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History and Evolution of Vegetarianism: An Ancient Practice


The vegetarian diet has been booming in recent years. In the beginning it was just an elite phenomenon. However, now more and more people are deciding to change their diet in the name of an ethical choice. Actually, although most people believe the contrary, vegetarianism was not born in this century.

This phenomenon, in fact, has very ancient origins.

Vegetarianism in Ancient Times

The first evidence of a vegetarian diet dates back to ancient Egypt. At that time, in fact, the religion of reincarnation absolutely prohibited the consumption of meat and the use of leather for the creation of clothes.

Then we come to ancient Greece. In 580 B.C. the mathematician Pythagoras believed that killing animals for food was almost inhuman and many of his students followed his thinking. Some Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, had instead a distorted conception of animals. They compared them to slaves, claiming that they existed only to meet the needs of man. This thought was also developed by the Christian religion and its faithful, who believed that animals were useful to people’s survival.

In the Asian world, vegetarianism was the basis of almost all religions such as Buddhism, Janism and Hinduism. The principle they were inspired by was that of non-violence.

It is interesting to point out that in dark times, characterized by famine and disease, the vegetarian diet was set aside in the name of survival. This is what happened, for example, during the Middle Ages.

Vegetarianism in the Modern Age

Many famous people professed themselves to be vegetarians throughout history. For instance, Leonardo Da Vinci himself was a great supporter of the vegetarian diet. On this purpose, he expressed his opinions about this kind of diet several times publicly.

In the Enlightenment many writers and intellectuals, through the recovery of classical texts, rediscovered the importance of excluding meat from their diet. In 1847 the first vegetarian society in history was born in Manchester, which then reached Amsterdam and Germany. The first vegetarian restaurants in London date back to 1880. This was the sign of a society eager to translate important ethical and moral principles into reality.

At the same time, the first conversions to vegetarianism linked to the phenomenon of obesity and all the complications associated with it began to emerge. So it was that ideas began to expand overseas reaching America and big names like John Harvey Kellogg.

Mahatma Gandhi was also a vegatarian – but this was easier to imagine. There are still plenty of vegetarian VIPs. Think that personalities like Confucius, Charles Darwin and Nikola Tesla embraced a vegetarian diet – even just for a limited time.

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