Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

A Foolish Fancy

The Vegetarian Messenger, September 1933

Sir,—May I express a hope that the tendency to suggest, in spite of the very clearest evidence to the contrary, that Christ was a vegetarian, will not affect any considerable section of our party? Individuals will of course think what they please; but when a local society (Weston-super-Mare) publishes a leaflet under the title, “Did Jesus eat Fish and Flesh?” as if the question were an open one, it seems time for rationalists to protest.

For the gospel narrative, whether it be accepted as history or not, is perfectly plain, and, if words have meaning, it tells its readers that Christ was not a vegetarian. It is not as if his teaching had shown a general tenderness towards animals, and so raised a presumption that we might have expected him (in the face of the texts) to have been an abstainer from flesh-foods. It does nothing of the sort; on the contrary, the lack of sympathy with the nonhumans, the failure to recognize that sense of kinship which is at the core of the humanitarian creed, has often been remarked in the New Testament.

It is quite irrelevant to ask what was the practice of certain apostles in their later lives, or of bishops in the early church. Such texts as “Rise, Peter, kill and eat,” and Paul’s question, “Doth God take care for oxen?” are fatal to that line of argument.

Why, then, do some of our friends persist in this foolish talk, for foolish it is, and if it gains ground to any extent will drive out of the vegetarian societies those who value intellectual honesty as much as humaneness. We have laughed at some of the absurdities of our opponents, but really this question asked at Weston-super-Mare is hardly less silly than the famous “What would become of the Esquimeux?”

[View replies: Christian Vegetarianism]

Yours, etc.

Henry S. Salt
21, Cleveland Road, Brighton