Silencing vegetarians

After I became vegetarian I suddenly discovered the wide spectrum of people and political or philosophical movements that prone a vegetarian diet. Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, the Pythagoreans, Plato, a big part of the feminist movement, the Transcendentalists and many more. And I wonder: why have I not heard of those well-known people and movements as being vegetarian before? Why, on the other hand, is Hitler constantly cited as a vegetarian, when, in fact, he was not?

“One way that the dominant culture avoids the radical critique of vegetarianism is by focusing on individuals who seem to disprove the claims of vegetarians. Thus, meat eaters refer to Hitler’s “vegetarianism”. In fact, Hitler was not a vegetarian. But many meat eaters need to believe that Hitler was a vegetarian to comfort themselves with the idea that vegetarianism does not necessarily make you a better person. The message appears to be: “I don’t have to deal with this issue since Hitler was a vegetarian”. But so was Mohandas Gandhi. So was Isaac Bashevis Singer.” – Carol J.Adams in The Sexual Politics of Meat

It seems that when somebody’s vegetarianism could be influential, the general trend is to ignore it or silence it. The fact that Gandhi was vegetarian wouldn’t really surprise anyone, because he comes from a mostly vegetarian culture, a distant culture; moreover, the vegetarianism of this culture is associated with its religion, thus it becomes more of a private matter. But Isaac Bashevis Singer, on the other hand, is a holocaust survivor. Have those meat eaters who are shocked by vegetarians comparing the fate of farmed animals to an eternal Treblinka ever heard of him?

Is Socrates’s vegetarianism ever mentioned in schools? His message is amazingly modern because it is not only ethical but also environmental. In Plato’s Republic he tells Glaucon that meat production is a waste of land because it necessitates large amounts of pasture.

Do people know that Mary Shelley made her Frankenstein‘s creature vegetarian and on purpose? I don’t remember ever reading or hearing anything about it before I became vegetarian. Do they even mention it in movie adaptations?

Wait, do I not remember or is it really silenced? Could I have not remembered it just because it didn’t seem relevant to me? Could I have simply not seen it, just because it was not part of my world?

“I asked a suffrage worker […] if she had ever discussed vegetarianism with her friend, Agnes Ryan. No, she replied, it seemed relatively unimportant to her. I asked a leading feminist historian if she had noticed references to vegetarianism in the letters she had just finished reading of women pacifists of World War I. Frankly, she admitted, she would not have noticed. Ida Husted Harper who edited the last two volumes of the mammoth History of Woman Suffrage omitted any discussion of a confrontation between a vegetarian milliner and an officer of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association over an aigretted hat and a chicken dinner.” – Carol J.Adams in The Sexual Politics of Meat

Do we question what we don’t want to question or only what we want to question? That is the question…

Published in: on January 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment