Leo Tolstoy, Man Violates His Highest Spiritual Capacity by Slaughtering and Eating Animals
"This is dreadful! Not only the suffering and death of the animals, but that man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity--that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself--and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel."
Leo Tolstoy was one of Russia’s greatest novelists, but he was also a revered moral philosopher, humanitarian and mystic. He became a vegetarian for the last 23 years of his life. He was passionate about being a vegetarian and strongly believed that slaughtering and eating animals was immoral, unethical and inhumane. He said, “there would be no limit for their cruelty,” if man continued to raise, slaughter and eat animals. He was a devout Christian and believed that all living sentient beings had spirits, souls, felt emotions and suffered, whether human or non-human animals, and that because of this, humans did not have the right to kill or harm animal beings. He shunned eating the flesh of another being, and said eating flesh is “simply immoral as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to any moral feeling – killing; and is called forth only by greed and the desire for tasty food.” He felt man violated his highest spiritual capacity by slaughtering and eating animals.
Tolstoy describes his horror at the inhumane and brutal ways animals are slaughtered after visiting a slaughterhouse. He felt that in order for man to participate in the inhumane and dispassionate killing of animals, “man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity—that of sympathy and pity toward living creatures like himself. And by violating his own feelings, he becomes cruel. And how deeply seated in the human heart is the injunction not to take life!”
After becoming a vegetarian, Tolstoy wrote an article called The Vegetarian (London, 1889) about non-violence and passive resistance. He often included writings about vegetarianism in his works and was known to have been a strong influence on Russian society in influencing a vegetarian diet and lifestyle. He advocated vegetarianism as “one of the first steps toward a good and decent life,” with self-restraint, which should be the moral aspiration of all humans.
More quotes by Leo Tolstoy
Photo courtesy of Hannah Gregus/Sympathy at Slaughter, www.sympathyatslaughter.com