Fancy some bite-size motivation from the past? Some nuggets of wisdom to reinforce your resolve and keep you on the plant-based path?
Do you need something you can hold on to and pull to the forefront of your mind those times when you are reminded that – although interest in veganism is growing exponentially year upon year and will only ever continue to do so – there are still a lot of uninformed individuals spouting crap and reinforcing ancient myths, and that this is gonna take a long time to disappear?
Here’s a little something to remember. Being vegan, or making the move to be so, means that you are in most eminent company.
From Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci and Pythagoras, to Tolstoy and Mark Twain; a holy boatload of philosophers, writers, poets and artists – and even a polymath or three – have had words of wisdom to share on diet, health, and how we view non-human animals.
I do wish there were some quotes by women. I DID find some quotes by women but I had no idea who they were, and seeing as I’ve used quotes by VERY accomplished and well-known male figures, I didn’t want the unheard of women to seem like token female voices. We have to remember that women have traditionally had NO voice, and that their voices still don’t have the profile that men’s do. There were no doubt loads of female veggies – they probably just didn’t make a song and dance about it! 🙂
In short, a lot of bloody cool people have said a lot of bloody cool stuff about a plant-based diet. It’s good to know that these people came before us, and had the same thoughts we did about the ethical, sustainability and health issues surrounding food choices.
They would surely have been regarded as odd by many, especially as in many societies through the ages, meat and animal products have been considered indulgent luxuries, and so anyone deliberately abstaining from them would have been perceived as strange.
Thank goodness they had the courage to speak the truth!
I’ve verified from reliable sources the origin of each quote. Unfortunately some of the most well-known veggie quotes cannot actually be traced to the supposed speaker.
You may have come across some of these quotes before, but I thought I’d assemble lots of my favourites into one place for you, for maximum motivational effect.
Some are a bit long, admittedly, but there was such good stuff in them, I couldn’t bear to edit them down!
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 (Greek polymath, c. 570-c. 495BC)
But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy ~ Plutarch (Greek historian, c. AD46- AD120)
King of the animals–– as thou hast described him–– I should rather say king of the beasts, thou being the greatest––because thou doest only help them, in order that they give thee their children for the benefit of the gullet, of which thou hast attempted to make a sepulchre for all animals; and I would say still more, if I were allowed to speak the entire truth…now does not nature produce enough simple (vegetarian) food for thee to satisfy thyself? ~ Leonardo Da Vinci (Italian polymath, 1452-1519)
It is true that the reluctance to abstain from animal food, in those who have been long accustomed to its stimulus, is so great in some persons of weak minds, as to be scarcely overcome; but this is far from bringing any argument in its favour ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (English romantic poet, 1792-1822)
There is no disease, bodily or mental, which adoption of vegetable diet and pure water has not infallibly mitigated, wherever the experiment has been fairly tried. Debility is gradually converted into strength, disease into healthfulness: madness, in all its hideous variety, from the ravings of the fettered maniac, to the unaccountable irrationalities of ill-temper, that make a hell of domestic life, into a calm and considerable evenness of temper, that alone might offer a certain pledge of the future moral reformation of society. On a natural system of diet, old age would be our last and our only malady ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
It is found easier, by the short-sighted victims of disease, to palliate their torments by medicine, than to prevent them by regimen ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
The most fertile districts of the habitable globe are now actually cultivated by men for animals, at a delay and waste of aliment absolutely incapable of calculation ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
NB: Yes, I like Shelley. Can you even believe that Shelley already knew that livestock farming was a completely wasteful and unsustainable way to produce food? What a dude!
Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace ~ Albert Schweitzer (French/German theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and missionary, 1875-1965)
Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind independent of the one prevalent among the crowd and in opposition to it, a tone of mind which will gradually win influence over the collective one, and in the end determine its character. It is only an ethical movement which can rescue us from the slough of barbarism, and the ethical comes into existence only in individuals ~ Albert Schweitzer
Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come ~ Albert Schweitzer
The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies ~ Albert Schweitzer
Man can hardly even recognize the devils of his own creation ~ Albert Schweitzer
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 (Russian writer and philosopher, 1828-1910)
The wrongfulness, the immorality of eating animal food has been recognized by all mankind during all the conscious life of humanity. Why, then have people generally not come to acknowledge this law? The answer is that the moral progress of humanity is always slow; but that the sign of true, not casual Progress, is in uninterruptedness and its continual acceleration. And one cannot doubt that vegetarianism has been progressing in this manner ~ Leo Tolstoy
People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing to the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer (Polish/American writer, Nobel prize winner, 1902-1991)
As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
Society does not want individuals that are alert, keen, revolutionary, because such individuals will not fit into the established social pattern and they may break it up. That is why society seeks to hold your mind in its pattern and why your so called education encourages you to imitate, to follow, to conform” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti (Indian writer, speaker, philosopher, 1895-1986)
The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity ~ George Bernard Shaw (Irish playwright, 1856-1950)
(On being asked why he was vegetarian) Oh, come! That boot is on the other leg. Why should you call me to account for eating decently? If I battened on the scorched corpses of animals, you might well ask me why I did that ~ George Bernard Shaw
I am to be made the pretext for killing all those wretched animals and birds, and fish! Thank you for nothing.
Now if it were to be a fast instead of a feast; say a solemn three days’ abstention from corpses in my honour, I could at least pretend to believe that it was disinterested.
Blood sacrifices are not in my line ~ George Bernard Shaw
I was told that my diet was so poor that I could not repair the bones that were broken and operated on. So I have just had an Xradiograph taken; and lo! perfectly mended solid bone so beautifully white that I have left instructions that, if I die, a glove stretcher is to be made of me and sent to you as a souvenir ~ George Bernard Shaw
(In response to author Archibald Henderson asking him how he looked so youthful) I don’t. I look my age; and I am my age. It is the other people who look older than they are. What can you expect from people who eat corpses and drink spirits? ~ George Bernard Shaw
When a man of normal habits is ill, everyone hastens to assure him that he is going to recover. When a vegetarian is ill (which fortunately very seldom happens), everyone assures him that he is going to die, and that they told him so, and that it serves him right. They implore him to take at least a little gravy, so as to give himself a chance of lasting out the night ~ George Bernard Shaw
We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear ~ Robert Louis Stevenson (novelist and poet, 1850-1894)
Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, yet we make the same impression on Buddhists and vegetarians, for we feed on babies, though not our own ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
One farmer says to me, ‘You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;’ and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle ~ Henry David Thoreau (American polymath, 1817-1862)
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 (American inventor, 1847-1931)
It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind
~ Albert Einstein (German physicist and philosopher of science, 1879–1955)
So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore ~ Albert Einstein
You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity
Ralph Waldo Emerson (American essayist, poet, Transcendentalist, 1803-1882)
Gosh, I think I’m gonna have to do a Part Two!