Vegatheist Pioneers

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John Oswald

After witnessing rape and massacre by fellow British troops in India, John Oswald (1730-1793) came to recognized that colonialism was part a vast system of imperial oppression that included oppression of the working classes back in Britain. He left the army and immersed himself in Indian culture, where his “sympathy with the political cause of the Indians merged into acceptance of their sympathy for all members of oppressed species.”[1]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 295. He embraced the ethics of the Hindu, began including animals within moral concern, and abstained from animal products.

Oswald understood all too well the connection between violence against nonhumans and violence against humans. In the same year of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, Oswald was going one step further by extending the emancipation of slaves, social equality, democratic revolution, and human rights to include the rights of nonhuman animals. For him, vegetarianism was a political action against social and economic inequalities, not unlike what we see today because then, like now, rather than using limited resources wisely, ruling elites and the forces of the meat industry muscled their way into communities, took over lands, and elbowed out the disadvantaged.[2]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 301.

Thus in Oswald, we see the characteristics of vegan activism that continues to the present day, an advocacy that is not just about diet, but, more to the point, is a political action united with animal rights—in “opposition to a blood-sucking elite, literal opposition to their greedy appropriation of material goods, solidarity with the undernourished poor, and the enfranchisement of all sentient life.”[3]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 306. The fight against tyranny and oppression, whatever the form, whether over man or beast, would be Oswald’s life-long guiding principle and quest.

After returning to England, his reputation for the support of vegetarianism, atheism, and democratic revolution naturally perplexed the less enlightened around him. “Fatigued with answering the enquiries, and replying to the objections of his friends with respect to the singularity of his mode of life,” he was compelled to write The Cry of Nature; Or, an Appeal to Mercy and to Justice, on Behalf of the Persecuted Animals (1791). He needed to explain himself, he writes in its Preface, and argue a compassionate life that embraces “in a wide circle of benevolence, the lower orders of life.” Notably, although advocating vegetarianism and ethics reminiscent of the Hindu, he rejected spiritual doctrines and denied metempsychosis and the existence of gods.

An avowed atheist, Oswald directed much contempt and blame on Christianity as a malignant influence in the world, whose leading apologists and philosophers were responsible for unrelenting “unfeeling dogma” and an ongoing “callous insensibility.”[4]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 301. While others accepted as law the biblical approval of animal eating and use, Oswald to the contrary had the wits, in the words of Tristram Stuart’s The Bloodless Revolution, to dismiss “Christianity to the slag heap of human credulity and delusion.”[5]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 300.

Oswald rallied his sympathies into a cohesive philosophy of militant vegetarianism and direct action. No namby-pamby, he was all for encouraging and using violence to end tyranny by “barbarous governments” and backed up his words in revolutionary France by leading troops into battle against royalist aristocrats, allegedly presiding over bloodthirsty massacres, and being killed while leading a battle charge.[6]Other vegan atheists of his age were not as stringent in their skepticism and reasoning against false supernatural justifications. You got the odd quack. The adventurer and free thinker John “Walking” Stewart (1747-1822), who, like Oswald, also traveled India and came under the influence of Eastern philosophies, was a vegetarian atheist, an advocate of promiscuity, and, friend of De Quincey, a partaker of laudanum. His delusions of grandeur and egotism gave little time for gods. Incorporated into Stewart’s grandiose ideas on social order was a personal philosophy influenced by Hinduism that combined theories on karma, the Epicurean idea of sensation transference via atoms, a Pythagorean metempsychosis, and the universal interconnectedness of all life. At least the good that came out of this nebulous philosophical slurry was that all sentient beings were naturally included within his range of moral concern.

Joseph Ritson

Then there was Joseph Ritson (1752-1803), a literary antiquarian, who contributed significantly to a growing tradition of “vegatheism” based on reasoned argument and whose rationale incorporated social justice and the rejection of orthodox practices and beliefs. Ritson took up a vegetarian diet at 19 years of age after reading Mandeville’s “Fable of the Bees,” and by his own admission abstained from all animal products except milk—presumably since it was not considered life depriving then.[7]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 201. From then on, faced with mockery and ridicule, Ritson, as a man not known for congeniality, was more than capable of dishing out as good as he got.

His years of scholarship and several publications devoted to Robin Hood speak of an enduring admiration for the anti-establishment rebel. Enthusiastically cultivating the same role for himself, he was well suited to a vegan diet and opposition to and alienation from everyday society. He was perhaps the first of what are now well-established stereotypes projected onto animal advocates, the “misanthropic animal-lover,” petulant vegan, and angry atheist.[8]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 369.

As is often the case, the defensive exterior belied the hidden motivations and disappointments of a besieged sensitivity:

Ritson’s vegetarian resolution was founded on deep and honest conviction and arose from a refined sense of humanity. There is no trait of the gentler side of his nature—the comparatively unknown facet of his character—that is more uniformly expressed throughout his correspondence than his love for the animal creation.[9]Henry Alfred Burd, Joseph Ritson: A Critical Biography (University of Illionois, 1916), 19.

Ritson was true to the vegatheist creed, advocating mercy and justice for humans and nonhumans and was consistent in his moral convictions. A supporter of the French revolution and a republican, he saw vegetarianism and atheism as critical components for bringing about social change. “Republicanism, vegetarianism and atheism,” Stuart writes, “formed a three-pronged attempt to level the hierarchies of politics, nature and religion.”[10]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 365.

Seeking to move the revolution forward, Ritson wrote one of the first books devoted entirely to vegetarianism, called An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty. While it contains some radical ideas, it eschews appeals to sentiment, becoming something of a “flagship for the emergence of a cohesive tradition and it showed how vegetarianism ought to be an essential part of the revolutionary agenda.”[11]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 362. For Ritson, reform of the destructiveness and cruelty of humanity and its moral progress could come from a vegetarian diet. Eating animals—a blood diet—he believed, was an “immoderate addiction,” something unnatural for human physiognomy that induced ferocity and a “coarseness of mind.”[12]Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet: A Catena of Authorities Deprecatory of the Practice of Flesh-Eating (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003 [orig. 1883]), 186. Abstaining from meat, in contrast, produced a “gentleness and humanity,”[13]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 206. and by respecting the universal right to life among sentient beings, a truly egalitarian society might be established, one in which hierarchical orders and systems of tyranny would be abolished.

Underpinning murderous and oppressive hierarchies was, among others, Christianity as dominate co-conspirator. Little wonder then that it was a primary target of Ritson’s ire most of his life, although his animosity extended to all religions. Like Oswald, Ritson rejected all supernatural beliefs, such as the notion of metempsychosis—once commonly associated with vegetarianism because of Hindu influences and the legacy of Pythagoras—saying, “It was probably said by ignorant people who cannot distinguish justice or humanity from an absurd and impossible system.”[14]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 196n. Contemptuous, full of loathing and derision, and with never so stinging retorts as those directed at Christianity, you cannot help but admire the man.

Ritson saw that claims of superiority and dominion over animals were based on man’s groundless self-serving myths and a “glory which his intellect has ascribed to god”[15]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 51. Christians are hypocrites, he asserts, as they “would addict themselves to animal food, as they eat blood and things strangle’d in direct opposition to their own religion, and the express prohibition of god himself.”[16]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 202. Religion is blamed, specifically priests, for starting humanity on the path of bloody feasting and the poisoning of the intellect with alter sacrifices.

Superstition is the mother of Ignorance and Barbarity. Priests began by persuading people of the existence of certain invisible beings, which they pretended to be the creators of the world, and the dispensers of good and evil; and of whose wills, in fine, they were the sole interpreters. Hence arose the necessity of sacrifices to appease the wrath or procure the favour of imaginary gods, but, in reality, to gratify the gluttonous and unnatural appetites of real demons.. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 102.[/ref]

An idea more overt in Ritson’s age than today, and something Ritson grasped more clearly than all manner of atheists today, was the importance of rejecting the scriptural justifications for animal abuses through dismissing its assertion of dominion. “Atheism was the ground-rock for demolishing the idea of man’s violent supremacy over animals.”[17]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 364. This is a connection between veganism and atheism that remains today, whether consciously acknowledged or not, and puts veganism in opposition to the permissions of orthodox Christianity.

As an atheist Ritson agreed with Lucretius that the world was not made by a diety,[18]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 11. and he spends much of the first chapter of An Essay on Abstinence discussing a material explanation for humankind’s emergence and its position in creation as just another beast among beasts—specifically worthy of classifying with monkeys and belonging perhaps to the orangutan family.[19]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 12-13.

Had he lived in Darwin’s day, perhaps few would have been more delighted and enthusiastic than Ritson in an evolutionary explanation for existence. He would have felt doubly vindicated, as an atheist and, in seeing evolution’s significance for the kinship of all creatures, as a vegetarian. More than suffering and sentiment, Ritson’s argument for a moral duty toward nonhumans rests on the idea of a universal right to life of all godless creatures.[20]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 362.

Ritson is very modern in his contempt for humanity’s anthropomorphic conceits and in the way he saw humans as a kind of pernicious animal of overrated significance. Many today would genuinely share this pronouncement:

The only mode in which man or brute can be useful or happy, with respect either to the generality or to the individual, is to be just, mild, mercyful, benevolent, humane, or, at least, innocent or harmless, whether such qualities be natural or not; but if the present system of murder, bloodshed, cruelty, malignance, and mischief, should continue, it would be better that such diabolical monsters should cease to exist.[21]Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 40.

But many of his era were outraged at the blasphemies, at the attack not just on humanity’s privileged position but also on its justification in a divine maker. After Ritson succumbed to insanity and died, it was typically put down in some quarters to “providential vengeance.”[22]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 367.

Ritson’s legacy is better appreciated in our more secular age, where his logic cannot be denied concerning superstitious belief:

Ritson moved away from the sentimental culture that focused on the suffering of animals, and evolved an argument based on atheism: without the scriptural mandate, or even an eternal soul marking him our from the rest of the animals, what right did an intelligent ape have to claim mastery over all his fellow creatures.[23]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 370.

With Ritson, writes Spencer, “the rights of human beings extended to include for the first time the rights of animals,”[24]Colin Spencer, The Heretics Feast: A History of Vegetarianism (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1995), 234. but there was more to it than that—with Ritson, you could not expect the moral progress of human civilization, let alone social justice and reform, without first ending the barbarism of flesh-eating.

Percy Shelley

Establishing central tenets of the vegatheist aesthetic, Ritson influenced future generations of vegathiest pioneers, including the poet who would become the most famous of them all, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). The two moved in the same circles, though years apart. William Godwin, who had married Mary Wollstonecraft and whose daughter Mary would become Shelley’s second wife (and author of Frankenstein, about a vegetarian monster), welcomed free thinkers such as Ritson and other vegetarians into his home. Later, Shelley was a guest, mingling with others at the forefront of ideas on vegetarianism, atheism, feminism, and socialism.

Shelley was an atheist before he was a vegan. In his short essay The Necessity of Atheism (1811), published as a pamphlet that got him expelled from Oxford University, you will find no reference to animals or meat eating. A few years later, it is a major concern in A Vindication of Natural Diet (1813) and later in his next atheist polemic, A Refutation of Deism: In a Dialogue (1814). Shelley’s posits many of the classic arguments undermining irrational beliefs in imaginary beings and magical thinking that are still used today, including the decisive “God is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus probandi rests on the theist.”[25]Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 5. He is not shy, either, about equating imbecility with stupid beliefs:

That credulity should be gross in proportion to the ignorance of the mind which it enslaves, is in strict consistency with the principles of human nature. The idiot, the child, and the savage, agree in attributing their own passions and propensities to the inanimate substances by which they are either benefited or injured. The former become Gods and the latter Demons; hence prayers and sacrifices, by the means of which the rude Theologian imagines that he may confirm the benevolence of the one, or mitigate the malignity of the other. …The bigot of the woods can form no conception of beings possessed of properties differing from his own: it requires, indeed, a mind considerably tinctured with science, and enlarged by cultivation to contemplate itself, not as the centre and model of the Universe, but as one of the infinitely various multitude of beings of which it is actually composed.

There is no attribute of God which is not either borrowed from the passions and powers of the human mind, or which is not a negation.[26]Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 68-69.

In this, his second atheist polemic, we see Shelley incorporate animal advocacy and vegetarian philosophies where he can into what is essentially an atheist thesis. Only an idiot, Shelley is saying, could think butchering an animal in sacrifice will sway a god or fortune to one’s favor.

In A Vindication of Natural Diet, Shelley asserts that humankind’s original diet was vegetarian—as it was in the mythical Eden. In place of a biblical fall, Shelley proposes a secular fall that began when humans started killing animals and eating meat. So for Shelley, there was a vegetarian age and a meat age!

The age of meat eating resulted in a kind of spiritual and physical infection causing maladies that have plagued generation after generation. This viewpoint, drawing on the thinking of Ritson and others, appears in his most famous of poem, Queen Mab, with a vision of the future:

… no longer now
He slays the lamb that looks him in the face,
And horribly devours his mangled flesh,
Which, still avenging Nature’s broken law,
Kindled all putrid humors in his frame,
All evil passions and all vain belief,
Hatred, despair and loathing in his mind,
The germs of misery, death, disease and crime.

Not simply illnesses but practically all evils stem from a poisoning meat diet, Shelley contends, and the only way to cure humanity of “penury, disease, and crime” is through a return to the original vegetarian diet. By striking at the “root of the evil” of meat eating will bring a new golden age of health and harmony. Rather than the whimsies of a dreamer poet, Shelley’s convictions had some basis in what he thought at the time was solid scientific evidence.[27]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 380, 384. Interestingly, his emphasis on ill-health and bodily damage caused by meat eating is now backed by real evidence.

In Shelley’s view, the effects of diet were simply a matter of cause and effect in a materialist world. Man’s “gluttonous and unnatural appetite for the flesh of animals” and its pernicious effects simply come down to “properties of organised matter.” So, with a vegetarian diet humanity’s malignancies would evaporate thanks to its benign effects. By extension, diet was intimately linked to social reform. A golden age, for Shelley, was one in which humankind is, to use the words from Prometheus Unbound, “Equal, unclassed, -tribeless and nationless.” As Stuart writes, Shelley extended his “physiological explanation for moral depravity into a political vision.”[28]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 379. In effect, he combined science, vegetarianism, and atheism within a unified sociopolitical framework.

In A Refutation of Deism, using a variation on the argument from evil against the existence of a god, Shelley points out that human physiology is sufficient to demonstrate the unnaturalness of flesh eating, so it is an absurdity to think a creator has orchestrated flesh eating.[29]Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 64. Dismissing religious absurdities that fail to explain evils in the world, Shelley then identifies the tyranny of humankind over beasts as driven by the same debase moral vacuity and callousness behind the tyranny of man over man.

… a defenceless ox, groaning beneath the butcher’s axe, is a spectacle which instantly awakens compassion in a virtuous and unvitiated breast. Many there are, however, sufficiently hardened to the rebukes of justice and the precepts of humanity, as to regard the deliberate butchery of thousands of their species, as a theme of exultation and a source of honour, and to consider any failure in these remorseless enterprises as a defect in the system of things.[30]Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 66.

Thus with an atheistic worldview and a dietary explanation for violence and evil, animal advocacy becomes crucial for moral progress and justice for all sentient beings. You cannot rid the world of oppression and cruelty and obtain a utopia without cutting out the root of those evils.

Because of his focus on human improvement, Shelley has been accused of adopting an anthropocentric stance on animal welfare. The idea that cruelty toward animals led to human vices, and therefore stopping animal cruelty will improve human society is nothing new—it was the very premise, for example, of Hogarth’s The Four Stages of Cruelty. Most of Shelley’s contemporaries could see the merits in this traditional anthropocentric view, so to argue for vegetarianism along the lines of human improvement was sound reasoning and got you in less trouble.[31]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 380-383. And Shelley’s degree of anthropocentrism depends on where one looks. In Queen Mab he envisages reformed humankind frolicking in “friendly sport” with “dreadless” creatures as “An equal amidst equals.”

It might be stated, then, that while Ritson dragged humanity from its throne of anthropomorphic conceit and threw it to the ground, level with other animals, Shelley sought to raise it up, dust it off, and lead it to a new golden era where all creatures were free from tyranny.

Even so, the establishment fell over themselves to condemn Shelley, and once they had calmed down, once he was good and dead, they cast about for explanations for his behavior. The following is from a review of Queen Mab, whose writer, overwhelmed with “sorrow, indignation, and loathing,” is comically wracked with exasperation at being forced to praise Shelley’s poetry while at the same time condemn him in all urgency. There is no equivocation of sentiment about Shelley—to the point of hilarity.

we feel as if one of the darkest of the fiends had been clothed with a human body, to enable him to gratify his enmity against the human race, and as if the supernatural atrocity of his hate were only heightened by his power to do injury. So strongly has this impression dwelt upon our minds, that we absolutely asked a friend, who had seen this individual, to describe him to us—as if a cloven foot, or horn, or flames from the mouth, must have marked the external appearance of so bitter an enemy to mankind.[32]The Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, Volume 5, no. 226 (May 19, 1821).

Shelley is cast as demonic for his “deep pollutions and horrid blasphemies” against divine ordination, divine creation, and all that is of moral worth.

however gifted his talents, he has only heaped coals of fine upon his head by their perversion, and is a writer to be shunned, loathed, and execrated by every virtuous mind, as dangerous to the ignorant and weak, hateful to the lovers of social felicity, and an enemy to all that is valuable in life, or hopeful in eternity.

Words fail to describe the true extent of the reviewer’s detestation, though he tries his best. Soon after citing the poem’s phase “There is no God!” for which Shelley is called a “Miserable worm!” the reviewer seems near collapse.

We cannot proceed : pages of raving atheism, even more atrocious than what we have quoted, follow; add the blasphemer revels in all the pruriency of his disordered and diabolical fancy. For men like the writer, when they are known to exist, there are no terms of infamy sufficiently strong.

This was how Shelley was regarded, a “demoniac proscriber of his species, and insolent insulter of his Maker,” by a great many upright faith-infected citizens. Honestly, judging from this reception, one cannot help but admire Shelley even more for his ethically sound poetics, conviction, and courage.

Henry S. Salt

What Shelley ascribed to diet, a cause of mass cruelties and violence, he might have in a later age put down to the imperfect character of an evolving ape. That was the attitude of a great admirer and scholar of Shelley’s, and the most significant vegatheist after Shelley, the great Henry S. Salt (1851-1939). Salt can rightly be called the father of modern animal rights, as he wrote what is among the finest tracts on animal rights ever written, Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress, given that its arguments—some drawn from antiquity—remain current today in modern variations.

In this seminal work, Salt implicitly placed atheism and rational discourse at the center of the debate over the status of animals, rejecting the “pretensions” and delusions of religious based philosophies and myth:

The fallacious idea that the lives of animals have “no moral purpose” is at root connected with these religious and philosophical pretensions which Schopenhauer so powerfully condemns. To live one’s own life—to realize one’s true self—is the highest moral purpose of man and animal alike; and that animals possess their due measure of this sense of individuality is scarcely open to doubt. ” We have seen,” says Darwin, ” that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.”[33]Henry S. Salt, Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1922), 11-12.

Salt did not proclaim his atheist or evolutionary beliefs openly, choosing a less confrontational approach, and even in his prescribed funeral address he is indirect in calling himself a “rationalist, socialist, pacifist, and humanitarian,”[34]George Hendrick, Henry Salt: Humanitarian Reformer and Man of Letters (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977), 1. but when he had a mind to, he pulled no punches in condemning religion:

Religion has never befriended the cause of humaneness. Its monstrous doctrine of eternal punishment and the torture of the damned underlies much of the barbarity with which man has treated man; and the deep division imagined by the Church between the human being, with his immortal soul, and the soulless “beasts”, has been responsible for an incalculable sum of cruelty.[35]Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 213.

It is a theme he repeats, sometimes through conveying the chagrin of others, such as this quote he supplies from Mrs. Anna Jameson (1794-1860):

the primitive Christians, by laying so much stress upon a future life, in contradistinction to this life, and placing the lower creatures out of the pale of hope, placed them at the same time out of the pale of sympathy, and thus laid the foundation for this utter disregard of animals in the light of our fellow-creatures.[36]Henry S. Salt, Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1922), 9.

Salt singled out evils such as these, clear and demonstrable to anyone with rational apprehension, rather than promoted, as Shelley had, the dubious transformational effects of a blood-based diet. For Salt, responsibly rested squarely with each individual. It came down to their heart, their “humaneness,” and their willingness to recognize the “creed of kinship” among living things. If they failed to see this truth, the fault lay with their own ignorance and conceit.

my countrymen are still practically ignorant of the real kinship which exists between mankind and the other races, and of the duties which this kinship implies. They are still the victims of that old anthropocentric superstition which pictures Man as the centre of the universe, and separated from the inferior animals—mere playthings made for his august pleasure and amusement—by a deep intervening gulf.[37]Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 13.

What vegan atheist has not at least once thought the very same thought as this, across generations, in sympathy with Salt, just as he was in sympathy with earlier and ancient writers voicing the same dissatisfaction. We have all recognized how painfully little has changed for the better in the face of socially approved anthropomorphic vanities and excuses:

“A good man,” said Plutarch, “will take care of his horses and dogs, not only while they are young, but when old and past service. We ought certainly not to treat living beings like shoes and household goods, which, when worn out with use, we throw away.” Such was the feeling of the old pagan writer, and our good Christians of the present age scarcely seem to have improved on it. True, they do not “throw away” their superannuated carriage-horses—it is so much more lucrative to sell them to the shopman or cab-proprietor, who will in due course pass them on to the knacker and cat’s-meat man.[38]Henry S. Salt, Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1922), 28.

On the whole, Salt exercised self-restraint under “truce,” his goal being to marshal sympathizers to the animal cause rather than push them away, whether they be religionists or rationalists, “feeling that persons of all persuasions should on ethical subjects be able to work in unison.”[39]The Savior of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick (Sussex: Centaur Press, 1989), 199.

Ultimately however, Salt saw free thinking as “essential” to establishing humanitarian principles and rationality as a replacement for superstitious nonsense, such that one should follow a kind of “free or rational religion” based on kinship.[40]The Savior of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick (Sussex: Centaur Press, 1989), 198. In this, rationalists would need to fulfill their ethical duties to a greater extent than they have been—and what a message for today, a time when such wishes still have not been fulfilled. The rational skeptics and atheist, the progressives of all stamps, the modern Humanists all continue to ignore today what Salt asserted was necessary before any boast of high “civilization.”[41]The Savior of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick (Sussex: Centaur Press, 1989), 200-201.

What Salt’s free thinking humanitarianism entailed was the dismantling of divisive hierarchies. Like Ritson and Shelley before him, Salt identified the cause for animals as indelibly linked to the wider causes of justice, social equality and reform. Salt based the concomitant evolution of human and nonhuman liberation on morality and sentience.

The emancipation of men from cruelty and injustice will bring with it in due course the emancipation of animals also. The two reforms are inseparably connected, and neither can be fully realised alone.[42]Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 122.

And again:

Reformers of all classes must recognize that it is useless to preach peace by itself, or socialism by itself, or anti-vivisection by itself, or vegetarianism by itself, or kindness to animals by itself. The cause of each and all of the evils that afflict the world is the same the general lack of humanity, the lack of the knowledge that all sentient life is akin, and that he who injures a fellow-being is in fact doing injury to himself. The prospects of a happier society are wrapped up in this despised and neglected truth.[43]Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 242-244.

The core issue is the mentality, the tyranny and inhumanity behind these actions regardless of the victim. To engage in promoting a vegetarian lifestyle was more than just an objection to animal cruelty, it was a critique of contemporary society and its normalized systems of oppression.

Salt counted among his friends George Bernard Shaw, who became a vegetarian after reading Shelley and was also an atheist, although later in life he voiced dubious mystical views. With a tendency to rankle, Shaw was not the best spokesperson for vegetarianism but on occasion he defended it with wit; for instance, he deflated the common argument that meat is manly by reminding that bulls and elephants are herbivores, and he made that memorable observation that eating scorched animal corpses was “cannibalism with its heroic dish omitted.”

Salt was also acquainted with Gandhi, who arrived in beef-loving England in 1888 and was overjoyed to see his food choices greatly enhanced with the discovery of a vegetarian restaurant. Upon walking in, and even before he had had his first sumptuous meal in weeks, he purchased a copy of Salt’s A Plea for Vegetarianism, which had a profound effect upon him, making him for the first time “a vegetarian by choice.”[44]Mohanda K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, trans. by Mahadev Desai (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), 48. He later met Salt, immerse himself in more vegetarian texts and in London’s vegetarian circles, became an executive member of the Vegetarian Society, and absorbed other radical ideas floating around at the time on moral and social reform, human rights and civil disobedience.

Gandhi took these ideological underpinnings with him to South Africa, where he engaged in social activism, and then to India, where he sought to end colonial tyranny and led “the largest non-violent movement of radical liberation the world has ever seen.”[45]Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 398. In 1931, Gandhi returned to London to discuss Indian independence with the British government, and during his visit he gave a speech as a long term member of the London Vegetarian Society, in which he praised Salt. There is a famous photograph of the occasion, featuring society members seated on stage with Gandhi, an aging Salt right beside him.

Salt continued to write and advocate for human and animal rights until his death in 1939. But post fin de siecle Britain was a land in which political reform, vegetarianism and animal rights were overshadowed by World War I, its aftermath, and further strife looming in Europe. It was too much to hope for public tolerance or sympathy for messages of wider compassion, and animal welfare issues were hidden and largely ignored, despite the introduction of anti-cruelty bills and work by the RSPCA.[46]Richard Ryder, Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism (London: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 131, 146, 181.

There were some lone voices but no one like Salt for decades, no vegan atheists of note emerge as powerful voices, not even the man who minted the word vegan in 1944, Donald Watson, an agnostic. It was as if something had been lost from those radical times of Victorian England. No one close to Salt’s statue would emerged in the 20th century until Peter Singer, who, in the 1975, rejuvenated the animal rights movement by publishing the vegan atheist classic Animal Liberation.

Peter Singer

Singer’s Animal Liberation brought a modern spin to familiar arguments passed on down through history, including those Salt had discussed, and extrapolated a new stance for animal rights based on sentience and the capacity to suffer. Activism and moral concern for animals had been on the rise since the 60s, and at Oxford Singer was a part of a coterie of intellectuals at the forefront of philosophical scholarship on animal rights’ ethics, taking it even further away from appeals to sentiment and placing it on the solid ground of reason and objective argument. It was what Salt had always tried to do, but Singer was better placed in an age when animal rights was a matured concept whose time had come.

The modern animal rights movement had been kick-started with pioneering books such as Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines (1964) and Stanley and Roslind Godlovitch’s and John Harris’ Animals, Men and Morals: An Inquiry into the Maltreatment of Non-humans (1971). It was guided through the 1970s and beyond by Singer and other luminaries such as Richard Ryder and Tom Regan, who presented it as an ethical evolution based on philosophical reasoning, cool common-sensed logic, evolutionary sciences, and revealed cruelties. As never before, the public was receiving accurate information and comprehensive moral commentaries about the inhumane treatment of animals quietly going on behind the scenes of fashion, agriculture, and laboratories.

Singer’s thought follows the tradition of the great British utilitarian philosophers, Bentham, Mill and Sidgwick, who presented the strongest objections to their age’s prevailing view on the moral concern for animals. However, their actual writings on the subject were side notes. Indeed, it is amusing—somewhat disconcerting too—to realize that the cornerstone of Singer’s thought, as set out in Animal Liberation, and much of what the modern animal rights movement is based on, originates from a footnote! It can be found in Jeremy Bentham’s An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), Chapter XVII, Section 4, toward the end, containing these superb lines:

The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate.

Singer quoted this section in a book review he wrote on the groundbreaking Animals, Men and Morals for The New York Review of Books, April 5, 1973, called “Ethics and the New Animal Liberation.” This, Singer’s precursor to Animal Liberation and opening broadside, elaborates on Bentham’s statement, saying that we cannot simply ignore the interests of animals because they are not members of our species, since the logic of such a position resembles that of the most blatant sexism or racism. You cannot give a sex or race superior moral status on the grounds of nothing more than belonging to a particular sex or race, while ignoring all other characteristics, so why do it on the grounds of species?

And even if someone were to argue for superiority based on other characteristics, Bentham identifies in his footnote a characteristic all animals share that trumps all attempts to artificially create superior moral standing:

Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

More pertinent now than hundreds of years ago, when Bentham first wrote it, since science is increasingly demonstrating how animals suffer and how their cognitive abilities are consistently well in excess of what used to be believed. This is what sits at the core of Singer’s arguments. If animals suffer, they, like us, have interests. Therefore suffering is a moral issue. And what a profound rebuttal to religion this is.

The analogy speciesism, sexism and racism analogy helps us to see how any claim to dominance over other species rests on arbitrary, species-selfish criteria, and the reality of suffering helps us to see how any claim that humans are the only creatures worthy of moral consideration is again species-selfish nonsense. Rejecting species-selfish claims like this directly challenges religious orthodoxy and its self-serving history of justifying animal exploitation. “It is beyond dispute,” writes Singer in the book review, “that mainstream Christianity, for its first 1,800 years, put non-human animals outside its sphere of concern. On this issue the key figures in early Christianity were unequivocal.”[47]Peter Singer, “Ethics and the New Animal Liberation,” The New York Review of Books (April 5, 1973). Paul scornfully rejected the thought that God might care about the welfare of oxen, and the incident of the Gadarene swine, in which Jesus is described as sending devils into a herd of pigs and making them drown themselves in the sea, is explained by Augustine as having been intended to teach us that we have no duties towards animals. This interpretation was accepted by Thomas Aquinas, who stated that the only possible objection to cruelty to animals was that it might lead to cruelty to humans. According to Aquinas, there was nothing wrong in itself with making animals suffer. This became the official view of the Roman Catholic Church to such good — or bad — effect that as late as the middle of the nineteenth century Pope Pius IX refused permission for the founding of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Rome, on the grounds that to grant permission would imply that human beings have duties to the lower creatures.

Singer extends his account of the tyranny of religion in Animal Liberation, a tyranny upheld by centuries of theologians and philosophers basing their thinking on presuppositions and a priori conclusions that we now know to be ridiculous. Yet it is a tyranny still with us today. The influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire did lead to an end to gladiatorial combats, Singer reminds us, but did nothing for animals:

not only did Christianity fail to temper the worst of Roman attitudes toward other animals; it unfortunately succeeded in extinguishing for a long, long time the spark of a wider compassion that had been kept alight by a tiny number of more gentle people.[48]Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Ecco, 2002), p. 192.

The idea that animals were specially created for human use was integral to the idea that human beings were the special creation of a god. To challenge that special status is to challenge all other presumptions based a supremely arrogant sense of importance. It challenges the idea that the human ape has a god of its own, revealing it as a complete farce.

A lot of criticism has come Singer’s way for knocking humans off their self-appointed anthropocentric pedestal and exposing the fallacy of the sanctity of human life, especially with statements like this:

The influence of the Judeo-Christian insistence on the God-like nature of human beings is nowhere more apparent than in the standard Western doctrine of the sanctity of human life: a doctrine that puts the life of the most hopelessly and irreparably brain damaged human being — of the kind whose level of awareness is not underestimated by the term ‘human vegetable’ — above the life of a chimpanzee.[49]Peter Singer, “Ethics and the New Animal Liberation,” The New York Review of Books (April 5, 1973) and see Animal Liberation (New York: Ecco, 2002), p. 18.

The kind of outrage and derision Singer has been subjected to, including from animal rights activists, is reminiscent of what Ritson faced. But Singer’s views are not so different from those of respected scientists. Look at this statement from Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, published a year after Animal Liberation:

The feeling that members of one’s own species deserve special moral consideration as compared with members of other species is old and deep …A human foetus, with no more human feeling than an amoeba, enjoys a reverence and legal protection far in excess of those granted to an adult chimpanzee. Yet the chimp feels and thinks and—according to recent experimental evidence—may even be capable of learning a form of human language. The foetus belongs to our own species, and is instantly accorded special privileges and rights because of it. Whether the ethic of ‘speciesism’’, to use Richard Ryder’s term, can be put on a logical footing any more sound than that of ‘racism’, I do not know.[50]Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 10.

Dawkins expresses the same view later in The Blind Watchmaker.[51]Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), 262-263. At this time, he was surer about the logical footing of speciesism, just as he was in the essay “Gaps in the Mind” for a book on The Great Ape Project, an initiative seeking legal rights for nonhuman great apes: “the melancholy fact is that, at present, society’s moral attitudes rest almost entirely on the discontinuous, speciesist imperative.”[52]Richard Dawkins, “Gaps in the Mind,” The Great Ape Project (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1993), 86. “Melancholy,” because for all intents and purposes societies behave as if faithfully adhering to speciesist religious doctrine.

At junctures like this, when you see ethical philosophy and science meet in agreement, you know at least some intelligent people are on the right track and that the prospect for higher civilization is perhaps just a little bit closer.

In the tradition of the long established vegatheist creed, Singer treats animal advocacy as part of a larger ethical, social and political stance aimed at moral progress and improving life for everyone. He expresses this at the end of the book review:

This revolution is the culmination of a long line of ethical development. I cannot do better than quote the words of that splendid nineteenth century historian of ideas, W. E. H. Lecky. In his History of European Morals Lecky wrote: ‘At one time the benevolent affections embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a class, then a nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity, and finally, its influence is felt in the dealings of man with the animal world.’ Lecky anticipated what the animal liberationists are now saying. … Just as we have progressed beyond the blatantly racist ethic of the era of slavery and colonialism, so we must now progress beyond the speciesist ethic of the era of factory farming, of the use of animals as mere research tools, of whaling, seal hunting, kangaroo slaughter and the destruction of wilderness. We must take the final step in expanding the circle of ethics.[53]Peter Singer, “Ethics and the New Animal Liberation,” The New York Review of Books (April 5, 1973).

Again, in Animal Liberation, Singer expands on linking vegetarianism and a non-speciesist philosophy on life to moral progress and the ending of suffering, to political opposition against unchecked capitalism, to the righting of social hypocrisies, to taking a stand against world hunger, to fighting environmental pollution and ecological ruin, and of course, as we have seen, to rejecting embedded attitudes of dubious and religious origins. Vegetarianism, Singer rightly points out, is a protest action through boycott that has social and political outcomes.

After Animal Liberation, Singer went on to write a range of books expanding further on the ethical life as a boycott. He returns again to the same theme of widening the circle of compassion, for example, in The Ethics of What We Eat:

… we are drawing a moral circle around our own species, even when the members of our own species protected by that moral boundary are not superior in any morally relevant characteristics to many nonhuman animals who fall outside that moral circle. If we fail to expand this circle, we will be unable to defend ourselves against racists and sexists who want to draw the boundaries more closely around themselves.[54]Peter Singer and Jim Mason, The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter (Rodale Books, 2007), 247.

Singer’s approach to animal advocacy is characterized by an eminent reasonableness, asserting logical rather than emotional arguments. He emphasizes not so much inherent animal rights as ethical concern in terms of an equal consideration of interests for all sentient beings. He has made it hard to argue against this approach based on utilitarianism and the greatest consideration of interests for the widest number of beings. Nonetheless, for an apparent concessionary position toward animal exploitation—accepting that if welfare is improved enough it might make killing and eating animals acceptable—he has been reviled by many animal activists. First of all, they need to calm down. The devil is in the details. Here is what Singer would need to find eating beef defensible:

where animals live a fairly natural life—we assume it’s sustainable, although, as I said, because of cattle and the amount of methane they produce, sustainable farming with cattle is difficult to defend—and if they are painlessly killed, and they don’t have to go through the transport to slaughter and that slaughter is done in a way that is calm for them, I think you could argue it is defensible, at least if it satisfies some reasonably significant human need, and it could do that if it were a way of obtaining food from pasture that could not be used for crops, and which therefore adds to the amount of food available for us in a sustainable way.[55]Peter Singer, “Darwin and the Animals,” talk given at the Ideas Festival, Bristol, 2009.

We all know this is impossible. Singer is having it both ways. He retains his credentials of strictly adhering to a substantial utilitarian tradition and philosophical propriety—with reasonableness that even rational thinking animal exploiters are hard-pressed to dismiss—yet at the same time sets such impossibly high standards that nothing other than a vegan position is actually possible. Despite grass-fed organic beef options available and enough wealth to pay for them, you will not see Singer chowing down on a medium rare, restraining that moral circle, any time soon. So haters, take a breather.

Anyone who promotes veganism and rejects religious idiocies, as we have seen of all the great men above, can’t be all that bad.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 295.
2. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 301.
3. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 306.
4. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 301.
5. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 300.
6. Other vegan atheists of his age were not as stringent in their skepticism and reasoning against false supernatural justifications. You got the odd quack. The adventurer and free thinker John “Walking” Stewart (1747-1822), who, like Oswald, also traveled India and came under the influence of Eastern philosophies, was a vegetarian atheist, an advocate of promiscuity, and, friend of De Quincey, a partaker of laudanum. His delusions of grandeur and egotism gave little time for gods. Incorporated into Stewart’s grandiose ideas on social order was a personal philosophy influenced by Hinduism that combined theories on karma, the Epicurean idea of sensation transference via atoms, a Pythagorean metempsychosis, and the universal interconnectedness of all life. At least the good that came out of this nebulous philosophical slurry was that all sentient beings were naturally included within his range of moral concern.
7. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 201.
8. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 369.
9. Henry Alfred Burd, Joseph Ritson: A Critical Biography (University of Illionois, 1916), 19.
10. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 365.
11. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 362.
12. Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet: A Catena of Authorities Deprecatory of the Practice of Flesh-Eating (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003 [orig. 1883]), 186.
13. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 206.
14. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 196n.
15. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 51.
16. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 202.
17. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 364.
18. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 11.
19. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 12-13.
20. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 362.
21. Joseph Ritson, An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food as a Moral Duty (London: Wilks and Taylor, 1802), 40.
22. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 367.
23. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 370.
24. Colin Spencer, The Heretics Feast: A History of Vegetarianism (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1995), 234.
25. Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 5.
26. Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 68-69.
27. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 380, 384.
28. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 379.
29. Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 64.
30. Selected Prose Works of Shelley, forward by Henry S. Salt (London: Watt’s & Co., 1915), 66.
31. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 380-383.
32. The Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, Volume 5, no. 226 (May 19, 1821).
33. Henry S. Salt, Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1922), 11-12.
34. George Hendrick, Henry Salt: Humanitarian Reformer and Man of Letters (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977), 1.
35. Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 213.
36. Henry S. Salt, Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1922), 9.
37. Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 13.
38. Henry S. Salt, Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1922), 28.
39. The Savior of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick (Sussex: Centaur Press, 1989), 199.
40. The Savior of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick (Sussex: Centaur Press, 1989), 198.
41. The Savior of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick (Sussex: Centaur Press, 1989), 200-201.
42. Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 122.
43. Henry Salt, Seventy Years Among Savages (London: George Unwin & Allen, 1921), 242-244.
44. Mohanda K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, trans. by Mahadev Desai (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), 48.
45. Tristram Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008), 398.
46. Richard Ryder, Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism (London: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 131, 146, 181.
47. Peter Singer, “Ethics and the New Animal Liberation,” The New York Review of Books (April 5, 1973). Paul scornfully rejected the thought that God might care about the welfare of oxen, and the incident of the Gadarene swine, in which Jesus is described as sending devils into a herd of pigs and making them drown themselves in the sea, is explained by Augustine as having been intended to teach us that we have no duties towards animals. This interpretation was accepted by Thomas Aquinas, who stated that the only possible objection to cruelty to animals was that it might lead to cruelty to humans. According to Aquinas, there was nothing wrong in itself with making animals suffer. This became the official view of the Roman Catholic Church to such good — or bad — effect that as late as the middle of the nineteenth century Pope Pius IX refused permission for the founding of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Rome, on the grounds that to grant permission would imply that human beings have duties to the lower creatures.
48. Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (New York: Ecco, 2002), p. 192.
49. Peter Singer, “Ethics and the New Animal Liberation,” The New York Review of Books (April 5, 1973) and see Animal Liberation (New York: Ecco, 2002), p. 18.
50. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 10.
51. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), 262-263.
52. Richard Dawkins, “Gaps in the Mind,” The Great Ape Project (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1993), 86.
53. Peter Singer, “Ethics and the New Animal Liberation,” The New York Review of Books (April 5, 1973).
54. Peter Singer and Jim Mason, The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter (Rodale Books, 2007), 247.
55. Peter Singer, “Darwin and the Animals,” talk given at the Ideas Festival, Bristol, 2009.

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