Humanities of Diet

Humanities of Diet

The Humanities of Diet: some reasonings and rhymings. By Henry S. Salt. (Manchester: The Vegetarian Society)

In our last issue (page 4) we announced the publication by the Vegetarian Society of a new book by Henry S. Salt, entitled “The Humanities of Diet,” and promised to direct further attention to it in the present number of the MESSENGER. We have great pleasure in now doing so and in commending the book as a valuable contribution to Vegetarian literature upon its ethical and humanitarian phases. Most of the articles and verses have already appeared in other publications, but they are all very well worth re-issuing in their present form. They are re-issued, says the author, “as a contribution to the growing protest against the continuance of the practice of flesh-eating—a relic of savagery which is quite incompatible with the ‘humanities’ of a civilized race.”

Those who know Mr. Salt’s work for the Humanitarian and the Vegetarian movements know that here is no one more able than he to state the case against the cruelties and barbarisms of the age. Mr. Salt, judged by his writings, would seem to possess something of a poetical nature of Shelley, the ethicism of Emerson, the love of natural beauty of Jefferies, and a considerable dash of the subtle, if more genial and restrained, satire, of Shaw. He has given us in “The Humanities of Diet” a work—slender though it is—that will add to his prestige as a true herald of the Coming Day. We append a specimen culled from an article which originally appeared in the “Fortnightly Review,” and which, we think, fairly conveys Mr. Salt’s attitude and feelings regarding the higher phases of the Vegetarian question.

“I advance no exaggerated or fanciful claim,” he says, “for Vegetarianism. It is not, as some have asserted, a ‘panacea’ for human ills; it is something much more rational—an essential part of the modern humanitarian movement, which can make no true progress without it. Vegetarianism is the diet of the future, as flesh-food is the diet of the past. In that striking and common contrast, a fruit shop side by side with a butcher’s, we have a most significant object lesson. There, on the one hand, are the barbarities of a savage custom—the headless carcases, stiffened into a ghastly semblance of life, the joints and steaks and gobbets with their sickening odour, the harsh grating of the bone-saw, and the dull thud of the chopper—a perpetual crying protest against the horrors of flesh-eating. And as if this were not witness sufficient, here, close alongside, is a wealth of golden fruit, a sight to make a poet happy, the only food that is entirely congenial to the physical structure and the natural instincts of mankind, that can entirely satisfy the highest human aspirations. Can we doubt, as we gaze at this contrast, that whatever intermediate steps may need to be gradually taken, whatever difficulties to be overcome, the path of progression from the barbarities to the humanities of diet lies clear and unmistakable before us.”

The following lines also speak for themselves: —


THE fields were full of summer sound;
The lambs were gaily bleating;
Small birds were gossiping around,
Their joyful news repeating;
In tones vociferously clear,
Rooks chatted overhead.
Sweet creatures! How I love to hear
Dumb animals,” she said.

And as they parleyed, each with each,
Their thoughts and fancies showing,
It seemed as if some flood of speech
This earth were overflowing;
Methought with every breath that moved
A gift of tongues was shed.
How beautiful! I've always loved
Dumb animals,” she said.

The volume is well printed on good paper and is bound in smart green cloth, uniform with the authors “Logic of Vegetarianism,” and edition of which the Vegetarian Society has recently issued. We hope there will be a considerable demand for these volumes, and would say that no one’s library can be considered complete which does not possess a copy of both works which are the mature work of one who has been writing with distinction on Vegetarianism and Humanitarian subjects for over twenty-five years.

The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, February 1914