Pythagoras (c. 582–507 BC), a Greek philosopher, mathematician and mystic, was known as the Father of Vegetarianism.
“As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap the joy of love.”
“Alas, what wickedness to swallow flesh into our own flesh, to fatten our greedy bodies by cramming in other bodies, to have one living creature fed by the death of another! In the midst of such wealth as earth, the best of mothers provides, yet nothing satisfies you, but to behave like the Cyclopes, inflicting sorry wounds with cruel teeth! You cannot appease the hungry cravings of your wicked, gluttonous stomachs except by destroying some other life.”
Socrates (470/469–399 BC) was a classical Greek philosopher and is credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. He is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers, and Plato’s dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity. Contained in Plato’s Republic is the following account of Socrates’ debate with Plato’s elder brother Glaucon on the issue of meat eating, establishing that it was inhumane, unethical, unhealthy, and would lead to unhappiness, war and social injustice:
Socrates: Would this habit of eating animals not require that we slaughter animals that we knew as individuals, and in whose eyes we could gaze and see ourselves reflected, only a few hours before our meal?
Glaucon: This habit would require that of us.
Socrates: Wouldn’t this [knowledge of our role in turning a being into a thing] hinder us in achieving happiness?
Glaucon: It could so hinder us in our quest for happiness.
Socrates: And, if we pursue this way of living, will we not have need to visit the doctor more often?
Glaucon: We would have such need.
Socrates: If we pursue our habit of eating animals, and if our neighbor follows a similar path, will we not have need to go to war against our neighbor to secure greater pasturage, because ours will not be enough to sustain us, and our neighbor will have a similar need to wage war on us for the same reason?
Glaucon: We would be so compelled.
Socrates: Would not these facts prevent us from achieving happiness, and therefore the conditions necessary to the building of a just society, if we pursue a desire to eat animals?
Glaucon: Yes, they would so prevent us.
Hippocrates (460 BC–c. 370 BC) was an ancient Greek physician and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is referred to as the “father of medicine”.
“The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.”
Plato (428–347 BC), born in Athens, Greece, is the best known of the ancient philosophers and helped to establish the foundations of Western philosophy.
“The gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies . . . they are the trees and the plants and the seeds.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca, or simply “Seneca” (c. 4 BC–65 AD), was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work, a humorist of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was a tutor and later adviser to emperor Nero.
“If true, the Pythagorean principles as to abstain from flesh, foster innocence; if ill-founded they at least teach us frugality, and what loss have you in losing your cruelty? It merely deprives you of the food of lions and vultures . . . let us ask what is best—not what is customary. Let us love temperance—let us be just—let us refrain from bloodshed.”
Plutarch (46–120 AD), was a Greek historian, philosopher, essayist and biographer. He authored a number of treatises on ethical matters, including on the status of animals, which included discussion on the presence of reason in nonhuman animals and the practice of ethical vegetarianism.
“But for the sake of some little mouthful of meat, 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.”
Of particular note is his essay: “On the Eating of Animal Flesh,” The Moralia, Book 12:
“Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, 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? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds?. . . It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace. But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches. No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.
“If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax.
Moses Maimonides (1135–1204), was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt. The following quotes come from his work, Guide for the Perplexed.
“It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sake and not for the sake of anything else.”
“There is no difference between the pain of humans and the pain of other living beings, since the love and tenderness of the mother for the young are not produced by reasoning, but by feeling, and this faculty exists not only in humans but in most living beings.”
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), a German, was one of the most influential philosophers in the history of Western philosophy. His contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics have had a profound impact on almost every philosophical movement that followed him.
“Cruelty to animals is contrary to man’s duty to himself, because it deadens in him the feeling of sympathy for their sufferings, and thus a natural tendency that is very useful to morality in relation to other human beings is weakened.”
“If [man] is not to stifle his human feelings, he must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), was a German philosopher known for his atheistic pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, from which this quote is drawn:
“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”
Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, and he is unofficially called the Father of the Nation. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi inspired civil rights and freedom movements around the world. The honorific “Mahatma,” meaning “high-souled” or “venerable” in Sanskrit, was first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa and is now used worldwide.
Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) was a French-German theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician. He received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life”. In his acceptance address, titled “The Problems of Peace in the World Today,” he said: “The human spirit is not dead. It lives on in secret. . . . It has come to believe that compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.” Among his many other statements about animal compassion are the following:
“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”
“It is man’s sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.”
“The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor. What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure in order to give a few moments of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling.”
“A man is really ethical only when he obeys the constraint laid on him to aid all life which he is able to help, and when he goes out of his way to avoid injuring anything living. He does not ask how far this or that life deserves sympathy as valuable in itself, not how far it is capable of feeling. To him life as such is sacred. . . . “
“The time will come when public opinion will no longer tolerate amusements based on the mistreatment and killing of animals. The time will come, but when? When will we reach the point that hunting, the pleasure of killing animals for sport, will be regarded as a mental aberration?”
“A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives.”
“Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.”
“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo…We need a boundless ethic which will include the animal also.”
“We must never permit the voice of humanity within us to be silenced. It is man’s sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.”
“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”
“When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another . . .”
“The deeper we look into nature the more we recognize that it is full of life, and the more profoundly we know that all life is a secret, and we are all united to all this life.”
William Beebe (1877–1962) was an American naturalist, ornithologist, marine biologist, entomologist, explorer and author. He made numerous expeditions for the New York Zoological Society and deep dives into the ocean on a cable.
“[W]hen the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.”
Albert Einstein (1879–1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, who developed the theory of relativity. He was also known for his influence on the philosophy of science. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.”
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office, and she remained active in public life after his death. She pressed the United States to join the United Nations and served as its first delegate from 1945 to 1952. She also served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later she chaired the John F. Kennedy administration’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.
“It seems to me of great importance to teach children respect for life. Towards this end, experiments on living animals in classrooms should be stopped. To encourage cruelty in the name of science can only destroy the finer emotions of affection and sympathy, and breed an unfeeling callousness in the young towards suffering in all living creatures.”
Henry Beston (1888–1968) was an American writer and naturalist, best known as the author of The Outermost House, written in 1928 after Beston spent what he called “a year of life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod” and from which this quote is drawn:
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge, and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.
Chief Dan George (1899–1981), was a chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, located on Burrard Inlet in the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He was an actor, author and a poet.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose 1962 book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. The book also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter.
“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is . . . whether its victim is human or animal . . . we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. . . . We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible leader and spokesperson in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactice of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
“One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall then have discovered our souls and become worthier of sharing this planet with them.”
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
Jane Goodall (born 1934) is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. She is best known for her more than 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania. She has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.
“To me, cruelty is the worst of human sins. Once we accept that a living creature has feelings and suffers pain, then by knowingly and deliberately inflicting suffering on that creature, we are guilty, whether it be human or animal.”
Alice Walker (born 1944) is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist. She wrote the novel The Color Purple (1982) for which she won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
“As we talked of freedom and justice one day for all, we sat down to steaks. I am eating misery, I thought, as I took the first bite. And spit it out.”
“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.”
Ahowan ICrow (born 1968) is an Animal Chaplain, Humane Minister, and founder and spiritual leader of AHOWAN (Awakening Humanity to Oneness With All Nature) Traveling Spiritual Sanctuary, which is dedicated to peace with all Animals. She also founded APITHAN (Awakening Peace in the Human Animal Naturally) Ministries and Happy Howler K-9 Bed & Breakfast and rescue. From 2011 to 2014 she travelled to animal rescues, religious congregations, and holistic centers in all 50 US states to share the message of our oneness with all living beings. She has also travelled in India and Sri Lanka as a consultant for several Animal ashrams and children’s schools.
|An exhaustive compendium of animal rights quotes, from which a number of the quotes cited above are drawn, can be found at Animal Rights Online, http://www.all-creatures.org/aro/q.html. We also wish to acknowledge Wikipedia as a resource for biographical information on these great thinkers.|
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