Vegetarianism has been around for a very long time. Pythagorus, born 580 BC, is given the credit as being the “Father of Vegetarianism.” Since the word “vegetarian” was not used until the late 19th century, vegetarians were previously known as “Pythagoreans.”
Some noted vegetarians were Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Dr. J.H. Kellogg (1852-1943), Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Albert Einstein (1879-1955), as well as Socrates, Plato, Plotinus, Plutarch, Newton, Voltaire, Shelley, Darwin, and Emerson.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), is often used as an example of famous people who were vegetarians. It is true; he was since the age of sixteen. Later, as an adult, he renounced that way of life during a sea voyage when he saw a fish cut open revealing another fish inside. He concluded that it was nature’s way for one species to eat another, and promptly renounced his vegetarian ways.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1960), stated: “The average life expectancy of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough, and I am still trying to die; but I simply cannot do it. A single beef steak would finish me, but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with dread of living forever. That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism.” (Melina).
Vegetarianism played a central role in certain “Christian” movements that swept across Europe and the Middle East. It seemed to center around the Gnostics and Manicheans in the 1st century of the Common Era right up to the Paulicians, Massalians, Bogomils, and Cathars in the medieval periods. Vegetarianism was repeatedly cited as one of the many reasons for the Catholic Church’s condemnation of such sects and was also reason enough for arrests, persecution, torture, and death.
The Cathar movement in southern France and northern Italy became so strong that in the early 13th century, Pope Innocent III (1161-1216) ordered a Holy Crusade to stamp it out.
By the beginning of the 10th century AD, Manicheanism had a sudden period of growth in France. Pope Calixtus II held a council in Toulouse in 1119 to curse, or as the Church put it, “to anathematise” the heretics who would not give up their vegetarian ways.
By the 12th century, a group called the Apostolics was in the forefront of a simplistic lifestyle that included vegetarianism, being almost teetotal, and having no debt. They won many converts, including some from the clergy, but at great expense. The viciousness of The Church authority is outlined in writings from the Dominican order. An army of 30,000 descended on the area trampling crops, burning, and killing in order to subjugate. This army was under orders from The Church to “kill them all” solely because the Cathars believed that it was sinful to participate in marriage and to eat flesh, eggs, or cheese. Since the marriage part was also practised by the Church, it remains that the eating habits must have been the threat that was posed.
The Church established “fish days” during the latter part of the 16th century for two reasons. One was to encourage ship-building and the training of mariners. The second was to relieve the demand for meat, which was rare and expensive. A 1595 proclamation stated that if one fish day a week were observed, 135,000 head of beef could be spared each year. Thus, today’s problem is not a new one.
Vegetarian restaurants are springing up all over the world, with the travel industry also recognizing the demand. For example, in 1968, there were 16 vegetarian resaurants in London and 18 in the rest of the country. Ten years later, there were 52 in London and 80 in the rest of the country. Now, it is approaching 1000 listed in the UK alone. Whether travelling by plane or train, staying in hotels, or attending conventions, provision is made for the vegetarian. Vegetarian websites are also becoming more common since books that publish their whereabouts rapidly become outdated. Along with this, comes the recognition that organic foods are in demand. It just takes minimal planning and organization to adjust to travel and eat healthy at the same time.