Project: Term Paper
Teacher: Professor Rhodes
Student: Antonio Ruiz



The following term paper will deal with vegetarianism. A vegetarian is a person who does not eat any types of meat. They do not eat beef, chicken (or any other kind of poultry), fish or seafood, lard or gelatin. I chose to do my term paper on a subject that I am familiar with being that I am a practicing vegetarian myself. First of all; I will give you a brief history on vegetarianism. My reference for this brief history on vegetariansim was taken from highlights of "The Heretic's Feast, a History of Vegetarianism" by Colin Spencer. Colin Spencer is a British vegetarian who once wrote a regular food column in the Guardian and has published a dozen cook books.

We often hear the phrase, "vegetarian- ism's time has come at last." But vegetaranism is not a new idea. It has a long and fascinating history stretching back to the early evolution of human beings.

Our Earliest Ancestors

Our ancestors evolved over a period of 24 million years and, according to Spencer, for all but one-and-a-half million of these years lived on an almost completely vegetarian diet, except for occasional insects and grubs. Spencer suggests that lack of a varied plant & fruit diet may have been the reason Neanderthal man died out, while Cro-Magnon man, our direct ancestor, survived. The Cro-Magnons lived in a more temperate climate and had ready access to plentiful supplies of plants and fruit, while the Neanderthals, who lived in the icy wastes of northern Europe, were forced to subsist mainly on flesh food.


The first prominent modern vegetarian was the Greek philosopher Pythagoras who lived towards the end of the 6th century BC. The Pythagorean diet came to mean an avoidance of the flesh of slaughtered animals. Pythagorean ethics first became a philosophical morality between 490-430 BC with a desire to create a universal and absolute law including injunctions not to kill "living creatures," to abstain from "harsh-sounding bloodshed," in particular animal sacrifice, and "never to eat meat."

The Vegetarian Heretics

Another big surge in vegetarianism came from the Manicheans in the early centuries AD. The Manicheans were a sect of "heretics" with vegetarianism as the centre of their beliefs, and were much reviled by the Christians. [It is for this reason that the book is called the Heretic's Feast] Manicheanism survived in the Near East as late as the seventh century AD and kept a foothold in China as late as the 16th century, the Manicheans being known as "vegetarian demon worshippers."

The Renaissance

By Renaissance times in Europe, meat eating had became surrounded by an aura of wealth and power. Only the Christian monks abstained, hoping to bring a closer affinity to God.

From the 17th century, a time of radical ideas, vegetarianism began to grow steadily in England. Religious sects that abstain from animal food began to proliferate. Moral objections began to appear as people discovered a distaste for exploiting animals: "as the threat from wild beasts receded, so man's right to eliminate wild creatures from whom he had nothing to fear was increasingly disputed" (Keith Thomas: Man and the Natural World).

Thomas Tryon was a prominent vegetarian of the early 17th century. His writings and teachings recommended a vegetable diet and a complete refusal to "gorge on the flesh of fellow animals." Tryon strongly influenced the Quakers, and much later the young Benjamin Franklin was greatly impressed by one of Tryon's books, The Way to Health.

The dilemma of whether humans should kill and eat animals was now being debated and written about by scores of people, some, like John Evelyn, advocating the wholesomeness of a "Herby-diet" and others, such as Henry More, advocating that cattle and sheep were only given life in the first place so that their meat could be kept fresh "till we shall have need to eat them." Moving into the 18th century, we find the writer and dietitian Dr. William Lambe recommending a vegetarian diet to his patients as a cure for cancer. By the end of the 18th century, there was an upsurge in humanitarian feelings, and the concept of animal welfare began to strengthen. The vegetarian movement now had real reason to hope for expansion due to the fact that vegetables and grains were becoming more abundant and available to everyone. All the arguments that sustain modern vegetarianism were now in circulation, including the view that meat eating was bad for health, was cruel and unnatural, and fostered a wasteful form of agriculture compared with arable farming which produced far more food per acre.

Blandness and Purity

The Pythagorean diet officially changed its title to vegetarianism in 1847 at a meeting in Ramsgate, an English seaside town. From this meeting came the Vegetarian Society, branches of which were subsequently established in Manchester and London. One of the first members was George Dornbusch who ate all his food quite cold and without salt and condiments. Many members of the Society believed that salt and condiments were stimulants and as bad as alcohol. This led to vegetarian food being enormously bland. At this time, too, vegetarianism became equated with moral earnestness, do-gooding and the higher grounds of purity and moral rectitude. Meat was considered a generator of lust. Vegetarianism even went hand in hand with abstention from alcohol. Because British beef was regarded as one of the positive forces behind the growth of the British Empire, vegetarianism was very quickly relegated to the level of a joke by the rich and powerful.

In 1847, the Manchester branch of the Vegetarian Society held their first annual meeting and a banquet. At this banquet they ate macaroni omelette, onion and sage fritters, savoury pie, plum pudding, moulded rice, flummery [fruit pudding], and several other dishes. In the early 1880's, membership in the Vegetarian Society rose until it reached over 2,000. In 1889 there were estimated to be 52 vegetarian restaurants in England, 34 of them in London. In 1889, Gandhi became a member of the London Vegetarian Society.

The 20th Century

At the outbreak of the First World War, pacifism and vegetarianism became intertwined and vegetarianism suffered a bitter backlash from a society which saw refusal to fight as treason. Seventy vegetarian conscientious objectors died in prison because of harsh treatment, including their inability to survive on prison meals. A food strike eventually produced a vegetarian diet for prisoners.

For the remainder of this century, vegetarians have continued the struggle to put forward their message. In Canada, the Toronto Vegetarian Association was founded in 1945 and has flourished for 50 years. As history shows, vegetarianism has had its ups and downs. Surely, by the year 2000, we will be able to say with absolute certainty, "Now our time has surely come." 

Considering Vegetarianism?

There are primarily three main reasons why one should consider vegetarainism. These reasons are:
a) the animals
b) the enviorment
c) for the hungry and of course your health
Here are some very interesting points concerning these reasons:
Today's intensive confinement systems involve overcrowding, deprivation, mutilation (dehorning, branding, de-beaking, castration) and death. Nearly six billion animals are slaughtered every year to please the human appetite.
•Each one of the six billion animals killed every year is an individual, sentient being, fully capable of feeling the boredom, stress, pain, thirst, fear and panic imposed on him or her. The meat industry considers the animal a profit-making item, whose death is merely part of the production process.
•Experimenters can now genetically engineer, integrate, and eliminate certain characteristics and traits, in efforts to increase productivity in animals. Such manipulation causes pain and suffering, threatens the environment and public health, and disregards the intrinsic nature. •Dairy cows are forced to produce ten times the milk they would normally generate to feed their calves. The vast majority of U.S. dairy cows suffer from mastitis and other diseases of the udder.
•Male calves used in confinement veal production are taken from their mothers soon after birth chained by the neck, and kept without bedding in small slatted crates. For 16 weeks, they are immobilized, isolated, and fed iron- deficient diets so that their pale, tender flesh will appeal to gourmet appetites.
•Millions of fish are intensely raised in concrete pools called raceways, and allowed approximately a cubic foot of water per 12 oz. fish. The use of unregulated antibiotics to treat disease leads to a contaminated runoff that can contain harmful bacteria and parasites. It then enters adjoining streams polluting the native fish, and ultimately, the humans who eat them.
•Egg-laying chickens are crammed inside wire mesh cages so tightly they cannot stretch a wing. Their beaks are cut off with a hot blade to prevent feather- plucking and cannibalism which are neurotic behaviors caused by the stressful, inhumane conditions.
•Wild animals suffer, too, as grazing land encroaches their wild habitats. Predators such as wolves and coyotes are poisoned, trapped and shot by farmers and wildlife management officers who complain that cattle and sheep herds are jeopardized. Animal Damage Control, as it is called, costs more than simply compensating farmers for their occasional losses.
•Sows restrained in stalls barely bigger than their bodies, are continually impregnated and forced to produce piglets in intensive confinement. Living in their own filth on concrete floors, pigs suffer from pneumonia and lung damage and constant foot and ankle pain. Boars are castrated without pain killers or anesthesia.

For the environment...
Animal agriculture has devastated our natural environment, clearing the natural habitats of wild animals and polluting our remaining natural resources.
•More than 260 million acres of forest in the United States have been demolished in order to create cropland for animal-based agriculture.
•More than half of all water used for all purposes in the U.S. is used in livestock production.
•Much of the excrement from "food" animals (which amounts to 20 times as much fecal matter as human waste) flows unfiltered into our lakes and streams, polluting them.
•A University of California study shows that it takes 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat; it takes 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of meat.
•More than four million acres of cropland are lost to erosion in the United States every year. Of this staggering topsoil loss, 85 percent is directly associated with livestock raising, i.e., over-grazing.

For hungry people worldwide...
90 percent of America's agricultural resources goes to feeding animals that could save human lives.
•If Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10%, 60 million people could be adequately fed by the grain saved.
•Common hamburger meat would cost $35/lb if water used by the meat industry were not subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.
•The U.S. expends more than twice the energy per capita on its food consumption than the average less-developed country expends per capita on energy consumption for all purposes.
•Twenty vegans (those do not consume any anumal products or by-products) can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed one person consuming a meat-based diet.
•American agribusiness promotes our wasteful system of animal agriculture to less developed nations that would be much better served by using their land for plant-based foods.

For your health...
The American Diatetic Association finds a vegan diet healthy and nutritionally adequate. It can also reduce, prevent, and/or reverse various diseases.
•Heart disease, strokes, osteoporosis, obesity, asthma and diabetes, as well as prostate, colon, cervical and breast cancers can be prevented and treated by adopting a low-fat vegetarian diet.
•Insecticide and herbicide residues contaminate most of the food grown in the U.S. While 1% of these toxic substances is found in grains, 6% in vegetables and 4% in fruits, 55% is concentrated in meat.
•The nutritional value of meat has been greatly exaggerated by the meat industry; meat contains fat and cholesterol which clog arteries and cause heart attacks. Most animals raised for food are kept in crowded, unsanitary conditions and are routinely fed drugs, chemicals. and growth hormones that becomes concentrated in their flesh. Humans who consume these animals also consume the toxins in their bodies.
•The risk of death from heart attack for the average American man is 50%, while the risk for a vegan man is only 5%.
•Women who consume meat daily have almost four times the risk of developing breast cancer as women who eat little or no meat.
•Toxic substances, while not necessarily producing clinical symptoms, contribute to a lowered resistance to stress and disease in humans.

The last piece of support I will use to support my thesis wil be based on my Native American heritage. Being of Taino ancestry my descion to turn towards vegetarianism was also based on our histry and the diet our people had prior to the invasion by the Europeans.Most Native American cultures to include the Tainos of the Caribbean had primarily vegetarian diets. How well we know the stereotype of the rugged Plains Indian: killer of buffalo, dressed in quill-decorated buckskin, elaborately feathered headdress, and leather moccasins, living in an animal-skin tepee, master of the dog and horse, and stranger to vegetables. But this lifestyle, once limited almost exclusively to the Apaches,1 flourished no more than a couple hundred years. It is not representative of most Native Americans of today or yesterday. Indeed, the "buffalo-as-lifestyle" phenomenon is a direct result of European influence, as we shall see. Among my own people, the Choctaw Indians of Mississippi and Oklahoma, vegetables are the traditional diet mainstay. A French manuscript of the eighteenth century describes the Choctaws' vegetarian leanings in shelter and food. The homes were constructed not of skins, but of wood, mud, bark, and cane. The principal food, eaten daily from earthen pots, was a vegetarian stew containing corn, pumpkin, and beans. The bread was made from corn and acorns. Other common favorites were roasted corn and corn porridge. (Meat in the form of small game was an infrequent repast.) The ancient Choctaws were, first and foremost, farmers. Even the clothing was plant based: artistically embroidered dresses for the women and cotton breeches for the men. Choctaws have never adorned their hair with feathers. The rich lands of the Choctaws in present-day Mississippi were so greatly coveted by nineteenth-century Americans that most of the tribe was forcibly removed to what is now called Oklahoma. Oklahoma was chosen both because it was largely uninhabited and because several explorations of the territory had deemed the land barren and useless for any purpose. The truth, however, was that Oklahoma was so fertile a land that it was an Indian breadbasket. That is, it was used by Indians on all sides as an agricultural resource. Although many Choctaws suffered and died during removal on the infamous Trail of Tears, those that survived built anew and successfully in Oklahoma, their agricultural genius intact.

George Catlin,3 the famous nineteenth-century Indian historian, described the Choctaw lands of southern Oklahoma in the 1840s this way: "...the ground was almost literally covered with vines, producing the greatest profusion of delicious grapes,...and hanging in such endless clusters...our progress was oftentimes completely arrested by hundreds of acres of small plum trees...every bush that was in sight was so loaded with the weight of its...fruit, that they were in many instances literally without leaves on their branches, and quite bent to the ground...and beds of wild currants, gooseberries, and (edible) prickly pear." (Many of the "wild" foods Anglo explorers encountered on their journeys were actually carefully cultivated by Indians.)

Many of the Choctaw foods cooked at celebrations even today are vegetarian. Corn is so important to us it is considered divine. Our corn legend says that is was a gift from Hashtali, the Great Spirit. Corn was given in gratitude because Choctaws had fed the daughter of the Great Spirit when she was hungry. (Hashtali is literally "Noon Day Sun." Choctaws believe the Great Spirit resides within the sun, for it is the sun that allows the corn to grow!)

Another Choctaw story describes the afterlife as a giant playground where all but murderers are allowed. What do Choctaws eat in "heaven"? Their sweetest treat, of course: melons, a never-ending supply.

More than one tribe has creation legends that describe people as vegetarian, living in a kind of Garden of Eden. A Cherokee legend4 describes humans, plants, and animals as having lived in the beginning in "equality and mutual helpfulness." The needs of all were met without killing one another. When man became aggressive and ate some of the animals, the animals invented diseases to keep human population in check. The plants remained friendly, however, and offered themselves not only as food to man, but also as medicine, to combat the new diseases.

More tribes were like the Choctaws than were different. Aztec, Mayan, and Zapotec children in olden times5 ate 100 percent vegetarian diets until at least the age of ten years old. The primary food was cereal, especially varieties of corn. Such a diet was believed to make the child strong and disease resistant. (The Spaniards were amazed to discover that these Indians had twice the lifespan they did.) A totally vegetarian diet also ensured that the children would retain a lifelong love of grains, and thus live a healthier life. Even today, the Indian healers of those tribes are likely to advise the sick to "return to the arms of Mother Corn" to get well. Such a return might include eating a lot of atole. (The easiest way to make atole is to simmer commercially produced masa harina corn flour with water. Then flavor it with chocolate or cinnamon, and sweeten to taste.) Atole is considered a sacred food.

It is ironic that Indians are strongly associated with hunting and fishing when, in fact, "nearly half of all the plant foods grown in the world today were first cultivated by the American Indians, and were unknown elsewhere until the discovery of the Americas."6 Can you imagine Italian food without tomato paste,7 Ireland without white potatoes, or Hungarian goulash without paprika? All these foods have Indian origins.

An incomplete list of other Indian foods given to the world includes bell peppers, red peppers, peanuts, cashews, sweet potatoes, avocados, passion fruit, zucchini, green beans, kidney beans, maple syrup, lima beans, cranberries, pecans, okra, chocolate, vanilla, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, cassava, walnuts, 47 varieties of berries, pineapple, and, of course, corn and popcorn.

Many history textbooks tell the story of Squanto, a Pawtuxent Indian who lived in the early 1600s. Squanto is famous for having saved the Pilgrims from starvation. He showed them how to gather wilderness foods and how to plant corn.

There have been thousands of Squantos since, even though their names are not so well-known. In fact, modern agriculture owes its heart and soul to Indian-taught methods of seed development,8 hybridization, planting, growing, irrigating, storing, utilizing, and cooking. And the spirit of Squanto survives to this day. One example is a Peruvian government research station tucked away in a remote Amazon Indian village called Genaro Herrera. University-trained botanists, agronomists, and foresters work there, scientifically studying all the ways the local Indians grow and prepare food. They are also learning how to utilize forests without destroying them, and how to combat pests without chemicals. The trend that moved some North American Indian tribes away from plant-food-based diets can be traced to Coronado, a sixteenth-century Spanish explorer. Prior to his time, hunting was a hobby among most Indians, not a vocation. The Apaches were one of the few tribes that relied heavily on animal killing for survival.

But all that changed as Coronado and his army traversed the West and Midwest from Mexico. Some of his horses got away and quickly multiplied on the grassy plains. Indians retamed this new denizen, and the Age of Buffalo began. Horses replaced dogs as beasts of burden and offered excellent transportation. This was as important an innovation to the Plains Indians as the automobile would be to Anglos later on. Life on the Plains became much easier very quickly. From the east came another powerful influence: guns. The first American settlers brought their firearms with them. Because of the Indian "threat," they were soon immersed in weapons development and succeeded in making more accurate and powerful weapons.10 But they also supplied weapons to Indians who allied themselves with colonial causes. Because it was so much easier to kill an animal with a rifle than with a bow and arrow, guns spread quickly among the Indians. Between the horse and the rifle, buffalo killing was now much simpler.

The Apaches were joined by other tribes, such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahos, Comanches, and Kiowas. These tribes "lost the corn," gave up agriculture, and started living nomadic existences for the first time. It was not long before their food, clothing, and shelter were entirely dependent on one animal, the buffalo. George Catlin lamented this fact as early as 1830.11 He predicted the extinction of the buffalo (which very nearly happened) and the danger of not being diversified. Catlin pointed out that, were the Plains Indians only killing a buffalo for their own use, the situation might not be so grave. But because the great beasts were being slaughtered for profit, they were destined to be wiped out.

It was the white man who profited. There was an insatiable Eastern market for buffalo tongue and buffalo robes. In 1832, Catlin described a wholesale buffalo slaughter carried out by 600 Sioux on horseback. These men killed 1400 animals, and then took only their tongues. These were traded to whites for a few gallons of whiskey. The whiskey, no doubt, helped to dull the Indian talent to make maximum use of an animal. Among the tribes that did not trade with whites, each animal was completely used, down to the hooves. No part went to waste. And buffalo were not killed in the winter, for the Indians lived on autumn-dried meat during that time. But now buffalo were killed in the winter most of all. It was in cold weather that their magnificent coats grew long and luxuriant. Catlin estimated that 200,000 buffalo were killed each year to make coats for people back east. The average hide netted the Indian hunter one pint of whiskey.

Had the Indians understood the concept of animal extinction, they may have ceased the slaughter. But to the Indians, the buffalo was a gift from the Great Spirit, a gift that would always keep coming. Decades after the disappearance of huge herds, Plains Indians still believed their return was imminent. They danced the Ghost Dance, designed to bring back the buffalo, and prayed for this miracle as late as 1890.

Despite the ease of and financial incentives for killing buffalo, some tribes did not abandon the old ways of the plains. In addition to the farming tribes of the Southeast, tribes in the Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest stuck to agriculture. For example, the Osage, Pawnee, Arikaras, Mandans, Wichitas, and Caddoans remained in permanent farming settlements. Even surrounded by buffalo, they built their homes of timber and earth. And among some of the Indians of the Southwest, cotton, basketry, and pottery were preferred over animal-based substitutes such as leather pouches.

Catlin was eerily accurate when he predicted dire consequences for the buffalo-dependent tribes. To this day, it is these Indians who have fared the worst from assimilation with other races. The Sioux of South Dakota,12 for one, have the worst poverty and one of the highest alcoholism rates in the country. Conversely, the tribes that depended little or not at all on animal exploitation for their survival, like the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw, are thriving and growing, having assimilated without surrendering their culture.

In the past, and in more than a few tribes, meat-eating was a rare activity, certainly not a daily event. Since the introduction of European meat-eating customs, the introduction of the horse and the gun, and the proliferation of alcoholic beverages and white traders, a lot has changed. Relatively few Indians can claim to be vegetarians today.

But it was not always so. For most Native Americans of old, meat was not only not the food of choice, its consumption was not revered (as in modern times when Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving as if it were a religious duty). There was nothing ceremonial about meat. It was a plant, tobacco, that was used most extensively during ceremonies and rites, and then only in moderation. Big celebrations such as Fall Festivals centered around the harvest, especially the gathering of the corn. The Choctaws are not the only ones who continue to dance the Corn Dance.

What would this country be like today if the ancient ways were still observed? I believe it is fair to say that the Indian respect for nonhuman life forms would have had a greater impact on American society. Corn, not turkey meat, might be the celebrated Thanksgiving Day dish. Fewer species would have become extinct, the environment would be healthier, and Indian and non-Indian Americans alike would be living longer and healthier lives. There might also be less sexism and racism, for many people believe that, as you treat your animals (the most defenseless), so you will treat your children, your women, and your minorities.

Without realizing it, the Indian warriors and hunters of ages past played right into the hands of the white men who coveted their lands and their buffalo. When the lands were taken from them, and the buffalo herds decimated, there was nothing to fall back on. But the Indians who chose the peaceful path and relied on diversity and the abundance of plants for their survival were able to save their lifestyles. Even after being moved to new lands they could hang on, replant, and go forward.

Now we, their descendants, must recapture the spirit of the ancient traditions for the benefit of all people. We must move away from the European influences that did away with a healthier style of living. We must again embrace our brothers and sisters, the animals, and "return to the corn" once and for all.

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