January 2, 1892
Dr Densmore explains the already common occurrence of vegetarians in 1890's America and mentions how if health is the doctor's primary duty, he must encourage the eating of meat. He mentions that those who attempt to live on bread and fruit without animal products end in disaster. "The flesh of animals...may be said to be a pre-digested food, and one that requires the minimum expenditure of vital force for the production of the maximum amount of nutrition."
How Nature Cures
CHAPTER XVIL THE IMMORALITY OF FLESH-EATING.
In these days of vegetarianism and theosophy a phy- sician is often met with objection on the part of patients to a diet of flesh, which objection will usually be found to be based on the conviction — a growing one through-out civilization — that it is wrong to slaughter animals, and therefore wrong to use their flesh as food. What- ever may be the ultimate decision of humanity in regard to this question, at the present time it is not infrequently a very serious one to the physician. A patient comes to him much out of health, earnestly desiring to follow the necessary course and practice the necessary self-denial to gain health, and the physician is fully impressed that the patient's digestive apparatus and general system is in such condition that flesh is well-nigh indispensable in a dietary system that will restore the patient to health, — under such circumstances this question will be found of grave importance.
What constitutes morality in diet ? Manifestly, many animals are intended by nature to live upon other animals. To our apprehension the intention of nature, when it can be ascertained, authoritatively disposes of this matter. If it could be shown, as many physicians believe, that man is by nature omnivorous, and designed to eat flesh among other foods, this would be a conclu- sive demonstration that it was right for him to eat flesh. If, as we believe, nature intended man should subsist upon sweet fruits and nuts, there is not only no license for flesh-eating, but the reverse, — there is presumptive evidence that it is wrong to eat flesh. Physiological law must be the court of last resort in which to try this question.
Vegetarians and others scruple at the purchase of a beef-steak on the ground that the money so expended encourages the butcher in the slaughter of the animal, and thereby identifies the one who expends the money with the slaughter. If this reason be given in earnest it should be binding, and its logic followed under all circumstances. While it is true that the purchase of a pound of beef identifies the purchaser with the slaughter of the animal, the purchase of a dozen eggs or a quart of milk as clearly identifies the purchaser with the slaughter of animals; for the reason that the laws governing the production of agricultural products are such that the farmer cannot profitably produce milk or eggs except he sell for slaughter some of the cocks and male calves, as well as those animals that have passed the productive period. True, there is no particular animal slain to produce a given quart of milk or a dozen of eggs, as there is in the production of a pound of beef-steak; but the sin is not in the slaughter of a given animal, but in the slaughter of animals, and it must therefore be acknowledged that animals are as surely slaughtered for the production of milk and eggs as for the production of beef-steak. And hence, since this is a question of ethics, we may as well be honest while dealing with it; and if an ethical student honestly refrains from the purchase of flesh because it identifies him with the slaughter of animals, there is no escaping, if he be logical and ethical, from the obligation to refuse also to purchase milk and eggs. This law applies as well to wool and leather, and to everything made from these materials; because, as before shown, agriculture is at present so conducted that the farmer cannot profitably produce wool and leather unless he sells the flesh of animals to be used as food.
Looking at the matter in this light, almost all of us will be found in a situation demanding compromise. If a delicate patient be allowed eggs, milk, and its products, and the patient is able to digest these foods, so far as physiological needs are concerned there is no serious difficulty in refraining from the use of flesh as food; but if these ethical students hew to the line, have the courage of their convictions, accept the logic of their position, and refrain from the use of animal products altogether, there will be a breakdown very soon. There are a few isolated cases where individuals have lived upon bread and fruit to the exclusion of animal products, but such cases are rare, and usually end in disaster.
We are, after all, in a practical world, and must bring common sense to bear upon the solution of practical problems. The subject of the natural food of man will be found treated somewhat at length in Part III. In this chapter it is designed only to point out some of the difficulties that inevitably supervene upon an attempt to live a consistent life, and at the same time refuse to use flesh on the ground that such use identifies the eater with the slaughter of animals. There seems to us good ground for the belief that fruit and nuts constituted the food of primitive man, and are the diet intended by nature for him. Remember, primitive man was not engaged in the competitive strife incident to modern life ; the prolonged hours of labour and excessive toil that are necessary to success in competitive pursuits in these times were not incidental to that life. Undoubtedly an individual with robust digestive powers, who is not called upon to expend more vitality than is natural and healthful, will have no difficulty whatever in being adequately nourished on raw fruits and nuts. When, however, a denizen of a modern city, obliged to work long hours and perform excessive toil, can only succeed in such endeavors by a diet that will give him the greatest amount of nourishment for the least amount of digestive strain, it will be found that the flesh of animals usually constitutes a goodly portion of such diet. It may be said to be a pre-digested food, and one that requires the minimum expenditure of vital force for the production of the maximum amount of nutrition. However earnest a student of ethics may be, however such a student may desire to live an ideal life, if he finds himself so circumstanced that a wife and family are dependent upon his exertions for a livelihood, and if it be necessary, in order adequately to sustain him in his work, that he shall have resort to a diet in which the flesh of animals is an important factor, there is no escape, in our opinion, from the inevitable conclusion that it is his duty to adopt that diet which enables him to meet best the obligations resting upon him.
An invalid with no family to support, and with independent means, may nevertheless find himself in a similar situation with regard to the problem of flesh-eating. We have found many persons whose inherited vitality was small at the outset, and whose course of life had been such as to greatly weaken the digestive powers, and who when they came to us were in such a state of prostration as to require, like the competitive worker, the greatest amount of nourishment for the least amount of digestive strain ; and yet such persons have duties in life to perform, and are not privileged knowingly to pursue any course that necessarily abbreviates their life or diminishes their usefulness. The conviction is clear to us that the plain duty of persons so circumstanced is to use that diet which will best contribute to a restoration of their digestive powers and the development of a fair share of vital energy. When this result has been reached, these persons may easily be able to dispense with flesh food and even animal products, and to obtain satisfactory results from a diet of fruit and nuts.
A true physician must make every effort to overcome the illness of his patients, and to put them on the road to a recovery of health. To our mind there is, in the solution of this problem, a clear path for the ethical student to follow. We believe that health is man's birthright, and that it becomes his bounden duty to use all efforts within his power to obtain and maintain it. We believe that sickness is a sin; that it unfits the victim for his duties in life ; that through illness our life becomes a misery to ourselves, and a burden to our fellows ; and where this result is voluntarily incurred it becomes a shame and a disgrace. Manifestly the body is intended for the use of the spirit, and its value depends upon its adaptability for such use. In the ratio that the body is liable to be invaded by disease is its usefulness impaired. The old saying, "a sound mind in a sound body," is the outcome of a perception of this truth. The saying that cleanliness is next to godliness is based upon the perception that cleanliness is necessary for the health of the body, and that the health of the body is necessary for the due expression of a godly life. When this truth is adequately understood it will be seen by the vegetarian, the theosophist, and the ethical student that health is the first requisite ; that it becomes a religious duty to create and conserve this condition, and that whatever diet, exercise, vocation, or course in life is calculated to develop the greatest degree of health is the one that our highest duty commands us to follow. In short, the favorite maxim of one of Britain's most famous statesmen might wisely be taken for the guiding principle of all : Sanitas omnia sanitas.