The Fellowship of Life
(TO THE EDITOR OF THE ECHO)
I wonder if it strikes many people as being incongruous to commemorate the birth of an abolisher of pain by causing indirectly an unusual quantity of pain. More oxen are driven and conveyed and slain; more rabbits are ferretted or trapped, more birds are shot. I am not a Vegetarian nor a teetotaller, and I have no special craze; still this strikes me as odd; and I wonder what Christ would think of the poulterers' and butchers' shops just now. This impression has been made so strong by the accounts of the animals sent from afar to London in crowds, and doubtless with much miserable delay, that I propose to abstain from animal food altogether on Christmas Day. This will be to do what, if I could, I would do every day, namely, to cause to living creatures as little pain as possible. Want of habit makes Vegetarianism difficult; but on this particular day, at least, my pleasures shall not be derived from the pains of other beings who cannot resist their fate.
I agree with "M.D." that the slaughter of animals and devouring their dead bodies is not a nice way of keeping Christmas, nor do I much admire the preparation for the festival made in the last week of Advent by Lord Dudley and four of his friends, who, on three days of last week, killed, with their five guns, three thousand head of game. It is certainly not necessary to eat the flesh of animals. Millions of our fellow-subjects have never tasted it. The question, then, is, whether it is justifiable, whether it is Christian, to kill animals for mere luxury. They are our fellow-creatures, and have some rights. We have laws against cruelty to animals, but not against their slaughter. As to modes of keeping festivals, protests are of little use. The Scotch make their communion fasts drunken saturnalia. The English make a holiday of amusements and excursions of Good Friday, and two at least of the seven deadly sins, drunkenness and gluttony, enter directly into our fashion of celebrating the birthday of the Babe of Bethlehem. In a country where so many eat too much there will be some who cannot get enough. The Bishop of Manchester some time ago told the ladies of his city that he thought five pounds a head was too much to pay for a dinner. I know many persons who keep themselves strong and well on sixpence a-day. I have lived and maintained my full weight and power to work on threepence a-day, and I have no doubt at all that I could live very well on a penny a day.
Reprinted in The Dietic Reformer and Vegetarian Messenger of February 1878.
Reproduced with the kind permission of The Vegetarian Society
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