A Vindication of Natural Diet.


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Newton's Defence of Vegetable Regimen, from whom I have borrowed this interpretation of the fable of Prometheus. Jupiter, and the rest of the gods, foreseeing the consequences of these inventions, were amused or irritated at the short-sighted devices of the newly-formed creature, and left him to experience the sad effects of them.

Man and the animals whom he has infected with his society, or depraved by his dominion, are alone diseased. The wild hog, the mouflon, the bisoQ, and the wolf are per- fectly exempt from malady, and invariably die either from external violence or natural old age. But the domestic hog, the sheep, the cow, and the dog are subject to an incredible variety of distempers; and, like the corrupters of their nature, have physicians who thrive upon their miseries.

The supereminence of man is like Satan's, a supereminence of pain ; and the majority of his species, doomed to penury, disease, and crime, have reason to curse the untoward event that, by enabling him to communicate his sensations, raised him above the level of his fellow animals.

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But the steps that have been taken are irrevocable. I believe that abstinence from animal food and spirituous liquors would in a great measure capacitate us for the solution of this important question. A Vindication of Natural Diet nothing : he has neither claws wherewith to seize his prey, nor distinct and pointed teeth to tear the living fibre.

After every subterfuge of gluttony, the bull must be degraded into the ox, and the ram into the wether, by an unnatural and inhuman operation, that the flaccid fibre may offer a fainter resistance to rebellious nature. Then, and then only, would he be consistent. Man resembles no carnivorous animal. There is no exception, except man be one, to the rule of herbivorous animals having cellulated colons.


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The orang-outang perfectly resembles man both in the order and number of his teeth. The orang-outang is the most anthropomorphous of the ape tribe, all of which are strictly frugivorous. There is no other species of animals in which this analogy exists. Eees's Cyclopaedia, article Man. The resemblance also of the human stomach to that of the orang-outang is greater than to that of any other animal. The intestines are also identical with those of herbivorous animals, which present a large surface for absorption, and have ample and cellulated colons.

The caecum also, though short, is larger than that of carnivorous animals ; and even here the orang-outang retains its accustomed similarity. The structure of the human frame then is that of one fitted to a pure vegetable diet, in every essential particular. It is true that the reluctance to abstain from animal food, in those who have been long accustomed to its stimulus, is so great in some persons of weak minds, as to be scarcely overcome ; but this is far from bringing any argu- ment in its favour.

A lamb which was fed for some time on flesh by a ship's crevf, refused its natural diet at the end of the voyage. There are numerous instances of horses, sheep, oxen, and even wood-pigeons, having been taught to live upon flesh, until they have loathed their natural aliment. Young children evidently prefer pastry, oranges, apples, and other fruit, to the flesh of animals, until, by the gradual depravation of the digestive organs, the free use of vege- tables has, for a time, produced serious inconveniences ; for a time, I say, since there never was an instance wherein a change from spirituous liquors and animal food to vegetables and pure water, has failed ultimately to invigorate the body, by rendering its juices bland and consentaneous, and to restore to the mind that cheerfulness and elasticity, which not one in fifty possesses on the present system.

A love of strong liquors is also with difficulty taught to infants. Almost every one remembers the wry faces the first glass of A Vindication of Natural Diet. Unsophisticated instinct is invariably un- erring ; but to decide on the fitness of animal food, from the perverted appetites which its constrained adoption produce, is to make the criminal a judge in his own cause ; it is even worse, it is appealing to the infatuated drunkard in a question of the salubrity of brandy.

What is the cause of morbid action in the animal system? Not the air we breathe, for our fellow denizens of nature breathe the same uninjured ; not the water we drink, if remote from the pollutions of man and his inventions, for the animals drink it too ; not the earth we tread upon ; not the unobscured sight of glorious nature, in the wood, the field, or the expanse of sky and ocean ; nothing that we are or do in common with the undiseased inhabitants of the forest. Except in children there remains no traces of that instinct which determines, in all other animals, what aliment is natural or otherwise ; and so perfectly obliterated are they in the reasoning adults of our species, that it has become necessary to urge considerations, drawn from comparative anatomy, to prove that we are naturally frugivorous.

Crime is madness. Madness is disease. Whenever the cause of disease shall be discovered, the root, from which all vice and misery have so long overshadowed the globe, will lie bare to the axe. All the exertions of man, from that moment, may be considered as tending to the clear profit of his species. No sane mind in a sane body resolves upon a real crime. It is a man of violent passions, blood- shot eyes, and swollen veins, that alone can grasp the knife 16 A Vindication of Natural Diet. The system of a simple diet promises no Utopian advantages.

It is no mere reform of legislation, whilst the furious passions and evil propensities of the human heart, in which it had its origin, are still unassuaged. It strikes at the root of all evil, and is an experiment which may be tried with success, not alone by nations, but by small societies, families, and even individuals. In no cases has a return to vegetable diet produced the slightest injury : in most it has been attended with changes undeniably beneficial. Should ever a physician be born with the genius of Locke, I am persuaded that he might trace all bodily and mental derangements to our unnatural habits, as clearly as that philosopher has traced all know- ledge to sensation.

What prolific sources of disease are not those mineral and vegetable poisons that have been introduced for its extirpation'? How many thousands have become murderers and robbers, bigots and domestic tyrants, dissolute and abandoned adventurers, from the use of fermented liquors; who had they slaked their thirst only at the mountain stream, would have lived but to diffuse the happiness of their own unperverted feelings.

How many groundless opinions and absurd institutions have not received a general sanction from the sottishness and intem- perance of individuals'? Who will assert that, had the populace of Paris drank at the pure source of the Seine, and satisfied their hunger at the ever-furnished table of vegetable nature that they would have lent their brutal suffrage to the proscription-list of Robespierre 1 Could a set of men, whose passions were not perverted by unnatural stimuli, look with coolness on an auto dafe?


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Is it to be believed that a being of gentle feelings, rising from his meal of roots, would take delight in sports of blood? A Vindication of Natural Diet, 17 Was Nero a man of temperate life 1 Could you read calm health in his cheek, flushed with ungovernable propensities of hatred for the human race 1 Did Muley Ismael's pulse beat evenly, was his skin transparent, did his eyes beam with healthfulness, and its invariable concomitants, cheer- fulness and benignity'? Though history has decided none of these questions, a child could not hesitate to answer in the negative.

Surely the bile-suffused cheek of Buona- parte, his wrinkled brow, and yellow eye, the ceaseless inquietude of his nervous system, speak no less plainly the character of his unresting ambition than his murders and his victories. It is impossible had Bonaparte descen- ded from a race of vegetable feeders, that he could have either the inclination or the power to ascend the throne of the Bourbons. The desire of tyranny could scarcely be excited in the individual; the power to tyrannise would certainly not be delegated by a society neither frenzied by inebriation, nor rendered impotent or irrational by disease.

Pregnant, indeed, with inexhaustible calamity is the renunciation of instinct, as it concerns our physical nature ; arithmetic cannot enumerate, nor reason perhaps suspect, the multitudinous sources of disease in civilised life. Even common water, that apparently innoxious pabulum, when corrupted by the filth of populous cities, is a deadly and insidious destroyer. Lambe'a " Report on Cancer. Omnipotence itself could not save them from the consequences of this original and universal sin.

There is no disease, bodily or mental, which adoption of vegetable diet and pure water has not infallibly mitigated, wherever the experiment has been fairly tried. Debility is gradually converted into strength, disease into healthful- ness : madness, in all its hideous variety, from the ravings of the fettered maniac, to the unaccountable irrationalities of ill-temper, that make a hell of domestic life, into a calm and considerable evenness of temper, that alone might offer a certain pledge of the future moral reformation of society.

On a natural system of diet, old age would be our last and our only malady : the term of our existence would be protracted ; we should enjoy Jife, and no longer preclude others from the enjoyment of it ; all sensational delights would be infinitely more exquisite and perfect ; the very sense of being would then be a continued pleasure, such as we now feel it in some few and favoured moments of our youth. By all that is sacred in our hopes for the human race, I conjure those who love happiness and truth, to give a fair trial to the vegetable system.

Reasoning is surely superfluous on a subject whose merits an experience of six months would set for ever at rest. But it is only among the enlightened and benevolent that so great a sacrifice of appetite and prejudice can be expected, even though its ultimate excellence should not admit of dispute. A Vindication of Natural Diet. The vulgar of all ranks are invariably sensual and indocile ; yet I cannot but feel myself per- suaded, that when the benefits of vegetable diet are mathematically proved ; when it is as clear, that those who live naturally are exempt from premature death, as that nine is not one, the most sottish of mankind will feel a preference towards a long and tranquil, con- trasted with a short and painful life.

On the average, out of sixty persons, four die in three years. In April, , a statement will be given that sixty persons, all having lived more than three years on vegetables and pure water, are then in perfect health. More than two years have now elapsed ; not one of them has died ; no such example will be found in any sixty persons taken at random. Seventeen persons of all ages the families of Dr. Newton have lived for seven years on this diet without a death, and almost without the slightest illness.

Surely, when we consider that some of these were infants, and one a martyr to asthma, now nearly subdued, we may challenge any seventeen persons taken at random in this city to exhibit a parallel case. Those who may have been excited to question the rectitude of established habits of diet, by these loose remarks, should consult Mr.

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Newton's luminous and eloquent essay. Cadell, 20 A Vindication of Natural Diet, When these proofs come fairly before the world, and are clearly seen by all who understand arithmetic, it is scarcely possible that abstinence from aliments demonstrably perni- cious should not become universal. In proportion to the number of proselytes, so will be the weight of evidence ; and when a thousand persons can be produced, living on vegetables and distilled water, who have to dread no disease but old age, the world will be compelled to regard animal flesh and fermented liquors as slow but certain poison.

The change which would be produced by simpler habits on political economy is sufficiently remarkable. The monopolising eater of animal flesh would no longer destroy his constitution by devouring an acre at a meal, and many loaves of bread would cease to contribute to gout, madness, and apoplexy, in the shape of a pint of porter or a dram of gin, when appeasing the long-protracted famine of the hard-working peasant's hungry babes.

The quantity of nutritious vegetable matter consumed in fattening the carcase of an ox, would aflbrd ten times the sustenance, undepraving indeed, and incapable of generating disease, if gathered immediately from the bosom of the earth. The most fertile districts of the habitable globe are now actually cultivated by men for animals, at a delay and waste of aliment absolutely incapable of calculation. It is only the wealthy that can, to any great degree, even now, indulge the unnatural craving for dead flesh, and they pay for the greater licence of the privilege, by subjection to supernumerary diseases.

Again, the spirit of the nation that should take the lead in this great reform would insensibly become agricultural : commerce, with all its vice, selfishness, and corruption, would gradually decline ; more natural habits A Vindication of Natural Diet. How would England, for example, depend on the caprices of foreign rulers, if she contained within herself all the neces- saries, and despised whatever they possessed of the luxuries of life?

How could they starve her into compliance with their views? Of what consequence would it be that they refused to take her woollen manufactures, when large and fertile tracts of the island ceased to be allotted to the waste of pasturage? On a natural system of diet, we should re- quire no spices from India ; no wines from Portugal, Spain, France, or Madeira ; none of those multitudinous articles of luxury, for which every corner of the globe is rifled, and which are the causes of so much individual rivalship, such calamitous and sanguinary national disputes.

In the history of modern times, the avarice of commercial monopoly, no less than the ambition of weak and wicked chiefs, seems to have fomented the universal discord, to have added stubbornness to the mistakes of cabinets, and indocility to the infatuation of the people.

A Vindication of Natural Diet. by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Let it ever be remembered, that it is the direct influence of commerce to make the interval between the richest and the poorest man wider and more unconquerable. Let it be remembered that it is a foe to every thing of real worth and excellence in the human character. The odious and disgusting aristoc- racy of wealth, is built upon the ruins of all that is good in chivalry or republicanism ; and luxury is the forerunner of a barbarism scarce capable of cure. Is it impossible to realize a state of society, where all the energies of man shall be directed to the production of his solid happiness?

Certainly, if this advantage the object of all poHtical speculation be in any degree attainable, it is attainable only by a community which holds out no factitious incentives to the avarice and ambition of the few, and which is in- ternally organized for the liberty, security, and comfort of the many. None must be entrusted with power and money is the completest species of power who do not stand pledged to use it exclusively for the general benefit.

But the use of animal flesh and fermented liquors, directly militates with this equality of the rights of man. The peasant cannot gratify these fashionable cravings without leaving his family to starve. The peasantry work, not only for themselves, but for the aristocracy, the army, and the manufacturers. The advantage of a reform in diet is obviously greater than that of any other.

It strikes at the root of the evil. To remedy the abuses of legislation, before we annihilate the propensities by which they are produced, is to suppose, that by taking away the effect, the cause will cease to operate. In the notes to Pratt's Poem, " Bread for the Poor, " is an account of an industrious labourer, who by working in a small garden, before and after his day's task, attained to an enviable state of independence. It proceeds securely from a number of particular cases to one that is universal, and has this advantage over the contrary mode, that one error does not invalidate all that has gone before.

Let not too much, however, be expected from this system. The healthiest among us is not exempt from hereditary disease. The most symmetrical, athletic, and long-lived, is a being inexpressibly inferior to what he would have been, had not the unnatural habits of his ancestors accumu- lated for him a certain portion of malady and deformity. In the most perfect specimen of civilized man something is still found wanting by the physiological critic.

Can a return to nature, then, instantaneously eradicate predis- positions that have been slowly taking root in the silence of innumerable ages? Indubitably not. All that I contend for is, that from the moment of the relinquishing all un- natural habits, no new disease is generated ; and that the predisposition to hereditary maladies gradually perishes for want of its accustomed supply. In cases of consumption, cancer, gout, asthma, and scrofula, such is the invariable tendency of a diet of vegetables and pure water. Those who may be induced by these remarks to give the vegetable system a fair trial, should, in the first place, date the commencement of their practice from the moment of their conviction.

All depends upon the breaking through a pernicious habit resolutely and at once. Animal flesh, in its effects on the human stomach, is analogous to a dram. The proselyte to a pure diet must be warned to expect a temporary diminution of muscular strength. The subtrac- tion of a powerful stimulus will suffice to account for this event. But it is only temporary, and is succeeded by an equable capability for exertion far surpassing his former various and fluctuating strength. Above all, he will acquire an easiness of breathing, by which the same exertion is per- formed with a remarkable exemption from that painful and difficult panting now felt by almost every one after hastily climbing an ordinary mountain.

He w be equally capable of bodily exertion or mental application after as before his simple meal. He will feel none of the narcotic effects of ordinary diet. Irritability, the direct consequence of exhausting stimuli, would yield to the power of natural and tranquil impulses. He will no longer pine under the lethargy of ennui, that unconquerable weariness of life, more dreaded than death itself He will escape the epidemic madness that broods over its own injurious notions of the Deity, and " realizes the hell that priests and beldams feign.

He would be incapable of hating or persecuting others for the love of God. He will find, moreover, a system of simple diet to be a system of perfect epicurism. The pleasures of taste to be derived from a dinner of pota- toes, beans, peas, turnips, lettuces, wdth a dessert of apples, gooseberries, strawberries, currants, raspberries, and in A Vindication of Natiiral Diet.

P B Shelley's A Vindication of the Natural Diet - The British Library

Those who wait until they can eat this plain fare with the sauce of appetite w scarcely join with the hypo- critical sensualist at a lord mayor's feast, who declaims against the pleasures of the table. Solomon kept a thousand concubines, and owned in despair that all was vanity. The man whose happiness is constituted by the society of one amiable woman would find some difficulty in sympathising wdth the disappointment of this venerable debauchee. I address myself not only to the young enthusiast, the ardent devotee of truth and virtue, the pure and passionate moralist, yet unvitiated by the contagion of the world.

He will embrace a pure system, from its abstract truth, its beauty, its simplicity and its promise of wide-extended benefit ; unless custom has turned poison into food, he wdll hate the brutal pleasures of the chase by instinct ; it will be a contemplation full of horror and disappointment to his mind, that beings capable of the gentlest and most admir- able sympathies, should take delight in the death-pangs and last convulsions of dying animals. Error rating book. Refresh and try again.

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Unknown Binding , 27 pages. More Details Original Title. A vindication of natural diet: Being one in a series of notes to Queen Mab : a philosophical poem. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. The purpose of this written piece by Shelly was to inform the reader of the benefits of a vegetable based diet and the need, the most dire need to show compassion to other sentience.

He details with articulate prowess the need to call and end to the hostilities of consuming the flesh of those which lived and breathed, and raises to attention the fact humans are Homo Saipiens Sapiens anatomically closest to apes which are fruigivorous, sustaining entirely from plant based matter.

What human wou The purpose of this written piece by Shelly was to inform the reader of the benefits of a vegetable based diet and the need, the most dire need to show compassion to other sentience. What human would slay an animal if it were required to look it in the eye? What developed human civilisation, with medicine, science and technology, transport and infrastructure has no choice but to maintain sustenance from formerly living flesh? What kind of a human being is naturally carnivorous to the point of being able to hunt down and tear apart a living animals flesh?

This written piece, had it been heeded like the bible for some- would not only have changed the environmental scene for the better, it would transform our world views. Shelly should be admired for his articulations so early on in history. Indubitably, a vindication for a natural diet this is. Oct 28, Amanda rated it did not like it. I can see why he was admired by Marx.

I'm glad I read it, but I didn't like it. Parts of it were good, but most was strange. I can understand Shakespeare and even Dante, but Shelley was a lot harder. It was very interesting, but I don't think the author was a very happy person. Aug 04, Tessa rated it really liked it. Shelley's activism here and his status as "the first celebrity vegan" shows how ahead of his time the Romantic poet truly was. While his arguments tend to be mostly health-related, he really does emphasize why so many people choose to go meat-free in the first place: the idea of consuming an animal "excite[s] intolerable loathing and disgust.

Long before vegetarianism became popular and intensive livestock farming was a topic, P. Shelley one of my favourite English poets contemplated on why eating meat is unnatural for humans and which negative implications it has on health. Further he critically addresses the concept of spending more money than you have as a community and the effects on economy. On both topics he was very foresighted. Aug 26, stephen k rated it liked it Shelves: biology , empiricism.

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