BOOK REVIEW / Paperbacks: The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism by Colin Spencer, Fourth Estate pounds 8.99

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The Independent Culture
The only other history of vegetarianism was published in 1883, apparently, so this is clearly overdue. In the beginning we were all vegans, more because early hominids found it difficult to get meat than out of moral conviction. The first principled veggie on record is Pythagoras, who once stopped a man beating a dog because 'he recognised in the dog's cries the voice of an old friend', but his motives for refusing meat were largely ascetic - he was the first in a long line of relatively joyless veggies whose idea was self-denial. Claims that vegetarianism leads to moral purity are not wholly supported by the index of this work: the Buddha and St Thomas More were abstainers, but then so were Wagner and Hitler, while Jesus ate fish and St John the Baptist locusts.