Vegetarianism indicates a form of plant-based diet (fruits, vegetables, etc.), with the exception of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood). If the diet is more restrictive, excluding also all derivatives of animal origin such as dairy, eggs, jelly and honey, this is called “veganism”, a contraction of “vegetarian”, which indicates the British vegetarians. This form of diet has moral reasons, religious and health benefit.
Man is born as a vegetarian since prehistoric times when ate only what nature gave him, namely, fruit, plants and roots. Only later, someone began to feed on carrion or animals killed during the first hunt, and the man became omnivorous only after the invention of fire, thanks to which the cooked meat became more edible. The real breakthrough was then 10 thousand years ago, with the start of crops and livestock, thanks to which man survival was facilitated. With the establishment of organized villages and more complex societies, man began to reflect on his food choices and the dawn of the vegetarianism arrived. The first information about vegetarianism, understood as a widespread tradition among a significant number of people, refer to the ancient India, thanks to the spread of Zoroastrianism, which was opposed to any form of violence even in animals (called ahimsa in India and which Gandhi was a supporter). Also other religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Jainism, were based on this principle, whose ethical-philosophical and cultural effects are noticeable even today. But even in the West, and in ancient Greece primarily, there are traces of this mysticism that lead to rejection of the flesh, although they had no lasting influence as in India. The Orphism‘s ideas were the first, a mystical movement that tried to bring to the original balance, to get away from the human condition, through the purification of the body, and move closer to the divine. The Orphic cults followers believed in the transmigration of souls and therefore avoided any food of animal nature. The most staunch supporter of vegetarianism was the philosopher Pythagoras, so much that the first followers of a vegetarian diet were called “Pythagoreans.” Empedocles also, between 490 and 430 BC, distinguished himself as an advocate of vegetarianism, especially for the respect of animals. Later, some of the main Platonic and neo-Platonic adepts followed a vegetarian diet. They included Plutarch, who lived between 46 and 127 AD, Apollonius of Tyana, Plotinus and Porphyry, who lived from 233 AD and 305, and who wrote the treatise ” On the Impropriety of Killing Living Beings for Food”, the most ancient and elaborate text about vegetarian nutrition. The poet Ovid believed that nature offered enough food to ban the use of meat. Even the father of medicine Hippocrates, gave tips on healthy and ethical vegetarianism.
Nejamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote: “I realize that by a vegetarian diet I’m learning easily and getting a stronger intellectual acumen.”
The long-lived famous Russian dancer Nijinsky Vlaslav (1850-1950), convinced vegetarian, said: “Ever since I stopped eating meat my thoughts are lighter and I run instead of walk.”
Lev Tolstoj (1828-1910) well-known peace activist, said: “Eating meat is immoral because it involves an action that is contrary to moral feeling, the killing“.
During the Middle Ages, because of Catholicism, vegetarianism in Europe was even considered a heresy, as they were considered the Cathars which also abstained from any food associated with animals. On that time, few people were talking about this issue except Leonardo Da Vinci, who asserted: ” time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” The next industrial era led, unfortunately, the population to be moving further away from ethics and health consciousness as a result of factory work and the massive industrial food production. Some slight counter-revolution is to be found in the social movement “Lebensreform” (Reform of life) that was born in Germany in late 1800 and that propagated a back-to-nature lifestyle, emphasizing among others health food/raw food/organic food, nudism, sexual liberation, alternative medicine, and religious reform and at the same time abstention from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and vaccines. The ideas of one of its followers, Arnold Ehret, who later emigrated to California, influenced the nascent neo hippie movement. In 1847 in the United Kingdom was founded the first “Vegetarian Society” while the “International Vegetarian Union”, the union of the various national societies, was founded in 1908.
In the Western world, the popularity of vegetarianism grew during the 20th century for ethical or nutritional reasons and, more recently, partly because of growing environmental and economic concerns. It’s a fact that excessive consumption of red meat is harmful, livestock responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases, while the cultures of cereals for stock-breeding have high energy costs.
Who knows, is coming true what provided by Leonardo?
Nowadays there are a number of types of vegetarianism, which exclude or include various foods.
Ovo vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy products.
Lacto vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs.
Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism) includes animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey.
Veganism excludes all animal flesh and animal products, including milk, honey, and eggs, and may also exclude any products tested on animals, or any clothing from animals.
Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature.
Fruitarianism permits only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
Buddhist vegetarianism excludes all animal products as well as vegetables in the allium family (which have the characteristic aroma of onion and garlic): onion, garlic, scallions, leeks, or shallots.
Jain vegetarianism includes dairy but excludes eggs and honey, as well as root vegetables.
Macrobiotic diets consist mostly of whole grains and beans.