributed to the beginning of environmental awareness, to Albert Schweitzer.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON
English mathematician, physicist, astrononer, and philosopher, noted particularly for his law of gravitation, his three laws of motion, his theory that light is composed of corpuscles, and his development of calculus independently of Leibntz. His works include Principia Mathematica (1687) and Optiks (1704)
In his book Vegetable Diet: As Sanctioned by Medical Men and by Experience in All Ages (1869), Dr. William A. Alcott writtes the following about Newton:
This distinguished philosopher and mathematician is said to have abstained rigorously, at times, from all but purely vegetable food, and from all drinks but water; and it is also stated that some of his important labors were performed at these seasons of strict temperance. While writing his treatise on Optics, it is said he confined himself entirely to bread, with a little sack and water; and I have no doubt that his remarkable equanimity of temper, and that government of his animal appetites, throught, for which he was so distinguished to the last hour of his life, were owing, in no small degree, to his habits of rigid temperance (p. 191).
“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931) was an American inventor and businessman who developed and made commercially available – many key inventions of modern life. His Edison Electric company was a pioneering company for delivering DC electricity directly into people’s homes. He filed over 1,000 patents for a variety of different inventions. Crucially, he used mass-produced techniques to make his inventions available at low cost to households across America. His most important inventions include, the electric light bulb. the phonograph, the motion picture camera, an electric car and electric power station.
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
Nobel Prize winner regarded as the father of modern physics & the most influential physicist of the 20th century. He was a firm believer in animal rights- “If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.”
“I do not regard flesh-food as necessary for us at any stage and under any clime in which it is possible for human beings ordinarily to live. I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species. To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.”
Led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.
“Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.”
Diplomat, political activist and inventor, who discovered electricity and invented the Franklin stove. He has often been referred to as ‘America’s renaissance man’ and was emblematic of the fledgling American nation.
Franklin wrote in his autobiography that he became a vegetarian when he was 16 years old.
Leonardo da Vinci
“I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) is one of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists and philosophers. In several different fields, from science to astronomy, he proved to be both innovative and several centuries ahead of his contemporaries.
He is considered to be a key person in the birth of the European Renaissance period, which saw a flowering of new ideas, scientific discoveries and creation of beautiful art.
Dea is passionate about pursuing gentle, pure living in all its forms. She’s a veg and fruit foodie, who loves to explore the healing properties of plant-based foods and then fully indulge in their sun-filled taste. She believes that “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”