Chapter 2: Physical Considerations


There are many eminent scientists who have given it as their opinion that anatomically and physiologically man is to be classed as a frugivorous animal. There are lacking in man all the characteristics that distinguish the prominent organs of the carnivora, while he possesses a most striking resemblance to the fruit-eating apes. Dr. Kingsford writes: 'M. Pouchet observes that all the details of the digestive apparatus in man, as well as his dentition, constitute "so many proofs of his frugivorous origin"—an opinion shared by Professor Owen, who remarks that the anthropoids and all the quadrumana derive their alimentation from fruits, grains, and other succulent and nutritive vegetable substances, and that the strict analogy which exists between the structure of these animals and that of man clearly demonstrates his frugivorous nature. This view is also taken by Cuvier, Linnæus, Professor Lawrence, Charles Bell, Gassendi, Flourens, and a great number of other eminent writers.' (see The Perfect Way in Diet.)

Linnæus is quoted by John Smith in Fruits[Pg 18] and Farinacea as speaking of fruit as follows: 'This species of food is that which is most suitable to man: which is evidenced by the series of quadrupeds, analogy, wild men, apes, the structure of the mouth, of the stomach, and the hands.'

Sir Ray Lancaster, K.C.B., F.R.S., in an article in The Daily Telegraph, December, 1909, wrote: 'It is very generally asserted by those who advocate a purely vegetable diet that man's teeth are of the shape and pattern which we find in the fruit-eating, or in the root-eating, animals allied to him. This is true.... It is quite clear that man's cheek teeth do not enable him to cut lumps of meat and bone from raw carcasses and swallow them whole. They are broad, square-surfaced teeth with four or fewer low rounded tubercles to crush soft food, as are those of monkeys. And there can be no doubt that man fed originally like monkeys, on easily crushed fruits, nuts, and roots.'

With regard to man's original non-carnivorous nature and omnivorism, it is sometimes said that though man's system may not thrive on a raw flesh diet, yet he can assimilate cooked flesh and his system is well adapted to digest it. The answer to this is that were it demonstrable, and it is not, that cooked flesh is as easily digested and contains as much nutriment as grains and nuts, this does not prove it to be suitable for human food; for man (leaving out[Pg 19] of consideration the fact that the eating of diseased animal flesh can communicate disease), since he was originally formed by Nature to subsist exclusively on the products of the vegetable kingdom, cannot depart from Nature's plan without incurring penalty of some sort—unless, indeed, his natural original constitution has changed; but it has not changed. The most learned and world-renowned scientists affirm man's present anatomical and physiological structure to be that of a frugivore. Disguising an unnatural food by cooking it may make that food more assimilable, but it by no means follows that such a food is suitable, let alone harmless, as human food. That it is harmful, not only to man's physical health, but to his mental and moral health, this book endeavours to demonstrate.

With regard to the fact that man has not changed constitutionally from his original frugivorous nature Dr. Haig writes as follows: 'If man imagines that a few centuries, or even a few hundred centuries, of meat-eating in defiance of Nature have endowed him with any new powers, except perhaps, that of bearing the resulting disease and degradation with an ignorance and apathy which are appalling, he deceives himself; for the record of the teeth shows that human structure has remained unaltered over vast periods of time.'

According to Dr. Haig, human metabolism (the process by which food is converted into[Pg 20] living tissue) differs widely from that of the carnivora. The carnivore is provided with the means to dispose of such poisonous salts as are contained in and are produced by the ingestion of animal flesh, while the human system is not so provided. In the human body these poisons are not held in solution, but tend to form deposits and consequently are the cause of diseases of the arthritic group, conspicuously rheumatism.

There is sometimes some misconception as regards the distinction between a frugivorous and herbivorous diet. The natural diet of man consists of fruits, farinacea, perhaps certain roots, and the more esculent vegetables, and is commonly known as vegetarian, or fruitarian (frugivorous), but man's digestive organs by no means allow him to eat grass as the herbivora—the horse, ox, sheep, etc.—although he is much more nearly allied to these animals than to the carnivora.

We are forced to conclude, in the face of all the available evidence, that the natural constitution of man closely resembles that of fruit-eating animals, and widely differs from that of flesh-eating animals, and that from analogy it is only reasonable to suppose that the fruitarian, or vegetarian, as it is commonly called, is the diet best suited to man. This conclusion has been arrived at by many distinguished men of science, among whom are the above mentioned. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating,[Pg 21] and to prove that the vegetarian is the most hygienic diet, we must examine the physical conditions of those nations and individuals who have lived, and do live, upon this diet.

It might be mentioned, parenthetically, that among animals, the herbivora are as strong physically as any species of carnivora. The most laborious work of the world is performed by oxen, horses, mules, camels, elephants, all vegetable-feeding animals. What animal possesses the enormous strength of the herbivorous rhinoceros, who, travellers relate, uproots trees and grinds whole trunks to powder? Again, the frugivorous orang-outang is said to be more than a match for the African lion. Comparing herbivora and carnivora from this point of view Dr. Kingsford writes: 'The carnivora, indeed, possess one salient and terrible quality, ferocity, allied to thirst for blood; but power, endurance, courage, and intelligent capacity for toil belong to those animals who alone, since the world has had a history, have been associated with the fortunes, the conquests, and the achievements of men.'

Charles Darwin, reverenced by all educated people as a scientist of the most keen and accurate observation, wrote in his Voyage of the Beagle, the following with regard to the Chilian miners, who, he tells us, live in the cold and high regions of the Andes: 'The labouring class work very hard. They have little time allowed for their meals, and during summer and winter,[Pg 22] they begin when it is light and leave off at dusk. They are paid £1 sterling a month and their food is given them: this, for breakfast, consists of sixteen figs and two small loaves of bread; for dinner, boiled beans; for supper, broken roasted wheat-grain. They scarcely ever taste meat.' This is as good as saying that the strongest men in the world, performing the most arduous work, and living in an exhilarating climate, are practically strict vegetarians.

Dr. Jules Grand, President of the Vegetarian Society of France speaks of 'the Indian runners of Mexico, who offer instances of wonderful endurance, and eat nothing but tortillas of maize, which they eat as they run along; the street porters of Algiers, Smyrna, Constantinople and Egypt, well known for their uncommon strength, and living on nothing but maize, rice, dates, melons, beans, and lentils. The Piedmontese workmen, thanks to whom the tunnelling of the Alps is due, feed on polenta, (maize-broth). The peasants of the Asturias, like those of the Auvergne, scarcely eat anything except chick-peas and chestnuts ... statistics prove ... that the most numerous population of the globe is vegetarian.'

The following miscellaneous excerpta are from Smith's Fruits and Farinacea:—

'The peasantry of Norway, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Poland, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and of almost every country in Europe subsist principally, and most[Pg 23] of them entirely, on vegetable food.... The Persians, Hindoos, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, the inhabitants of the East Indian Archipelago, and of the mountains of the Himalaya, and, in fact, most of the Asiatics, live upon vegetable productions.'

'The people of Russia, generally, subsist on coarse black rye-bread and garlics. I have often hired men to labour for me. They would come on board in the morning with a piece of black bread weighing about a pound, and a bunch of garlics as big as one's fist. This was all their nourishment for the day of sixteen or eighteen hours' labour. They were astonishingly powerful and active, and endured severe and protracted labour far beyond any of my men. Some of these Russians were eighty and even ninety years old, and yet these old men would do more work than any of the middle-aged men belonging to my ship. Captain C. S. Howland of New Bedford, Mass.'

'The Chinese feed almost entirely on rice, confections and fruits; those who are enabled to live well and spend a temperate life, are possessed of great strength and agility.'

'The Egyptian cultivators of the soil, who live on coarse wheaten bread, Indian corn, lentils, and other productions of the vegetable kingdom, are among the finest people I have even seen. Latherwood.'

'The Greek boatmen are exceedingly abstem[Pg 24]ious. Their food consists of a small quantity of black bread, made of unbolted rye or wheatmeal, and a bunch of grapes, or raisins, or some figs. They are astonishingly athletic and powerful; and the most nimble, active, graceful, cheerful, and even merry people in the world. Judge Woodruff, of Connecticut.'

'From the day of his irruption into Europe the Turk has always proved himself to be endowed with singularly strong vitality and energy. As a member of a warlike race, he is without equal in Europe in health and hardiness. His excellent physique, his simple habits, his abstinence from intoxicating liquors, and his normal vegetarian diet, enable him to support the greatest hardships, and to exist on the scantiest and simplest food.'

'The Spaniards of Rio Salada in South America,—who come down from the interior, and are employed in transporting goods overland,—live wholly on vegetable food. They are large, very robust, and strong; and bear prodigious burdens on their backs, travelling over mountains too steep for loaded mules to ascend, and with a speed which few of the generality of men can equal without incumbrance.'

'In the most heroic days of the Grecian army, their food was the plain and simple produce of the soil. The immortal Spartans of Thermopylæ were, from infancy, nourished by the plainest and coarsest vegetable aliment: and the Roman[Pg 25] army, in the period of their greatest valour and most gigantic achievements, subsisted on plain and coarse vegetable food. When the public games of Ancient Greece—for the exercise of muscular power and activity in wrestling, boxing, running, etc.,—were first instituted, the athletæ in accordance with the common dietetic habits of the people, were trained entirely on vegetable food.'

Dr. Kellogg, an authority on dietetics, makes the following answer to those who proclaim that those nations who eat a large amount of flesh-food, such as the English, are the strongest and dominant nations: "While it is true that the English nation makes large use of animal food, and is at the same time one of the most powerful on the globe, it is also true that the lowest, most miserable classes of human beings, such as the natives of Australia, and the inhabitants of Terra del Fuego, subsist almost wholly upon flesh. It should also be borne in mind that it is only within a single generation that the common people of England have become large consumers of flesh. In former times and when England was laying the foundation of her greatness, her sturdy yeomen ate less meat in a week, than the average Englishman of the present consumes in a single day.... The Persians, the Grecians, and the Romans, became ruling nations while vegetarians."

In Fruits and Farinacea, Professor Lawrence[Pg 26] is quoted as follows: 'The inhabitants of Northern Europe and Asia, the Laplanders, Samoiedes, Ostiacs, Tangooses, Burats, Kamtschatdales, as well as the natives of Terra del Fuego in the Southern extremity of America, are the smallest, weakest, and least brave people on the globe; although they live almost entirely on flesh, and that often raw.'

Many athletic achievements of recent date have been won by vegetarians both in this country and abroad. The following successes are noteworthy:—Walking: Karl Mann, Dresden to Berlin, Championship of Germany; George Allen, Land's End to John-o'-Groats. Running: E. R. Voigt, Olympic Championship, etc.: F. A. Knott, 5,000 metres Belgian record. Cycling: G. A. Olley, Land's End to John-o'-Groats record. Tennis: Eustace Miles, M.A., various championships, etc. Of especial interest at the present moment are a series of tests and experiments recently carried out at Yale University, U.S.A., under Professor Irving Fisher, with the object of discovering the suitability of different dietaries for athletes, and the effect upon the human system in general. The results were surprising. 'One of the most severe tests,' remarks Professor Fisher, 'was in deep knee-bending, or "squatting." Few of the meat-eaters could "squat" more than three to four hundred times. On the other hand a Yale student who had been a flesh-abstainer for two years, did the deep knee-bending eighteen hundred times[Pg 27] without exhaustion.... One remarkable difference between the two sets of men was the comparative absence of soreness in the muscles of the meat-abstainers after the tests.'

The question as to climate is often raised; many people labour under the idea that a vegetable diet may be suitable in a hot climate, but not in a cold. That this idea is false is shown by facts, some of which the above quotations supply. That man can live healthily in arctic regions on a vegetable diet has been amply demonstrated. In a cold climate the body requires a considerable quantity of heat-producing food, that is, food containing a good supply of hydrocarbons (fats), and carbohydrates (starches and sugars). Many vegetable foods are rich in these properties, as will be explained in the essay following dealing with dietetics. Strong and enduring vegetable-feeding animals, such as the musk-ox and the reindeer, flourish on the scantiest food in an arctic climate, and there is no evidence to show that man could not equally well subsist on vegetable food under similar conditions.

In an article entitled Vegetarianism in Cold Climates, by Captain Walter Carey, R.N., the author describes his observations during a winter spent in Manchuria. The weather, we are told, was exceedingly cold, the thermometer falling as low as minus 22° F. After speaking of the various arduous labours the natives are engaged in, Captain Carey describes the physique and diet[Pg 28] of natives in the vicinity of Niu-Chwang as follows: 'The men accompanying the carts were all very big and of great strength, and it was obvious that none but exceptionally strong and hardy men could withstand the hardships of their long march, the intense cold, frequent blizzards, and the work of forcing their queer team along in spite of everything. One could not help wondering what these men lived on, and I found that the chief article was beans, which, made into a coarse cake, supplied food for both men and animals. I was told by English merchants who travelled in the interior, that everywhere they found the same powerful race of men, living on beans and rice—in fact, vegetarians. Apparently they obtain the needful proteid and fat from the beans; while the coarse once-milled rice furnishes them with starch, gluten, and mineral salts, etc. Spartan fare, indeed, but proving how easy it is to sustain life without consuming flesh-food.'

So far, then, as the physical condition of those nations who are practically vegetarian is concerned, we have to conclude that practice tallies with theory. Science teaches that man should live on a non-flesh diet, and when we come to consider the physique of those nations and men who do so, we have to acknowledge that their bodily powers and their health equal, if not excel, those of nations and men who, in part, subsist upon flesh. But it is interesting to go yet further.[Pg 29] It has already been stated that mind and body are inseparable; that one reacts upon the other: therefore it is not irrelevant, in passing, to observe what mental powers are possessed by those races and individuals who subsist entirely upon the products of the vegetable kingdom.

When we come to consider the mentality of the Oriental races we certainly have to acknowledge that Oriental culture—ethical, metaphysical, and poetical—has given birth to some of the grandest and noblest thoughts that mankind possesses, and has devised philosophical systems that have been the comfort and salvation of countless millions of souls. Anyone who doubts the intellectual and ethical attainments of that remarkable nation of which we in the West know so little—the Chinese—should read the panegyric written by Sir Robert Hart, who, for forty years, lived among them, and learnt to love and venerate them as worthy of the highest admiration and respect. Others have written in praise of the people of Burma. Speaking of the Burman, a traveller writes: 'He will exercise a graceful charity unheard of in the West—he has discovered how to make life happy without selfishness and to combine an adequate power for hard work with a corresponding ability to enjoy himself gracefully ... he is a philosopher and an artist.'

Speaking of the Indian peasant a writer in an English journal says: 'The ryot lives in the face of Nature, on a simple diet easily procured, and[Pg 30] inherits a philosophy, which, without literary culture, lifts his spirit into a higher plane of thought than other peasantries know of. Abstinence from flesh food of any kind, not only gives him pure blood exempt from civilized diseases but makes him the friend and not the enemy, of the animal world around.'

Eastern literature is renowned for its subtle metaphysics. The higher types of Orientals are endowed with an extremely subtle intelligence, so subtle as to be wholly unintelligible to the ordinary Westerner. It is said that Pythagoras and Plato travelled in the East and were initiated into Eastern mysticism. The East possesses many scriptures, and the greater part of the writings of Eastern scholars consist of commentaries on the sacred writings. Among the best known monumental philosophical and literary achievements maybe mentioned the Tao Teh C'hing; the Zend Avesta; the Three Vedas; the Brahmanas; the Upanishads; and the Bhagavad-gita, that most beautiful 'Song Celestial' which for nearly two thousand years has moulded the thoughts and inspired the aspirations of the teeming millions of India.

As to the testimony of individuals it is interesting to note that some of the greatest philosophers, scientists, poets, moralists, and many men of note, in different walks of life, in past and modern times, have, for various reasons, been[Pg 31] vegetarians, among whom have been named the following:—

John Wesley
Isaac Newton
Jean Paul Richter
Quintus Sextus
The Apostles
James the Less
The Christian Fathers
St. Francis d'Assisi
Leonardo da Vinci
William Lambe
Sir Isaac Pitman
Herbert Burrows
George Frederick Watts
General Booth
Mrs. Besant
Bernard Shaw
Rev. Prof. John E. B. Mayor
Hon. E. Lyttelton
Rev. R. J. Campbell
Lord Charles Beresford
Gen. Sir Ed. Bulwer
etc., etc., etc.

[Pg 32]
The following is a list of the medical and scientific authorities who have expressed opinions favouring vegetarianism:—

M. Pouchet
Baron Cuvier
Professor Laurence, F.R.S.
Sir Charles Bell, F.R.S.
Sir John Owen
Professor Howard Moore
Sylvester Graham, M.D.
John Ray, F.R.S.
Professor H. Schaafhausen
Sir Richard Owen, F.R.S.
Charles Darwin, LL.D., F.R.S.
Dr. John Wood, M.D.
Professor Irving Fisher
Professor A. Wynter Blyth, F.R.C.S.
Edward Smith, M.B., F.R.S., LL.B.
Adam Smith, F.R.S.
Lord Playfair, M.D., C.B.
Sir Henry Thompson, M.B., F.R.C.S.
Dr. F. J. Sykes, B. Sc.
Dr. Anna Kingsford
Professor G. Sims Woodhead, M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S.
Alexander Haig, M.A., M.D., F.R.C.P.
Dr. W. B. Carpenter, C.B., F.R.S.
Dr. Josiah Oldfield, D.C.L., M.A., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P.
Sir Benjamin W. Richardson, M.P., F.R.C.S.
Dr. Robert Perks, M.D., F.R.C.S.
Dr. Kellogg, M.D.
Harry Campbell, M.D.
Dr. Olsen
etc., etc.
Before concluding this section it might be pointed out that the curious prejudice which is always manifested when men are asked to consider any new thing is as strongly in evidence against food reform as in other innovations. For example, flesh-eating is sometimes defended on the ground that vegetarians do not look hale and hearty, as healthy persons should do. People who speak in this way probably have in mind one or two acquaintances who, through[Pg 33] having wrecked their health by wrong living, have had to abstain from the 'deadly decoctions of flesh' and adopt a simpler and purer dietary. It is not fair to judge meat abstainers by those who have had to take to a reformed diet solely as a curative measure; nor is it fair to lay the blame of a vegetarian's sickness on his diet, as if it were impossible to be sick from any other cause. The writer has known many vegetarians in various parts of the world, and he fails to understand how anyone moving about among vegetarians, either in this country or elsewhere, can deny that such people look as healthy and cheerful as those who live upon the conventional omnivorous diet.

If a vegetarian, owing to inherited susceptibilities, or incorrect rearing in childhood, or any other cause outside his power to prevent, is sickly and delicate, is it just to lay the blame on his present manner of life? It would, indeed, seem most reasonable to assume that the individual in question would be in a much worse condition had he not forsaken his original and mistaken diet when he did. The writer once heard an acquaintance ridicule vegetarianism on the ground that Thoreau died of pulmonary consumption at forty-five! One is reminded of Oliver Wendell Holmes' witty saying:—'The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye: the more it sees the light, the more it contracts.'[Pg 34]
In conclusion, there is, as we have seen in our review of typical vegetarian peoples and classes throughout the world, the strongest evidence that those who adopt a sensible non-flesh dietary, suited to their own constitution and environment, are almost invariably healthier, stronger, and longer-lived than those who rely chiefly upon flesh-meat for nutriment.[Pg 35]

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