The results of a recent study give me that nice, warm feeling the Germans call Schadenfreude, a word Anglophones use too for lack of their own.
Not only does the study show that vegetarians are less healthy than carnivores, but it also puts a dent into many claims touted by health junkies. If such claims were true, vegetarians would be walking pictures of health.
They consume less cholesterol and saturated fat. They eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. They drink less and exercise more. They’re less likely to smoke. Few of them are overweight. And yet the study concludes that vegetarians “are less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment.”
Can’t say I’m surprised, especially about the mental health part. Purely empirical observation does suggest that many vegetarians are prone to depression, or at least mood swings, and they tend to be morose loners.
Not being a psychiatrist, I can’t even speculate what causes eating disorders, of which vegetarianism is clearly one. Yet, displaying the self-confidence of an untrained amateur, I’m convinced that most incidences of this particular disorder do fall into the domain of psychiatry – depression and vegetarianism just may be different manifestations of the same underlying cause.
That’s nothing to be ashamed of: most of us have our own quirks. For example, I have a fear of heights, while one of my best friends develops facial tics whenever he’s contradicted, which means most of the time we’re together.
However, there’s a difference between my friend and me on the one hand and vegetarians on the other. We don’t use my acrophobia and his NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) to claim a high moral ground, while they use their eating disorder for just that purpose.
Not all of them do so blatantly. Most offer seemingly rational explanations, such as having watched abattoirs on television or actually visiting them. In the first case, one wonders if their TV sets had only one channel and couldn’t even be turned off. In the second case, one wonders what morbid interest made them visit a slaughterhouse in the first place. I mean, abattoirs aren’t everyone’s idea of a tourist destination.
Some others claim health benefits, which is why we should applaud the results of the study, hoping they’ll be confirmed by further research. Still others say they simply don’t like the taste of meat, poultry and game, which would suggest an atrophy of taste buds and an underdeveloped aesthetic sense.
Most Western vegetarians I’ve met are either atheists or fans of some dubious Eastern creeds (which amounts to the same thing). That’s hardly surprising either, because Judaeo-Christianity precludes anthropomorphism, which is an essential part of many Eastern faiths.
In our anthropocentric civilisation, killing animals doesn’t constitute murder, as the more crazed vegetarians claim. In fact, the Western position on carnivorism was manifestly laid down in Genesis: “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”
We no longer follow Biblical prescriptions, but they’ve seeped into the genetic make-up of our civilisation. Therefore even those unaware of the scriptural origin of their everyday practices unwittingly follow them every day. Vegetarians don’t, not this practice anyway, implicitly denying the spiritual provenance of our civilisation.
Some of God’s creatures are herbivorous, some are carnivorous, and man is both. Only man has the ability to choose which he wants to be, but exercising it means throwing half of what God so kindly gave us to eat back into his face. Those who do so have no claim to any moral ascendancy.
St Paul explicitly denied that vegetarianism occupies a higher moral ground than meat eating: “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.”
Some saints, notably St Augustine, did become vegetarians as part of their overall asceticism. But the practices of the greatest saints in history aren’t something even they themselves expected most people to follow. Those who can’t even approach the spiritual or intellectual heights reached by St Augustine ought not to single out his asceticism, the least consequential part of his heritage. Let’s start with The City of God, shall we?
St Francis stands apart from other saints in his attitude to fauna. He preached to animals and called them ‘brother’ and ‘sister’, which is why most painters from Giotto onwards depicted him surrounded by every manner of beast. However, in spite of his eerie anthropomorphism, St Francis wasn’t a vegetarian. So even regarding animals as man’s relations in God doesn’t necessarily preclude having some protein in our diet.
Today up to a third of all pupils in Britain’s top public schools cringe at the thought of eating meat. They’ve been brainwashed by history’s greatest propaganda campaign called modernity. Like most such campaigns it’s primarily destructive.
The purpose is to wipe out the traditional presuppositions of our civilisation, creating a tabula rasa on which modernity can inscribe its incendiary message. Vegetarianism is a small part of it, but a part nevertheless.