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Vegetarian History
Every generation seems to believe that vegetarianism is a new fad, but that's not so! Vegetarianism has a long and interesting history. The links below will help you explore the past.
Far from being a relatively new phenomenon, vegetarianism has enjoyed a long and diverse history and has been preserved in most cultures since the very beginnings of time.
A vegetarian ideologywas practiced among religious groups in Egypt around 3,200BC, with abstinence from flesh based upon karmic beliefs in reincarnation.
Abstention from meat was central to such early philosophies as Hinduism, Brahinanism, Zoroasterianism and Jainism. Vegetarianism was encouraged in the ancient verses of the 'Upanishads' and also mentioned in 'Rig Veda' -- the most sacred of ancient Hindu texts.Pivotal to such religions were doctrines of non-violence and respect for all life forms.
Famed philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras encouraged vegetariamsm. While wishing to avoid animal cruelty, he also saw the health advantages a meat-free diet. Pythagoras viewed vegetarianism as a key factor in peaceful human co-existence, putting forward the view that slaughtering animals brutalised thehuman soul.
Other notable Ancient Greek thinkers favoured a vegetarian diet. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all advocated a 'natural' life that did not involve animal cruelty.
Pythagorean ideals found very limited sympathy within the brutality of Ancient Rome, where many wild animals were murdered at the hands of gladiators in the name of sport and spectacle. Pythagoreans were despised assubversives, with many keeping their vegetarianism to themselves for fear of persecution.
However, vegetarianism was to spread throughout the Roman Empire from the 3rd to 6th centuries among those influenced by Neo-Platonist philosophy, a progression from the teachings of Plato.
Vegetarianism has always been central to Buddhism, which enshrines compassion to all living creatures. The Indian king Asoka (whoreigned between 264~232 BC) converted to Buddhism, shocked by the horrors of battle. Animal sacrifices were ended as his kingdom became vegetarian.
The Essenes were an ancient Jewish sect from the second century BC, who reacted against the excessive animal sacrifices of the day.
Early Christianity brought with it ideas of human supremacy over all living things, but several unorthodox groups didbreak ranks.
Practiced between the 3rd and 10th centuries AD, Manicheanism was another philosophy against animal slaughter. These non-violent vegetarian ascetics were painted as fanatical deviants, feared, loathed and frequently persecuted by the established church.
The vegetarian Bogamils were burned at the stake for heresy, against the \paranoid backdrop of Mediaeval Europe in the 10thCentury. There was a fervent 'anti-heretic' tone to most of Europe during this dark period and many innocents perished. However, two notable vegetarians escaped -- St David, Patron Saint of Wales, and St Francis of Assisi.
During the early Renaissance period, an open vegetarian ideology was a rare phenomena. Famine and disease were rife as crops failed and food was short. Meat was largely a scarce andexpensive luxury for the rich. It was during this period that there was to be a rediscovery of ancient classical philosophy.
Pythagorean and Neo-Platonic thought would once again become influential in Europe.
With the bloody conquest of 'new' lands, new vegetables were introduced into Europe, such as potatoes, cauliflower and maize. This had a beneficial effect on health, helping to prevent suchthings as skin diseases which were then widespread.
With the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century there emerged a new appraisal of man's place in the order of creation. Arguments that animals were intelligent feeling creatures were voiced and moral objections were raised as there was an increasing distaste for the mistreatment of animals. Amongst western religions there was a re-emergence...
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