Quotations Related to Vegetarianism

Complied by Richard H. Schwartz

Throughout history there have been voices crying out against the brutal treatment and slaughter of animals for their flesh. In this section, we present a sampling of these voices, in the hope that it will be valuable in supporting arguments for vegetarianism. A more extensive collection of quotations may be found in The Extended Circle - A Dictionary of Humane Thought, edited by Jon Wynne-Tyson. I am indebted to that book and To Cherish All Life - A Buddhist Case For Becoming Vegetarian by Philip Kapleau for many of the following quotations.

1. Amos (eighth century, B. C. E., Biblical Prophet)

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. (Amos 5:21 - 23)

2. Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832, English economist and philosopher)

The question is not, Can they (animals) reason? Nor can they talk? but can they suffer ?
(The Principals of Morals and Legislation)

3. Bible (Genesis)

And God said, "Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is on the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for food. (Genesis 1:29)

4. Brophy, Brigid (1929 - )

I don`t hold animals superior or even equal to humans. The whole case for behaving decently to animals rests on the fact that we are the superior species. We are the species uniquely capable of imagination, rationality, and moral choice - and that is precisely why we are under an obligation to recognize and respect the rights of animals. (Don`t Never Forget)

5. Buddha (563 - 483 B. C.)

For fear of causing terror to living things . . . let the Bodhisattva who is disciplining himself to obtain compassion refrain from eating flesh. (from the Lankavatara Sutra)

6. Clement of Alexandria (1st - 2nd century Christian theologian)

Sacrifices were invented by men to be a pretext for eating flesh.

7. Coats, C. David (Author, Old McDonald's (Factory) Farm)

Isn`t man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife - birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes, and dingoes - by the millions in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eats them. This in turn kills man by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends out a card praying for "Peace on Earth. (preface to Old MacDonald`s Factory Farm, by C. David Coats)

8. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772 - 1834, British poet)

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
(Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

9. Dali Lama of Tibet (1935 - )

I do not see any reason why animals should be slaughtered to serve as human diet; there there are so many substitutes. After all man can live without meat. (The Vegetarian Way , 1967)

10. Darwin, Charles (1809 - 1882, English biologist, known for his theory of evolution)

The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man. (The Descent of Man )

11. Da Vinci, Leonardo (1452 - 1519, Italian scientist, painter, sculptor, and architect)

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. (from da Vinci`s Notes )

Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds theirs. We live by the death of others: We are burial places! (from Merijkowsky`s Romance of Leonardo da Vinci )

12. Einstein, Albert (1879 -1955, humanitarian, scientist)

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. (Letter to Vegetarian Watch-Tower, December 27, 1930)

13. Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803 - 1883, American writer and philosopher)

You have just dined; and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in a graceful distance of miles, there is complicity. (Fate)

14. Francis of Assisi (1181 - 1226, Saint known for his compassion for animals)

If you have men who will exclude any of God`s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man.

15. Gandhi, Mohandas (1869 - 1948, Indian Hindu social reformer and nationalist leader)

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. (The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism )

It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God, the compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elementary compassion towards our fellow creatures.

16. Hinduism

Meat cannot be obtained without injury to animals, and the slaughter of animals obstructs the way to Heaven; let him therefore shun the use of meat. (the Laws of Manu V, 45 - 52)

17. Isaiah (Biblical prophet)

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? sayeth the Lord. I am full of the burnt offering of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, lambs, or he-goats. . . Bring no more vain oblations . . . (Isaiah 1:11 - 15)

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; . . .
And the lion shall eat straw like he ox, . . .
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy
mountain, for the earth shall be full of the
knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
(Isaiah 11:6 - 9)

He that kills an ox is as if he slew a man (Isaiah 66:3)

18. Jainism (Eastern religion)

Non-injury to living beings is the highest religion. (Yogashastra )

19. Kafka, Franz (1883 - 1924, important Austrian-Czech writer)

Now I can look at you in peace; I don`t eat you any more. (Comment made while admiring fish in an aquarium)

20. Maeterlinck, Count Maurice (1862 - 1949, Belgian essayist, playwright, and poet)

Were the belief one day to become general that man could dispense with animal food, there would ensue not only a great economic revolution, but a moral improvement as well.

21 McCartney, Paul (1942 - , American musician, former "Beetle")

We don`t eat anything that has to be killed for us. We`ve been through a lot and we`ve reached a stage where we really value life. (Interview in McCall`s Magazine, August, 1984)

22. Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) (1135 - 1204, physician, philosopher, Biblical commentator)

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. ( Guide for the Perplexed )

23. Merton, Thomas (1925 - 1968, author, philosopher, mystic)

The mistreatment of animals in "intensive husbandry" is, then, part of this larger practice of insensitivity to general values and indeed to humanity and life itself - a picture which more and more comes to display the ugly lineaments (features) of what can only be called by its right name: barbarism. (Unlived Life )

24. More, Thomas (1478 - 1535, English philosopher, author)

The Utopians feel that slaughtering our fellow creatures destroys the sense of compassion, which is the finest sentiment of which our human nature is capable. (Utopia )

25. Plutarch (46 - 119 A.D, Greek historian and biographer, most famous for his Lives )

I for my part do much marvel at what sort of feeling, soul or reason the first man with his mouth touched slaughter, and reached to his lips the flesh of a dead animal, and having set before people courses of ghastly corpses and ghosts, could give those parts the names of meat and victuals that but a little before lowed, cried, moved, and saw; how his sight could endure the blood of the slaughtered, flayed, and mangled bodies; . . .(Moralia )

26. Proverbs

A righteous person regards the life of his beast,
but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
(Proverbs 12:10)

27. Psalms

The Lord is good to all and His tender mercies are over all of His creatures. (Psalms 145:9 )

28. Pythagoras (580 - 500 B.C., Greek philosopher, mathematics)

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. (quoted by C. David Coats, Old MacDonald`s Factory Farm, p. 157)

29. Schopenhauer, Arthur (1788 - 1860, German philosopher)

Since compassion for animals is so intimately associated with goodness of character, it may be confidently asserted that whoever is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. (quoted in To Cherish all Life )

30. Schweitzer, Albert (1875 - 1965, theologian, renowned medical missionary in Africa, winner of Nobel Peace Prize, 1952)

Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace. (The Philosophy of Civilization )

31. Seneca (4? B.C. - A,D, 65; Roman statesman, philosopher, and dramatist)

Let us ask what is best, not what is customary. Let us love temperance - let us be just - let us refrain from bloodshed. None is so near the gods as he who shows kindness. (Epistola, LX)

32. Shaw, George Bernard (1865 - 1950; British dramatist and critic)

When a man wants to murder a tiger, it`s called sport; when a tiger wants to murder him, it`s called ferocity. ( The Revolutionist`s Handbook )

33. Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1792 - 1822, British poet)

If the use of animal food be, in consequence, subversive to the peace of human society, how unwarrantable is the injustice and barbarity which is exercised toward these miserable victims. They are called into existence by human artifice that they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged. (On the Vegetable System of Diet )

34. Shelton, Dr. Herbert (1895 - ; American naturopathic physician)

The cannibal goes out and hunts, pursues and kills another man and proceeds to cook and eat him precisely as he would any other game. There is not a single argument nor a single fact that can be offered in favor of flesh eating that cannot be offered with equal strength, in favor of cannibalism. ( Superior Nutrition )

35. Sinclair, Upton ( 1878 - ; American author)

At the same instant the ear was assailed by a most terrifying shriek; the visitors started in alarm, the women turned pale and shrank back. The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing - for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back; . . . (The Jungle )

36. Singer, Isaac Bashevis (1904 - 1990; author, winner of Nobel Prize in literature)

I believe that the religion of the future will be based on vegetarianism. 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.

37. Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850 - 1894; American author)

We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions, and organs as our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear.

38. Thoreau, Henry David (1817 - 1862; American writer and naturalist)

Is it not a reproach that man is a carnivorous animal? . . . he will be regarded as a benefactor of his race who shall teach man to confine himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet. ( Walden )

39. Tolstoy, Leo (1828 - 1910; Russian novelist and social commentator

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.

40. Twain, Mark (1835 - 1910; American writer and humorist)

In studying the traits and dispositions of the so-called lower animals, and contrasting them with man`s, I find the result humiliating to me. Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to. ( Following the Equator )

41. Voltaire, Jean Francois Arouet (1694 - 1778, French author and philosopher)

Vegetarianism serves as the criterion by which we know that the pursuit of moral perfection on the part of humanity is genuine and sincere.

42. Walker, Alice (American author)

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.

43. Wilcox, Elsa Wheeler (1853? - 1919; American poet and novelist)

I am the voice of the voiceless.
Through me the dumb shall speak;
Till the deaf world`s ear shall be made to hear
The wrongs of the wordless weak. . . .
and I am my brother`s keeper,

And I will fight his fight.
And speak the word for beast and bird
Till the world shall set things right.

Return to The Schwartz Collection on Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights - Main Page