James Peale's "Still Life With Vegetables." Photo: Google Art Project

From Frankenstein's monster to Franz Kafka: vegetarians through history

“My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite”
June 13, 2019


Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes A Vindication of Natural Diet:

“There is no disease, bodily or mental, which adoption of vegetable diet and pure water has not infallibly mitigated, wherever the experiment has been fairly tried. Debility is gradually converted into strength, disease into healthfulness; madness in all its hideous variety, from the ravings of the fettered maniac, to the unaccountable irrationalities of ill temper, that make a hell of domestic life, into a calm and considerate evenness of temper, that alone might offer a certain pledge of the future moral reformation of society. On a natural system of diet, old age would be our last and our only malady; the term of our existence would be protracted; we should enjoy life, and no longer preclude others from the enjoyment of it... By all that is sacred in our hopes for the human race, I conjure those who love happiness and truth, to give a fair trial to the vegetable system.”


Mary Shelley, who shared her husband’s vegetarian diet, publishes her novel, Frankenstein, and gives this speech to Frankenstein’s creature:

“My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. My companion will be of the same nature as myself, and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man, and will ripen our food. The picture I present to you is peaceful and human.”


Franz Kafka writes to Grete Bloch:

“As a follower of natural healing I am not surprised you have headaches, but as your friend I am very sorry about this. Could you not start with the simplest change in your life—with a vegetarian diet? Meat is so ravaging for your tired body. Nevertheless there is a vegetarian restaurant in Opolzer Street near the Hofburg Theatre, the best one I know. There is no doubt that you will eat there better and with more pleasure... that you will feel stronger, you will sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.”


Joseph Goebbels notes in his diary:

“An extended chapter of our talk was devoted by the Führer to the vegetarian question. He believes more than ever that meat-eating is harmful to humanity. Of course he knows that during the war we cannot completely upset our food system. Afterwards, however, he intends to tackle this problem. Maybe he is right. Certainly his arguments are very compelling.”