Meet 5 Vegetarians Who Stopped Eating Meat Long Before It Was De Rigeur

Image: True math aficionados know this is actually a quinoa burger recipe. Courtesy of Flickr o5com

Image: True math aficionados know this is actually a quinoa burger recipe. Courtesy of Flickr o5com

It's hard to say exactly when it happened, but at some point in recent years, vegetarianism became cool. I've been a vegetarian for nine years now, and many celebrities have copied me taken the same pledge, giving the lifestyle a bona fide, A-list sheen.

Yet long before the no-meat choice became trendy, a host of historical figures were already abstaining from creature-eating. In honor of World Vegetarian Day, let's celebrate some of the most surprising ones.

Albert Einstein

Although Einstein only became a vegetarian at the tail-end of his life, he long supported the notion before committing to it himself. As early as 1952 he wrote to Max Kariel lamenting his blood-hungry ways: "I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience." 

(Today, researchers have found that children who possess a high IQ are more likely to become vegetarians as adults—interestingly, the discrepancy was even greater among those living in the UK.) 

Veggie quote:"It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."

Isadora Duncan

Have you ever seen the wild throes of modern dance? Thank Isadora Duncan. She popularized a style that deviated from ballet long before Martha Graham was on the scene. Born in San Francisco in 1877, this spellbinding dancer left behind an autobiography in which she detailed her vegetarian habits. There's speculation that saving money was her initial goal, but she later heralded her choice and inspired others to follow. 

Veggie quote: "While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal living conditions on this earth?" 


Remember the Pythagorean Theorem from high school geometry? Sorry. It looked like this—a2 + b2 = c2—and you used it to conquer triangle mysteries. When not devising ways to torment future math students, Pythagoras was also a Greek philosopher who flaunted the virtues of vegetarianism back around 500 BCE. He believed that meat consumption was bad for one's soul and body. The movement gathered support from followers, and in fact, a veganism was called "the Pythagorean Diet" until the mid 1900's.
Veggie quote“As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”

4. Benjamin Franklin 

There are modern disputes about Franklin's diet, but the Founding Father's autobiography declares that he went meat free at age 16. Like Isadora, Franklin appeared to be largely concerned with saving money (to buy mo' books). At times Franklin said his diet was inconvenient, but there's no evidence that he began eating "flesh" in later years (his word, not mine). Possibly, was vegetarian for at least part of his life. 

Veggie quote: [on advantages of vegetarian diet] "
I made the greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking." 

5. Adolf Hitler 

History is filled with a bevy of atrocities. Sadly, it's not fair to pretend that vegetarian diets were reserved for only the finest of historical figures. Adolf Hitler, only the most abhorred politician of the modern era, demonstrated (a rather ironic) concern for animal life. Though historians have speculated that Hitler occasionally slipped up and enjoyed meat products, his food taster* maintained that Hitler was strict to his veggie-only diet. Under Hitler's order, the Third Reich promoted soya beans as a meat alternative to followers. 

Veggie quote: [food taster Margot Woelk on Hitler's diet] "Between 11 and 12 o’clock, we had to taste the food, and only after all of us had tried it was it driven to the headquarters by the SS . . . It was all vegetarian, the most delicious fresh things, from asparagus to peppers and peas, served with rice and salads. It was all arranged on one plate, just as it was served to him. There was no meat and I do not remember any fish."

*Hitler had his food tasted before he ate it, for fear that it was poisoned. Hello worst job ever.  


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