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Diet, Dress, Amusement and Hard Work

We have already remarked that there are meat eaters who would go out of their way to help an animal, and vegetarians who would just do nothing — who are even in the habit of ill-treating animals, or who neglect them. Illogical as this may seem, it is a fact. Vegetarianism — unless it be that conscious, purposeful, determined refusal to encourage the industry of death, which one so rarely comes across in its full, uncompromising vigor-is anything but a reliable certificate of kindness towards all sentient creatures.

Yet, though many sincere lovers of animals in the meat-eating countries may not be sufficiently aware of it, there is, undoubtedly, a contradiction in feeding on flesh when one has realized the ties of brotherhood that bind us to all life — especially to the warm-blooded beasts, so similar to ourselves in their expression of physical pain — and when one has felt what a ghastly thing the slaughter of animals is. Even if it could be proved that more than one of the most genuine upholders of life-centered philosophies has done so, it would not in the least make it less logical. It would only prove that some great people are less consistent with the spirit of their own teachings than one would expect them to be — a sad, but by no means astounding acknowledgement of human deceitfulness.

We think one can easily dismiss the foolish argument of those who say that “animals would overrun the world and eat us, if nobody ate them.” If that were so, then man should have been “overrun” and extinct long ago, for the number of animal species he actually eats is very limited. How is it that the other species, free to multiply ad infinitum, have allowed him to live until now?


A more stupid statement than the one just quoted can hardly be made, since it is precisely the meekest, the most defenceless and the most inoffensive animals — oxen, sheep, goats and pigs — which are daily sacrifices to man’s gluttonous greed in the public slaughterhouses, not wild boars, not bears, not poisonous snakes, not man-eating tigers. Moreover, in the present state of affairs, in which the edible species have mostly been domesticated, the birth rate among those animals depends entirely upon man. In fact, the males and females are purposely brought together and made to have young ones in order that man may not miss his regular supply of tender flesh — a most revolting process of exploitation, if one only comes to think of it. If they were left to themselves, there is little chance that their number would increase as rapidly. In the rare regions where they are still wild, carnivorous beasts of a larger size would prevent their increase by preying on them. In the other areas of the globe, where human intelligence regulates all it likes, there would be no need for them to multiply beyond certain limits — no need for them to multiply at all, in fact, save as far as it is necessary to keep their species alive; for man, once he gave up the sickening idea of bringing up young animals for the butcher, would surely not allow the domesticated males and females to meet but at sufficiently rare intervals.

Anyone having a minimum of sensitiveness and refinement will admit that it is a horrible action to prompt females of any species to bear young ones just for slaughter. And the most pathetic side of the question is that, as we have remarked in another chapter, numbers of meat eaters, at least in England, Germany and America — and surely elsewhere too — seem to love the beauty of a kid, of a calf or of a lamb frisking about in a meadow. The sight of it (or of any beast, among those classified as “edible”) does not urge them, personally, to go and stick a knife into its throat, as it would urge a hungry tiger to spring upon it and tear it to pieces. And yet they eat a slice of cold veal or a slice of roasted lamb without the slightest remorse — as though it were a slice of bread and jam; while to us, who have never done such a thing, this seems just as repulsive as eating a roasted baby. And we wonder how it is that people who call their children “my dear little lamb” do not feel as we do about meat in general, mutton in particular. A matter of habit we suppose. The cannibals must be feeling the same about fattened human flesh. And why would they not?

But our opponents come forth with another argument to defend meat eating and to distinguish it from cannibalism. They concede


that, as one ponders over it, it does appear to be a cruel practice. But, they add: “what can be done? Is not nature herself cruel through and through? Does not one animal species prey upon another? The only thing beasts do not do is to prey upon their own species; tigers do not eat other tigers, nor wolves other wolves; cannibalism, therefore, is ‘unnatural,’ while meat eating is natural. If the carnivorous kings of the jungle are entitled to kill and eat cows, sheep and goats, is not man — the king of creation — to enjoy the same right as they? Nature has provided him with teeth obviously intended to tear flesh, and his body needs proteins. He cannot work hard, physically, at least in a cold climate, without eating meat or cooking his vegetables in animal fats. Doubtless he should kill his victims as ‘humanely’ as possible. But somebody has to kill them, and slaughterhouses are a necessary evil.”

Such series of statements one hears ad nauseam each time one tries to argue with meat eaters in the name of the right of animals to live. And how it is that more people, of those who profess to think rationally, do not seem to be aware of the fallacies they cover, we do not understand. Surely animals prey upon one another, in the wild and even in the domesticated state. The wolf eats the lamb; the tiger the antelope; big fishes eat smaller ones, and an ordinary domestic cat, carnivorous by nature, does not really thrive unless one gives him meat, or preferably fish. Quite a number of species also feed solely upon the vegetable world — upon grass, leaves or fruit. But one thing is certain, and this is that the carnivorous species, in their natural state, at least, do not eat anything else but flesh (or fish), while the herbivorous ones eat no flesh at all, not even when domesticated — not even when famishing. And the latter are far more uncompromising than the former. Some carnivorous animals, under certain conditions, and for a certain time, can be brought to some extent to accept a different diet. A starving cat, for instance, will eat boiled rice or dry bread rather than nothing — though of course he would prefer a little milk or gravy with it. On the contrary, a starving cow or sheep would die before anyone could get it to eat a piece of meat. Man, at present, in most countries, eats both vegetables and flesh; and he tries to justify himself by bringing the example of “nature” into the argument. If, however, he wished to follow that example consistently, he would have to become either decidedly carnivorous or decidedly vegetarian. He refuses, on the ground that he is a civilized creature and likes variety — just as much as a pet dog that enjoys potato soup along with meat and bones. But we


cannot help remarking that the dog, even after centuries of contact, with “civilization” have perverted his tastes, would still much rather have the meat alone, provided there were enough of it to fill his stomach; while any man would soon feel disgusted if he had to live on nothing but meat, without bread, without potatoes, without rice, without anything — as really carnivorous animals would enjoy doing. And why? The answer is easy: the dog — and still more the cat — is carnivorous by nature; man is not, whatever he may say. It is not his “nature” to eat meat. It is an acquired taste — acquired, most probably, many millenniums ago, perhaps under the pressure of abnormal circumstances, and kept ever since; yet a taste that is not constitutionally, irredeemably inherent in human nature.

* * *

But meat eaters are not content with that observation. “All right,” they say, “the taste for flesh is, in man, an acquired one. What difference does it make? It has been prevalent for such a long time that it has become, in us, a second nature. It would be very difficult to do away with it. Moreover, since meat is good for our health and since it can be obtained, why should we go without it? What of it if man be the only living species that enjoys meat and vegetables alike? He represents the superior species, nobody can deny that. Should he not allot himself the right to kill and eat, as all flesh-eating species do?”

It is on that point that we differ fundamentally from those who, openly or not, profess in fact a man-centered creed. We admit with them that man is the cleverest creature of which we know on this earth. But we believe that as long as he uses his wits just for the same purpose as the rest of the living — that is to say, merely for his own personal survival or for that of his species; for his own welfare and for that of other men (be his conception of “welfare” far more comprehensive than that of any beast) — he is in no way different from them by nature. A degree cleverer, as we have said, of course. But, apart from that, an animal like any other. His only real superiority lies, in our eyes, in the fact that he can, and sometimes does consider, beyond and even against his own interest and that of his kind, the welfare of living creatures of any sort. A dog (especially if it be hungry) will not share its food with a hungry cat, or even with another dog. A hungry horse will not share its food with a hungry cow or goat. A bee or an ant will work for the welfare of the beehive or of the community of ants without bothering whether living beings of other species need any help or


not. A man who lives just for himself and his family is no better than a clever dog. Rather worse, for he wastes human intelligence on as narrow a purpose as any beast would choose to serve. A man who is merely conscious of his duties towards human society is no better than an ant, a bee, at the most a social monkey. Rather worse: for these cannot think or feel beyond their kind, while a man should be able to do so. Our opponents tell us that most of the “superior men” — great warriors, great artists, great thinkers, great rulers — from the “god-like heroes” of the Bronze Age down to the majority of the leading creative scientists of today, were and still are flesh eaters. That remark is of little weight in the present controversy. It only proves that there have always been exceptionally brilliant specimens of the animal-like human species. We knew that long ago, just as we know that there are prize dogs and exceptionally beautiful tigers and serpents. But that means nothing, save that nature works wonders on all levels. A meat eating thinker may be a fine specimen at his level. We cannot, however, compare him with Pythagoras or with the Buddha, — or, by the way, with the greatest European leader of all times; the most misunderstood among makers of history — who belong to a higher level altogether, any more than we can compare an outstanding cannibal with an equally intelligent man of a more evolved type. In our eyes, that man alone is really the specimen of a higher species who, beyond his own welfare and beyond the welfare of man in general, looks, in the daily routine of his practical life, to the welfare of all living creatures — of his pets, surely; but also of all cattle, of all wild beasts, of birds and fishes, insects and plants, to the extent of his power.

Whether it be true or fictitious, the beautiful story of the Buddha giving up his own body to feed a famishing tigress, in one of his former lives, is, to us, the story that illustrates the only true, unmistakable superiority of man: man’s power to love all creatures (not merely his human neighbors) as himself. So that the statement: “The tiger eats meat; why should not I, who am worth more than the tiger?” does not appear to us as merely foolish but also as insulting to the human race. It is precisely because I am “better than the tiger” that I cannot allow myself to feed on other sentient creatures’ flesh, as he does. (Moreover, the tiger has the excuse of not being able to live without meat, while a human being can well live on other items of food — in spite of what doctors and “scientists,” irredeemably steeped in the man-centered ideology of the civilization that trained them, may say).


If man really wishes to be a “superior species,” he has to give up the habit of acting as the “inferior” ones do. And if he cherishes the habit to the extent that he does not wish to give it up, then he must stop claiming “superiority” on any other grounds but those of the undeniable might that his brains give him, and openly admit that he believes might to be right. And if might be “right” when it determines the relation of the master species to the dumb creatures that have not the wits to become organized and to defend themselves against it, then surely it cannot but be “right” also when it determines the relation of the stronger, more intelligent or better organized and better equipped human groups to the weaker, lazier, poorer, less well-organized and less well-equipped ones. We know of nothing more painfully ridiculous than a man who criticizes those who have sacrificed or who are ready to sacrifice men to their dreams of racial, national or personal domination, and who, himself, a moment later, defends scientific experimentation upon animals on the ground that it may ultimately “help to save children;” or who supports meat eating on the ground that “man’s body needs proteins.” He is just in the position of the pot that calls the kettle black — and in this case, I am afraid, a kettle far less smoky and far less smutty than itself.

We neither deny the existence of human groups (races or nations) in which one finds a far greater proportion of superior individuals than in others, nor say that an average man and an average pig are just the same to us. But we say that, as one of the marks of nobility in superior man is to treat with generosity the weaker than himself — “may be kind, also,” says Nietzsche of his “hero”; “may kindness be his supreme victory over himself” — so, if the ordinary man be really the specimen of a superior species, let him prove it by helping the beasts to live and enjoy the sunshine, not by killing them or exploiting them for his own advantage. He is not justified in eating meat “because the tiger does too.” He is not a tiger. He is expected to be a man. He possesses, at least in the general shape of his body, something in common with the truly great Ones, lovers of all that lives. He is to strive to live up to their example, not to imitate that of the beautiful but less evolved carnivorous beasts of the forest that do not — and by nature cannot — know better. Far from becoming defendable for the fact of man being “a higher species,” meat-eating, — along with all forms of exploitation of animals — is condemned by it.

Only an out-and-out believer in the old dogma that “might is right” — a man who supports and welcomes the idea of a world of


eternal strife among nations and even among individuals — can logically be a meat eater. And there is indeed no reason why such a man should not also eat human flesh; children’s flesh at least, for he could then find, in the jungle, useful precedents of beasts that occasionally eat the young of their own kind, and his use of force would remain “natural.” And we would hold an individual of that description in far greater esteem than any of those who advocate the law of the jungle in their relations with animals but refuse to apply it also in their dealings with other men.

* * *

The next thing the meat eaters do is to accept with us, for the sake of argument, the fundamental truth of the unity of all life, and then to point out to us that the vegetables which we eat are also living creatures. “Why should we eat them? They are, if this be possible, even more innocent and defenseless than any lamb or calf can be. They suffer, in their way, though we need some scientifically devised index to detect their reaction to the tearing or cutting of their fibers, or to overheating. But from the fact that they do not show signs of pain perceptible to our senses, must we hasten to conclude that they are incapable of feeling pains at all? Would we not, by doing so, fall into an even greater inconsistency than those who would be sick at the sight of what goes on in a slaughterhouse, but who still see no harm in eating meat, provided they do not witness the death struggle of the animals? Suffering, after all, in this world, has to be. We must eat something. Every living creature must eat something, be it flesh or be it green leaves. And since there is only a ‘difference of degree’ between killing a lamb and uprooting a potato, why bother so much about either? Let’s eat anything that comes, and keep our energy for the service of a better cause.”

This is the final attitude of those who accept the ghastly industry of death as a matter of course, at least as long as it does not involve the death of human beings. Logically, we would have hardly anything to reply, if only those people did not acquire sudden scruples wherever their own kind is concerned; if only, that is to say, they did not shudder at the idea of a regular, large-scale organized slaughter of human beings also, in special places, and of a commercialized distribution of human flesh to be boiled or roasted in private kitchens, cooked in pies, or sliced and put between two pieces of bread and butter, for sandwiches. Why not, indeed, if it be all but a mere “difference of degree,” and if differences of degree


do not matter? If it be “just the same,” ultimately, to cut an animal’s throat and to pluck a cauliflower, then surely it must be all the more so to cut a baby’s throat, or a lamb’s. (We speak of babies because we remember that “in nature” carnivorous animals, especially felines, do sometimes eat the young ones of their species, but not the old ones. And we know how seriously our meat-eating friends insist on being “natural.”) The only difficulty would be practical, not ethical. It would arise from the fact that the baby has parents endowed with understanding and with the power to protest; parents who would not tolerate the slaughterhouses to claim any percentage of their progeny, and who would create trouble — while the poor mother cow and the mother goat and the mother-sheep do not find out why their young ones are taken away from them, unless they happen to be themselves sold to the same butcher, and would anyhow be powerless to protest even if they were conscious of their horrible fate.

We are the first to admit that differences of consciousness from one sphere of nature to another, and from one species to another within the same sphere, can probably be reduced to differences in degree. We know, as well as our meat-eating opponents do, about the study which sir Jagadish Bose made of the sensitiveness of plants to various excitements, and the conclusions he reached; moreover, we believed that there is probably some sort of dim consciousness prevailing throughout the mineral world also. All through the evolutional scale of which we know, from the most apparently inert mineral to the superman, it seems possible, even plausible, to see nothing but slowly increasing differences of degree. But to us differences of degree have their importance. They have indeed, also in the eyes of the meat eaters; otherwise all those who, among the latter, no longer cling to the belief that there is a difference of nature, not merely of degree, between man and animal, would see no harm in eating human flesh. As for the others — those who do share that belief — we pity their poor knowledge of human weakness; but at the same time we say that, if as they think there really be a difference of nature between a child and a calf, just because the one can speak and perhaps argue, while the other cannot, then there certainly is a difference at least as considerable, if not much more so, between a calf and a potato. The former can move, the latter cannot. The former can and does obviously express pleasure and pain in a manner easy to detect even at our scale of vision. The latter cannot. The former has a nervous system; the latter has not.


So that, whatever be the difference between man and animal (be it a difference of nature or, as we believe, merely of degree in intricate organization) there is a still far more striking difference between an evolved animal and a plant. The plant, even if it feels (as we believe it does, to some extent) does not give us marks of its pain, already obvious at our ordinary scale, as an animal would. And it is at our ordinary scale that we live and act. It appears to us as most sinister casuistry to take advantage of the knowledge we have acquired of the sensitiveness of plants to justify age-old horrible human customs, and to start saying that, since we cannot help eating potatoes, wheat and rice (for we must eat something) we may as well, while we are about it, kill calves and oxen, sheep, goats and pigs, and feed on their flesh. It is just blinding ourselves to our own common sense; to our elementary power of discrimination and sense of proportion. Anybody, whose sophistry has not completely obliterated his or her natural sensitiveness, will admit that the death-struggle of a sheep, goat, calf or pig, is undeniably more repulsive a sight than the uprooting of a potato-plant. “Yes, it is so,” retort our casuists, “but merely at our scale; we do not see the death-struggle of the potato plant.” It may be so. But as for all practical purposes it is “at our scale” that we live and act in the world, we cannot dismiss the fact. It is only natural that we should first put an end to whatever appears to be obvious cruelty, even at our gross and imperfect scale, before going into more subtle considerations.

If it were possible to live on water and air, or at least on ripe fruit fallen by itself from the trees, we would be the first to condemn the practice of growing rice or wheat in order to eat it. We would gladly welcome the idea of a better humanity — far reduced in numbers, far improved in quality — living on ripe fruits and water alone, in the warmer regions of a beautiful forest-clad earth. That vision seems very remote. But even as things stand today, it is possible to live without meat, be it in a cold climate. We know it from personal experience. We know it from the experience of other life-long vegetarians who were born and bred and lived all their lives beyond the fiftieth degree of latitude. Those who deny the fact show ignorance, or lie willfully. While it is not possible to live long on water and air, save for a very small number of yogis; and it is hardly possible to live on ripe fruits alone, save in the warmer regions of the globe. Compelled as we are to take life in order to live, we would therefore be content with taking that of the creatures which, at least at our scale of vision, give no sign of suffering: plants; of


the creatures which compared with other possible preys, seem to have the faintest degree of consciousness. Our opponents say: “We should not eat one another while cattle is available.” We say: “it is a crime to eat cattle while it is possible to live on vegetable food-stuffs.” And the flesh of any animal is as much abomination to us as human flesh is to most people.

* * *

The next question is: “What about eggs? What about milk and the products derived from milk-butter and cheese, etc.?”

An Indian vegetarian would rank eggs straight away along with meat, and refuse to eat a cake that contains any. Are they not potential birds? A thorough Jain “ahimshavadi” — one who tries to be “harmless” — would look upon the act of breaking a fecundated egg to make an omelette in the same light as many a European Christian (especially a Catholic) would judge that of killing a human germ, or a human foetus, in the process of birth control or actual abortion. Moreover, eggs are supposed to have “a heating effect” upon the body, just as meat (and certain vegetables like onions, and garlic) would have; an effect little desirable from the standpoint of those who regulate their diet in order that it may help them to live as ascetic a life as possible. And, as we have remarked in the beginning, the majority of the Indians who discard meat belong to that category, either by personal inclination or by family tradition.

To us, who are vegetarians simply to avoid being responsible for the suffering and death of conscious beings, not in view of our own spiritual progress, or of our own salvation, there appears to be a great difference between breaking an egg and killing a duck or a hen. The egg is alive and, if timely hatched, will become a bird that will chirp and run about and be glad to live. But just now, in the meantime — like the vegetable, which is also alive — it gives us, at least at our scale of vision, no signs of any consciousness whatsoever. The bird that has come out of the egg is happy to see the daylight; it expresses pleasure and pain. The potential bird does not know yet how beautiful life is and, if the egg be boiled or broken, will never know. It is a pity, we admit. Yet, if what we really wish to avoid by abstaining from flesh is less the destruction of individual life, at any stage of consciousness, than the infliction of pain upon a sentient creature, and the fact of depriving that creature of the joy of seeing the daylight — of the pleasure of being alive — then we must admit, also, that there is a great difference between killing the egg and killing an animal or a man. We would


even say that we believe it far better to eat eggs than to allow them to be hatched and to grow into chickens and ducklings, in all countries where the fate of any chicken or duckling, which is out of the vegetarians’ control, is to end its life under a kitchen knife. We do not advocate the eating of fecundated eggs, or the destruction of any embryo, if it can be avoided. We would far prefer seeing to it that no embryo comes into existence unless a happy life can be secured for the individual it potentially contains — bird, beast or human being. But we cannot, from our point of view — which is the welfare of the “eaten,” not that of the “eater” alone — see the breaking or boiling of an egg, and the murder of an obviously sensitive quadruped, bird, fish or crab, in the same light.

As for milk, it involves other problems, and we would be inclined to condemn the consumption of it, in certain parts of the world at least, far more uncompromisingly than that of eggs. Any lover of animals, even any moderately kind person, who has lived in the larger towns of India, will at once understand what we mean. There, we have seen skeleton —like young calves hardly able to stand upon their feet, tottering along behind their mothers from house to house; we have seen them gaze at the good rich food which nature provided for them — not for man — being milked out into a pail at every doorstep in front of which they stopped. A tightly-fitting muzzle encircled their mouths, so that they could not suck the cow, who turned back her head and tenderly licked them from time to time; and they got a hard blow or a kick from the milkman whenever they were caught trying, in spite of all precautions, to bring their hungry lips near the maternal breast. And the milkmen were supposed to be Hindus — believers in the sacred unity of all life, in theory at least. And the housewives who bought that stolen milk, that product of days and days of agony, and carried it in for themselves and for their children, in front of the famishing calf and of its sad-eyed mother, were Hindus too, who regard the cow as holy! —shame upon them and upon all men and women who tolerate any form of cruelty without a word of protest; nay, who are willing to take advantage of it!

We believe that to drink milk, or to eat products derived from milk, in any country where these goods are, half the time, obtained as the cost of the systematic starvation of the young calves, is far more criminal than to destroy potential birds by eating eggs, or, by the way, than to destroy embryos of any living species. And we are astonished that so many Indian vegetarians seem to take the milk problem so lightly. As far as we know, only a number of strict


Buddhists from the Far East actually exclude milk from their diet as an “animal product.” Personally, without going as far as they do, and condemning the practice of “milking” cows, sheep, goats or camels altogether, we insist most emphatically on the fact that their milk was given them for their young (not for us), and that we should never allow ourselves to take it unless we first can be sure that the young have had their rightful share of it. Through a sinister necessity this is generally the case, wherever the baby beasts are deliberately brought up for slaughter: they fetch a higher price if well-fed and fat. We wish it only would become so always and everywhere, without the young animals being reared for anything else but for a healthy, happy life.

* * *

But food is by no means the only excuse which man brings forth to justify his shocking treatment of animals. There is clothing also; there is amusement; there are the “necessities” of transport and of agriculture; there is “scientific” experimentation, for the sake of “knowledge.”

We have noticed how few people are actually aware of what they are doing when they order a slice of mutton or a sausage roll. We might also point out how few of the women who feel so happy to exhibit their expensive fur coats at tea parties, fashionable restaurants, theaters and concert halls, would not shudder if only they could imagine the atrocities that were committed in order to procure them their luxuries. The same can be said of those who wear feathers.

One meets ladies with kind, intelligent faces — more than once, ladies who seem sincerely devoted to some pet dog or cat — wearing overcoats of “persian lamb.” Unborn lambs are torn from the wombs of the living mothers, and flayed alive, for the fur traders to get that particular skin covered with glossy, close-curled wool, as fine and soft as silk, which we call “persian lamb” or “astrakhan.” And not one, but over a dozen scenes of ghastly cruelty are behind every overcoat made of that fur. But the smart ladies do not know it, or do not believe it — or sometimes they have, at first, recoiled on hearing the incredible tale of horror and then gradually forgotten it, or pushed the impression of it sufficiently far out of their field of vivid consciousness for it not to disturb them every time they see their coat.

And what we say about “persian lamb” can be said about many a skin obtained, if not by that specially revolting process, by some


other, hardly less cruel — perhaps even more so, if that be possible; skins that come, for instance, from beasts flayed alive long after they were born. This horrid thing is done so that the fur, taken alive, might remain more glossy and beautiful. Always that sickening idea that, for man — the “master” beast — to enjoy to the utmost all kinds of commodities, it does not matter what other creatures might suffer. Well does mankind at large deserve to be treated by the stronger and better organized groups of men whichever these be, in the selfsame way it treats the living species that cannot meet human cruelty with systematic retaliation!

There are people who would object to wearing a fur fully knowing that it had been obtained by torture; but they would not mind wearing one taken from an animal “humanely killed.” Surely of the two evils, the lesser is always preferable, and “humane killing’ is less appalling than the atrocities to which we have just alluded. Still, to destroy a creature that is only too glad to live — especially a beautiful one, like those of which man is so proud to wear the stolen skins — to deny it for ever the pleasure of breath and movement and the joy of seeing the sun, in order to provide another species with extra comforts and luxuries, is far worse than to put deficient human beings into the lethal chamber for the betterment of the human race. In the latter case, individuals are sacrificed to the interest of their own species, and in some instances at least, to that of their own race. But in the case of furbearing animals (as in the case of those which man eats) living individuals are sacrificed to the interest, or the mere pleasure, of a species that is not even theirs, on the sole grounds that this alien species is superior to theirs in wits and skill; that it has more “possibilities.” The same logic would justify the men who have actually more possibilities than others to eat those others if they please, and to use their skins for binding books or for making fine gloves for themselves.

Feathers are, half the time, obtained at the cost of hardly less cruelty to birds than furs are at the cost of cruelty to quadrupeds or to seals. The details of those abominable practices exceed the scope of this book, mainly written to set forth, as clearly as possible, certain fundamental principles that must underlie our attitude towards all living nature and our dealings with nonhuman creatures, if we are actually to become a “superior” species. They can easily be obtained from any of the societies formed by friends of animals, in Europe and America, for the abolition of the evils we mentioned. What we want to stress is the heavy burden of guilt


that lies upon the ordinary man in the street-not, himself, actually cruel to any creature — for directly or indirectly encouraging, or at least, for tolerating the criminal industry in fur or feathers, no less than the industry of animal slaughter for the sake of food. The fact that no candidate up till now, in any country we know, has felt it necessary to introduce the issues discussed in this book into his electoral campaign and to tell his fellow-citizens: “Vote for our party; for our program includes the abolition of the fur and feather trades as well as of the meat industry,” that alone is a shame on mankind at large. For the only reason why no political party has ever boasted of such a program is plain: cruelty to animals, when exercised for man’s health, comfort or pleasure, does not shock people enough, and animal welfare in itself does not interest them enough for it to be worth while — helpful, that is to say, from an electoral point of view — to mention such things in an appeal for votes. On the contrary! the party that would dare openly to do so, would thereby jeopardize its chances of success: it would turn the meat eaters — the majority — against it.1

* * *

Very little needs to be said about cruel amusements like hunting, bullfighting, or circus performances. It “might” be not sufficient to establish “right”; and if nothing can justify the infliction of pain upon creatures which we have not even the excuse of hating for having willfully harmed us, then certainly the killing of big or small game for the amusement of the hunting party, the torturing and killing of bulls in the arena, or the exhibition of clever tricks performed, under threat, by wild or tame animals, for the pleasure of the human populace, are all criminal doings.

The latter, some will say, do not necessarily imply cruelty. Animals can be trained by kindness and patience to work many circus wonders. We reply that even if they can be, in fact they are not. They are not, because it would need, to train any beast — and especially a wild one — far more patience than a professional animal trainer can generally afford to spare, and far more love than any average human being is capable of. It would need a real saint, like some of those yogis of India who live in friendship with the snakes and beasts of the jungle, to persuade a lion to throw a football to

1 This has been very clearly expressed in Tischgespräche — a presumed collection of Adolf Hitler’s private talks, published long after this book was written.


another lion. And no real saint — no man truly in tune with the Universe and at peace with all beings — would dream of wasting his energy on such a thing. The very action would seem to him too unnatural, too ridiculous; at the same time humiliating to the royal animal, born for freedom and self-respect, and morally injurious to the human populace itself. Any saint — any thoughtful man, by the way — would disapprove of the perversity that urges circus audiences to enjoy the sight of a wild beast’s degradation as a proof of man’s skill.

It is therefore not saints, but just strong, fearless, and at the same time brutal men, who become “trainers” of circus animals. It is not love that makes a captive lion allow himself to throw a football or to stand on his hind legs like a pet dog in the midst of the cheers of a vulgar crowd, worthy only of his contempt. It is the fear of the lashing whip or of the red-hot iron bar — the fear of the repetition of physical pain inflicted time and again in the past by the human bully, weaker than the king of beasts, yet more powerful through cunning and mechanical skill — it is that fear, we say, not love, that makes the lion “perform” his ridiculous part in a circus show. And the same can be said of all “performing” animals. It is not possible for anyone — save perhaps for a great yogi, and that is, of course, out of the question — to force his will even upon tame animals (and a fortiori upon wild ones) and to make them exhibit tricks when he likes, without a considerable amount of cruelty. Trainers who are sincere admit it. To encourage circus shows is to encourage such cruelty.

Bullfights are even worse than circus shows — morally worse for the spectators, at least, for here the fury of the wounded, bleeding bull, maddened by pain, is precisely the essential part of the “attraction”; and nothing is more degrading than the sadistic pleasure many men and women take in such a sight. They call it “the sight of brute force overcome by human intelligence and skill.” The supporters of gladiatorial combats, over a millennium and a half ago, probably said the same, and perhaps found also other reasons to justify the barbaric games which they enjoyed. And then, at least, along with duels of men and wild beasts, one could watch the more gallant duels of two men armed with different but equally murderous weapons. While here the display of “human intelligence versus brute strength” is just that of superior skill and equipment versus a greater natural strength devoid of these. The sight of five hundred strong men armed with stones, or at the most arrows, being “overcome” by ten men armed with machine-guns,


should be the ideal amusement for those who take pleasure in bullfights. In our eyes, any torture of animals for the sake of entertainment or for any other purpose, is just as revolting as the torture of children for the same purpose, or some similar one, would probably be to the average man, solely concerned with the welfare of his own species. And no nation deserves to live which tolerates any of the atrocities we have mentioned up till now, not to speak of the still more appalling ones practiced in the name of scientific research.

As for hunting, shooting and fishing, one should, it seems distinguish two aspects of them. There is, or rather there was, hunting and fishing as practised by the men of the Old Stone Age, who had forgotten how to live on wild fruits and not yet learned how to till the soil, and who did not know any better; by men who apart from, at the most, an extremely small number of privileged races, — whose superiority already manifested itself in the invention of abstract symbols bearing a cosmic meaning — were themselves but beasts more intelligent and aesthetically better gifted than the great apes of kindred species. Those men had to live on flesh and fish, and had to procure them somehow. We cannot blame them for the blood they shed any more than we blame the carnivorous animals of the forest that are supposed to have lagged behind them in speed of evolution. But men at that stage of development are no longer to be found, save perhaps in certain regions of the globe; in the equatorial forests of Africa and South America, or in certain remote parts of India, unknown to the Hindus themselves. What we condemn is hunting, shooting and fishing as practiced by people who would have something to eat even if they never touched a gun, a knife or a fishing rod — hunting, shooting and fishing for the sake of sport. We already condemn the murder of animals for food, — unless it really be a question of life or death for extremely valuable individuals or races — in the case of people who pretend to be any better than the wild flesh-eating beasts. But we see, in the wanton destruction of beautiful living creatures for the sake of amusement — and all living creatures are beautiful — one of the most disgusting expression of man’s cruelty. The hunter and the man who goes fishing just “for the sake of sport” are decidedly among the enemies of nature; they are among the worst elements of ugliness, that is to say, of evil, in the midst of our lovely, sunlit planet, especially if, as it happens most times if not always, they use cruel means to capture and kill their victims.

We remember most vividly the horror we felt, in India, at the sight of every man of whom it was said to us that he had shot “so


many tigers,” or at the sight of skins, or sometimes whole stuffed bodies of those magnificent felines, in certain people’s houses. Even if the tigers did die on the spot, we fully realized what a pity it was (a pity in all the tragic sense of the word) to deprive such perfect specimens of divine creative Energy’s handiwork: Bengal tigers, royal indeed; the most splendid inhabitants of the earth to look upon, of the joy of being alive and free in the warm jungle. Automatically we imagined the majestic, supple and stripy body, dead at the feet of the insignificant beast — the man, we mean — who has just shot breath out of it; the blood slowly running out of a small wound; the velvet paws stretched in convulsion of death; the phosphorescent eyes of emerald or transparent gold forever blind to the sight of the Sun, Father of all life. We compared the beauty of the tiger to the conceited vulgarity of the hunter. Few men, save the great Ones in whose faces genius and saintliness shine together, ever were such flattering examples of their species as an average tiger is of the feline family. And had we not remembered those rare men — by no means hunters — who lived to show us what man can be, we would have felt utterly ashamed of being ourselves afflicted with a human body.

And if we can speak thus of tiger-hunting, in which the animal at bay is sometimes shot dead at once, what can we think of fox hunting, of the hunting of deer, of the hunting of the hare, and of so many other living creatures only too glad to be alive, which men pursue and massacre in the most atrocious manner for the sake of amusing themselves? We let the reader judge for himself. And we invite him to study what hunting really is — and what fishing is, too — before hastening to dismiss our condemnation of both those sports.

* * *

From the earliest times onwards, men have been using beasts of burden-asses and camels, bullocks, buffaloes, horses and reindeer — to draw carts, to carry loads, or to plough the earth. Hardly any civilized nation — save those which flourished in Central America before the Spanish conquest — ever lived through the span of their historical existence without making some animals do their hard work four them. The habit has become so universal that most people find it just natural that certain beasts should work for man’s profit or comfort. We have heard many times zealous humanitarians criticize those who, in India and in China, sit in a light two-wheeled carriage — a “rickshaw” — and let themselves be


drawn by a hired man, fast or slowly, according to their desire. The humanitarians find it shocking that a “reasonable creature” like themselves should do “the work of a horse.” But they do not for a minute question whether a horse should do it or not; whether it really is or not “its work.” One finds in that respect, as in all others, two standards of justice, two codes of pity; one to be applied to man — the self-appointed “master-species” — the other to be applied to beasts. The only thing we marvel at, knowing this, is the sudden intolerance which the humanitarians show to those who dare to go a step further than they (or to stop a step before them) and who claim a better treatment for the actual master races — or even the white races, or the ruling classes, or their own countrymen, or any other privileged human group — than for the rest of men!

We proclaim that en principe, no animal should be made to work for man.

The common answer to this plea for the freedom of creatures is: “Man has to work in order to live —at least, most men; — why not also those beasts that can be useful? And why should we feed the horses, the oxen, the buffaloes, the asses and the camels, if they did nothing? And if we did not feed them and take care of them, they would probably perish-through hunger during the season in which no fodder is to be found; or under the claws of the wild carnivorous beast in the countries where he still exists. Moreover, man is not necessarily unkind to the animals he uses to carry merchandise or to ride upon. The attachment of the Arab to his horse is proverbial. And many an Englishman who loves horses treats them as his companions and friends.”

There is some truth in this. There is also a certain amount of prejudice due to a habitual man-centered outlook. First of all, there is no reason at all why the “useful” animals should work, simply because we do. We do the dull, regular, “useful” and detestable work for which we are paid only because we cannot live without money in a society in which every commodity of life has a standard price. If we could enjoy equal comforts while doing just what we feel inclined to do — while writing down our views in black and white, painting, travelling, spending time at our toilet table or in bed, or discussing subtle ideas at appropriate tea parties — we would undoubtedly do it, and rightly too. Why should not all animals do just what they feel like doing, if they can do so without any suffering or inconvenience to themselves? If most of us are so foolish as to s ell our individual freedom for advantages that are, half the time, not worth it, why should they do the same for the food and


shelter that they could obtain, in some regions of the globe at least, without that sacrifice?

The animals now styled as “beasts of burden” could still, in many warm and fertile countries, eat grass and be happy, without drawing carts or carrying loads, if only they were left free and could be secure, not from the threat of the wild beast, but from that of man’s greed and cruelty — from the rapacity of those who would drive their henceforth unowned and therefore cheap bodies to the slaughterhouses, and sell them for meat with a hundred per cent profit. They could have, everywhere, remained free and happy, and far more able to defend themselves than they would be now, if only man had never interfered with them, never “domesticated” them. He domesticated them for his own purpose; not in view of their welfare. He acted in that circumstance, no less than in all others, as a gregarious beast more clever than, but as selfish as, any beast could be. It is his fault, or rather the fault of his prehistorical forefathers, if there arises today, in the consciousness of the better few, any problem at all concerning the treatment of animals of burden as well as of pet animals.

It is probably true that most of the horses, buffalos, asses, etc., that now live in stables and work under man’s whip, would soon perish of hunger of cold, or become the prey of wild beasts, if they were suddenly let loose to fend for themselves anywhere, save in a very few privileged regions of the earth-regions both of temperate climate, of abundant and suitable flora, and of harmless fauna. But it is man’s fault if they have become so helpless and dependent. It is the result of millenniums of merciless exploitation; of a man-made reign of terror, in which they have continually lived, and which has become, to their submissive sense, like a natural environment. The reign of terror may cease. But the animals will take time before they recover the pristine self-reliance of their race — if they ever do recover it. Man should never have made them his slaves.

Now the only thing he can do to redeem, to some extent, the crime of his forefathers, is to help the beasts of burden to live happily, while preparing their different species for a new life of independence. The only thing he can do, if he wishes no longer to be the wicked tyrant before whose whip or stick the horse and buffalo, the ass and the camel bend in fear their weary heads, is to feed those beasts well, till they die of a natural death, without taking from them any work in return, for some generations — until machines replace them entirely in the fields, in the deserts, in the


mines and on the roads; and until their descendants, gradually reeducated to live their own lives independently, can be expected to fend for themselves in woods and steppes, deserts and jungles.

We know that quite a number of people nowadays are rather inclined to condemn the increasing use of machines in all walks of life. They insist, like Mahatma Gandhi, on the hardening, “soul-killing” effect of the constant handling of machinery upon the man who handles it; and they often oppose to that the natural friendship of man and of his faithful collaborators, the beasts of burden. We have seen too much of the daily distress of beasts of burden in all countries save perhaps a very few, to subscribe for a minute to the views of such incurable optimists, or to share their hopes. Men, if allowed to use animals to draw carts or to carry loads, on a broad scale, will surely overload them, overwork them and ill-treat them, in order to get out of them all the material service they possibly can for the money they spend on their food. Average men are naturally selfish and greedy and cowardly; they always were; they apparently always will be, so far as we know human nature.

In September 1941, in a half-an-hour’s interview which he was kind enough to grant us, we could not help drawing the attention of India’s saintly politician, Mahatma Gandhi, to the cause of the unfortunate horses that his followers and visitors used to hire to carry them from the Wardha railway station to Sevagram — Gandhi’s abode — and back. We pointed out to him the number of times those beasts had to run the five miles that separate the two places, tired or not, hungry or not, sick or not, drawing in their two-wheeled carriages — “tangas” — besides the driver, believers or professed believers in the Mahatma’s creed of love towards all life, whose number varied from one to six. Before leaving Wardha we had ourselves reported one of the drivers to the police for making a horse work in spite of an open wound upon its back, and we recalled the incident before the great man. Mahatma Gandhi seemed to understand our point of view and to share, to some extent, our sympathy for the exploited horses. But he knew the people with whom he had to work. He told us frankly: “I have, as it is, no real disciples. If I started criticizing those who come here for taking advantage of the ‘tangas’, I dare say, then, even the nominal ones would soon leave me, and the little good I might do would be entirely lost.”

If that be the truth about Gandhi’s own followers, then what can be expected of man in general? What can be expected of those who do not even profess to adhere to a life-centered creed? — of those


who have vested interests in the exploitation of beasts of burden? Can one reasonably believe that they would be kind and merciful towards their dumb “collaborators and friends” — that they would never overload them; never force them to work when tired or sick or unwilling, as long as they believe that a contrary behavior would be more profitable to themselves, materially? Even just laws protecting the four-legged laborers would result in little good. No government can afford to maintain a policeman to watch each and every cart-driver in the street, each and every ploughman in the fields-provided we suppose an animal-loving government could exist and last before tremendous changes take place in the collective ethics of our societies. Therefore as long as certain beasts are permitted to work for man at all, it seems that there will be fifty harsh and exacting masters for one naturally kind one.

The best course of action would be, in our opinion, to reduce as far as possible, and gradually to suppress altogether, the use of animals for hard work. The development of machinery is, in that respect, helping the cause of our dumb brothers.

* * *

But the problem would still remain of what to do with the beasts of burden, alive at the time it would be decided to exploit them no longer. Indeed, things are made worse by the fact that the use of those animals is “gradually” ceasing, and can only gradually cease. The progress of machinery, up till now, only “alleviates their misery” by bringing about their violent death. An owner of horses or buffaloes or bullocks buys a truck or mechanical farm equipment to do their work and sells them. After working for man all their lives, they end in the slaughterhouse. It is the accepted standard of human gratitude — a disgusting thing, but an unavoidable one as long as there are meat eaters and slaughterhouses, and cattle markets, and no organized care of man’s old “collaborators and friends.”

The progress of machinery can really help the cause of beasts of burden only if such organized care of the henceforth useless animals is made a reality; if homes for buffalos and camels, asses, horses, reindeer, etc. and all discharged four-legged laborers, are set up all over the world — comfortable homes, comparable to the best of those “pinjrapals” that already exist, in some parts of India, for old cows; places in which the beasts would be looked after by people who love them, and would spend the rest of their lives grazing in the sunshine; if, finally, the owners of the animals here alluded to are compelled by law to take them to those homes as


soon as they cease using them, and if there are severe penalties against anyone who buys or sells a beast of burden. Even then, so long as the meat industry exists, interested people would find loopholes to escape legal punishment and carry on a clandestine traffic of working animals as these would become useless. For the mechanization or modern society really to be a blessing for the animals, agitation against the meat industry has to be made effective, along with a campaign of kindness in favor of the beasts of burden. As the evils are interconnected, so are the problems of their suppression.

One can imagine efforts so that, wherever the geographical conditions permit, each new generation of animals formerly used as “beasts of burden” could be brought up to depend more and more upon itself, and less and less upon man, for its subsistence — until the species would be brought back to a tolerable state of self-sufficiency in its natural environment. If that can be done, so much the better. But if perchance it cannot be — we do not know; perhaps the enslaved animals have become congenitally dependent on man-then the least that man can do, if he has any sense of his responsibilities, is to feed for all times to come the descendants of the present-day beasts of burden — seeing to it, of course, that they do not multiply beyond a certain limit — and to make their lives happy in grassy expanses allotted to them, thus paying a small part of his enormous debt to their ancestors, and trying to make up, to the extent of his power, for centuries and centuries of cruel exploitation; trying to make up for the crime of the prehistorical human beings who first domesticated as many as they could of the older inhabitants of our earth, and for the crime of all those who, from age to age, took animal slavery as a matter of course, and never raised a voice of protest against it.

This task, in favor of healthy living creatures, whose various species have been working for man for millenniums, is surely more justifiable than the one (so popular since the political downfall of those who boldly refused to sanction it) consisting in maintaining expensive “homes” for incurable human wrecks, lunatics, congenital idiots, and all manner of two-legged freaks of nature, at state cost.

We know, however, very few people who would welcome our suggestion. But we know, too, that there are very few thoroughly just and thoroughly honest people in the world — especially now; very few, at least, who still dare to speak.