US novelist, short story and non-fiction writer, and librettist; author of Everything Is Illuminated (2002) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005); recipient of the National Jewish Book Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and the York Public Library Young Lions Prize
"When I was nine, I had a babysitter who didn't want to hurt anything. She put it just like that when I asked her why she wasn't having chicken with my older brother and me: "I don't want to hurt anything."
Hurt anything?" I asked.
"You know that chicken is chicken, right?"
...My brother and I looked at each other, our mouths full of hurt chickens, and had a simultaneous how-in-the-word-could-I-have-never-thought-of-that-before-and-why-on-earth-didn't-someone-tell-me? moments. I put down my fork...
What our babysitter said made sense to me, not only because it seemed true, but because it was the extension to food of everything my parents had taught. We don't hurt family members. We don't hurt friends or strangers. We don't even hurt upholstered furniture. My not having thought to include animals in that list didn't make them the exceptions to it. It just made me a child, ignorant of the world's workings..."
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals, 2009
"What made you decide to become a vegetarian?
[Foer:] I've become a vegetarian many times in my life. I've gone on and off, and different times have been inspired by different reasons. I started when I was nine, very simply because I didn't want to hurt animals. It was totally uncomplicated. And then as I've gotten older the reasoning has changed. I've thought more about environmental issues, workers' rights issues, sustainability issues, the wastefulness. At the end of the day it's probably still, mostly, because of animals. I guess what I mean is the older I've grown, the stronger the argument against eating meat has become in my eyes."
"Interview with Jonathan Safran Foer," www.theyoungandhungry.com, May 3, 2009
42. Franz Kafka (Born July 3, 1883; Died June 3, 1924)
Czech born, German-language novelist and short story writer; source of the term "Kafkaesque," meaning nightmarishly bureaucratic in the vein of Kafka's novels The Trial and The Metamorphosis
"One day while in Berlin, Franz Kafka went to visit the city’s famous aquarium. According to his friend and biographer Max Brod, Kafka, gazing into the illuminated tanks, addressed the fish directly. 'Now at last I can look at you in peace,' he told them. 'I don’t eat you anymore.'
Kafka... became what Brod calls a strenger Vegetarianer—a strict vegetarian..."
Elizabeth Kolbert, "Flesh of Your Flesh," New Yorker, Nov. 9, 2009
"There is no doubt in my mind that a draft alone doesn't cause toothache in healthy teeth... And if the deterioration of the teeth wasn't actually due to inadequate care, then it was due, as with me, to eating meat. One sits at the table laughing and talking... and meanwhile tiny shreds of meat between the teeth produce germs of decay and fermentation, no less than a dead rat squashed between two stones.
Meat is the one thing that is so stringy that it can be removed only with great difficulty, and even then not at once and not completely, unless one's teeth are like those of a beast of prey—pointed, set wide apart, designed for the purpose of tearing meat to shreds."
Franz Kafka, quoted in Disgust: The Theory and History of a Strong Sensation by Winfried Menninghaus, 2003
US writer-director of Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993); director of The School of Rock (2003); made a fictional film adaptation of Eric Schlosser's non-fiction Fast Food Nation (2006)
"Richard Linklater's film Fast Food Nation ends on the killing floor, as cattle march placidly up a ramp to be slaughtered. We see them shot and shackled, sliced and diced... Inside the cinema at Cannes, the audience groaned and covered their eyes...
Linklater and Schlosser flew into Cannes a few hours earlier and are eager to hear how the press screening went. What did the audience make of that final scene? Did anyone run out screaming? The director is keyed up, excited about the prospects of a movie that dares lock horns with the giants of America's cheap meat industry...
With its twitching carcasses and yellow mounds of fat, the last scene of Fast Food Nation appears expressly designed to put the viewer off meat for life. The problem is that for Linklater, a vegetarian since his 20s, it nearly had the reverse effect.
'It was the craziest situation,' he says. 'So many of the crew came out saying, 'I will never eat meat again.' But maybe it was all the smells. The warm blood. I swear to God it must have activated some long-dormant enzymes in my stomach, because I came out smelling a medium-rare steak, straight off the grill.'
He pauses to chew metaphorically over the implications. 'And wouldn't that have been the ultimate failure of this film? If it turned me into a meat eater.' By this point he is looking alarmed. 'I wouldn't have eaten the steak,' he insists, as much to himself as to me. 'But for a second there I almost could have.'
Xan Brooks, "'I've Never Been in the Firing Line Like This before,'" Guardian, 21 May 2006
44. Plutarch of Chaeronea in Boeotia (Born circa 45 AD; Died circa 120 AD)
Greek biographer, essayist and historian; author of Parallel Lives (Bioi paralleloi) and Moralia (or Ethica)
"For my part, I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man who did so touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds..."
Plutarch of Chaeronea in Boeotia, quoted in John Dillon, "Pythagorean Influences in Plutarch's Philosophical Upbringing," in On the Daimonion of Socrates: Human Liberation, Divine Guidance & Philosophy, Ed. Heinz-Gunther Nesselrath, 2010
"If, in spite of all this, you still affirm that you were intended by nature for such a diet, to begin with, kill yourself what you wish to eat—but do it yourself with your own natural weapons, without the use of butcher's knife, or axe, or club. No; as the wolves and lions and bears themselves slay all they feed on, so, in like manner, do you kill the cow or ox with a grip of your jaw, or the pig with your teeth, or a hare or a lamb by falling upon and rending them there and then. Having gone through all these preliminaries, then sit down to your repast. If, however, you wait until the living and intelligent existence be deprived of life, and if it would disgust you to have to rend out the heart and shed the life-blood of your victim, why, I ask, in the very face of Nature, and in despite of her, do you feed on beings endowed with sentient life?"
Plutarch of Chaeronea in Boeotia, On the Eating of Flesh, reprinted in Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet: a Catena of Authorities Deprecatory of the Practice of Flesh-Eating, 1883
45. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Born Aug. 30, 1797; Died Feb. 1, 1851)
English Romantic novelist; author of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818, revised 1831); wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley
"...[S]eventeen year old Mary [Shelley] was pregnant, with a baby conceived earlier in the summer. The combination of pregnancy and the vegetarian diet insisted upon by [her future husband Percy Bysshe] Shelley (who had praised vegetarianism...) made her ill and sleepy."
Daisy Hay, Young Romantics: the Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation, 2010
"Frankenstein has received an enormous amount of critical attention over the past two decades from feminists and other critics, all of whom have neglected to explore the vegetarian themes in the novel. Frankenstein's creature is a vegetarian. [Author Carol J.] Adams says: 'The Creature's vegetarianism not only confirms its inherent, original benevolence, but conveys Mary Shelley's precise rendering of themes articulated by a group of her contemporaries whom I call 'Romantic vegetarians.'... Shelley grew up in an intellectual environment in which vegetarianism was much discussed and often adopted by such writers and activists as John Frank Newton, Joseph Ritson, and her father, William Godwin. Shelley's husband, Percy, authored two vegetarian texts, A Vindication of Natural Diet and Queen Mab, and the Romantics with whom they kept company viewed radical politics and other unorthodox notions such as Republicanism as going hand-in-glove with their vegetarianism."
"Extract from a review of The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams," originally published in Environmental ethics, Volume 14, 1992, available at the International Vegetarian Union website (accessed Dec. 8, 2011)
46. Upton Sinclair (Born Sep. 20, 1878; Died Nov. 25, 1968)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Jungle (1906); social reform activist
"...Upton Sinclair was one of [co-developer of Corn Flakes breakfast cereal Dr. John Harvey] Kellogg's converts to vegetarianism… The Jungle is the most powerful depiction of the horrors of animal slaughter in U.S. history... Despite the novel's passages sympathetic to the plight of cattle and hogs [see except below], Sinclair apparently did not intend to espouse vegetarianism as a solution to the problems in the meat industry. A life-long food faddist, he apparently tried vegetarianism for a few years, gave it up in 1911, and moved on to other diets... In his autobiography, Sinclair says that 'for fifty-six years I have been ridiculed for a passage in The Jungle that deals with the moral claims of dying hogs—which passage was intended as hilarious farce. The New York Evening Post described it as nauseous hogwash'—and refused to publish my letter of explanation.'"
Wilson J. Warren, Tied to the Great Packing Machine: the Midwest and Meatpacking, 2007
"[T]here was a great iron wheel, about twenty feet in circumference, with rings here and there along its edge... [I]t began slowly to revolve, and then the men upon each side of it sprang to work. They had chains which they fastened about the leg of the nearest hog, and the other end of the chain they hooked into one of the rings upon the wheel. So, as the wheel turned, a hog was suddenly jerked off his feet and borne aloft.
At the same instant the ear was assailed by a most terrifying shriek; the visitors started in alarm, the women turned pale and shrank back. The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing—for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back... And meantime another was swung up, and then another, and another, until there was a double line of them, each dangling by a foot and kicking in frenzy—and squealing. The uproar was appalling, perilous to the ear-drums; one feared there was too much sound for the room to hold—that the walls must give way or the ceiling crack...
It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated... And yet somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the hogs; they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly; and they were so very human in their protests—and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it..."
47. George Bernard Shaw (Born July 26, 1856; Died Nov. 2, 1950)
Irish playwright, novelist and social critic; cofounder of the London School of Economics; Nobel Prize for literature recipient (1925)
"Less than a century ago, even the celebrated playwright and wit George Bernard Shaw, a vegetarian for the last 70 years of his long life, was considered a 'crank' by some, though it mattered little to him. When asked in 1898 why he was a vegetarian, Shaw had a typically outspoken answer: 'Oh, come! That boot is on the other leg. Why should you call me to account for eating decently? If I battened on the scorched corpses of animals, you might well ask me why I did that.'"
"Another Look at Vegetarianism," Encyclopaedia Britannica: Advocacy for Animals website, May 21, 2007
"My will contains directions for my funeral, which will be followed, not by mourning coaches, but by herds of oxen, sheep, swine, flocks of poultry, and a small travelling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarves in honor to the man who perished rather than eat his fellow-creatures. It will be, with the single exception of Noah's Ark, the most remarkable thing of the kind yet seen."
George Bernard Shaw, "Wagner and Vegetables," The Academy, Oct. 15, 1898
"While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?"
George Bernard Shaw, quoted by P.S. Sri in "Shaw (1856-1950), Gandhi (1869-1948) and Vegetarianism," www.shawsociety.org
"Animals are my friends... and I don’t eat my friends."
George Bernard Shaw, quoted by P.S. Sri in "Shaw (1856-1950), Gandhi (1869-1948) and Vegetarianism," www.shawsociety.org
48. Leo Tolstoy (aka Lev Nikolayevich, Count Tolstoy, and other variations) (Born Sep. 9, 1829; Died Nov. 20, 1910)
Russian novelist; author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina; religious and political essayist; social reformer
"Count Lyof N. Tolstoi, the eminent Russian novelist, essayist and thinker, has been for many years a Vegetarian, eschewing flesh, fish and fowl, eggs, butter and lard, and neither drinking wine nor smoking tobacco. His diet consists of bread, porridge, fruit and vegetables. In an article which he contributed to the New Review in 1892, he writes :—
'The Vegetarian Movement ought to fill with gladness the souls of those who have at heart the realization of God's kingdom upon earth, not because Vegetarianism itself is such an important step towards the realization of this kingdom (all real steps are equally important or unimportant), but because it serves as a criterion by which we know that the pursuit of moral perfection on the part of man is genuine and sincere...'"
Charles W. Forward, Fifty Years of Food Reform: A History of the Vegetarian Movement in England, 1898
"A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral."
Leo Tolstoy, "Letter to Dr. Eugen Heinrich Schmitt," The Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoi – Volume 20: Essays, Letters, and Miscellanies, 1902
49. Leonardo da Vinci (Born Apr. 15, 1452; Died May 2, 1519)
Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect and engineer; artwork includes the Last Supper (1495–98) and the Mona Lisa (circa 1503–06)
"It appears from Corsali’s letter [Andrea Corsali’s letter to Giuliano de’ Medici] that Leonardo ate no meat, but lived entirely on vegetables, thus forestalling modern vegetarians by several centuries."
Eugene Muntz, Leonardo da Vinci: Artist, Thinker, and Man of Science, 1898
"…The mere idea of permitting the existence of unnecessary suffering, still more that of taking life, was abhorrent to [Da Vinci]. Vasari tells, as an instance of his love of animals, how when in Florence he passed places where birds were sold he would frequently take them from their cages with his own hand, and having paid the sellers the price that was asked would let them fly away in the air, thus giving them back their liberty."
Edward MacCurdy, The Mind of Leonardo da Vinci, 1928
"Unfortunately, there is a quote attributed to da Vinci that has been in several books and magazine articles as well as on vegetarian web sites which has been falsely attributed. It is as follows: 'I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.' The quote... was from a fiction novel (which did put into da Vinci’s mouth some actual quotes) by Dimitri [Dmitri] Merejkowski..."
David Hurwitz, "Leonardo da Vinci's Ethical Vegetarianism," International Vegetarian Union website, July 19, 2002
Songwriter for artists including Celine Dion, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Aerosmith, Britney Spears, etc.; four-time Billboard Songwriter of the Year; eight-time Grammy Award nominee (one win); six-time Academy Award nominee; PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) honorary committee member
"I am a huge supporter of animal charities including PETA. I love animals and am a vegetarian. I can’t stand that animals are abused and forgotten so whatever I can do to alleviate animal suffering, I do."
Dana Feldman, "Diane Warren Interview: Songwriting Legend Shares Her Secrets," Beatweek Magazine website, Nov. 7, 2011
"I like to see old friends and have a nice dinner. I'd go to Vida, in Los Feliz [CA]... I'm a vegetarian, and they have a couple good vegetarian dishes... So many places, they just have a plate of steamed vegetables. I'd rather eat cardboard."
Robin Rauzi, "My Favorite Weekend: Diane Warren," www.latimes.com, June 14, 2001
Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (Born Nov. 30, 1835; Died Apr. 21, 1910)
Falsely identified as vegetarian
US novelist, journalist, humorist and travel writer; author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885); animal rights advocate
"Animals were integral to Mark Twain's work as a writer from the first story that earned him national renown to pieces he wrote during his final years that remained unpublished at his death. Twain is famous for having crafted amusing and mordant quips about animals, as well as for having brought to life a cavalcade of animals who are distinctive, quirky, vividly drawn, and memorable. He is less known for being the most prominent American of his day to throw his weight firmly behind the movement for animal welfare...
Despite his disapproval of the wanton cruelty that hunting as a sport condoned, Twain did not object to killing animals for food...
Twain was not a vegetarian himself..."
Shelley Fisher Fishkin, PhD, "Introduction" and "Acknowledgments," Mark Twain's Book of Animals, Ed. Shelley Fisher Fishkin, PhD, 2010
"When I was a boy my mother pleaded for the fishes and birds and tried to persuade me to spare them, but I went on taking their lives unmoved, until at last I shot a bird that sat in a high tree, with its head tilted back, and pouring out a grateful song from an innocent heart. It toppled from its perch and came floating down limp and forlorn and fell at my feet, its song quenched and its unoffending life extinguished. I had not needed that harmless creature, I had destroyed it wantonly, and I felt all that an assassin feels, of grief and remorse when his deed comes home to him and he wishes he could undo it and have his hands and his soul clean again from accusing blood."
Mark Twain, quoted in Mark Twain's Book of Animals, Ed. Shelley Fisher Fishkin, PhD, 2010