By Robert Cohen Executive Director Text Only

Vegetarianism, a rational consideration
By Dugald T. Lewis, MD

Despite the raging Dietary wars and the hundreds of diet
books available in bookstores today, more and more Americans
are becoming increasingly confused about the optimal diet.
Nearly two centuries ago, society was also facing this
dilemma. Let us take a retrospective analysis of the issue.

In 1809, a British physician William Lambe, M.D, wrote a
book entitled Reports of the Effects of a Peculiar Regimen
in Schirrous Tumours and Cancerous Tumors. His recommended
regimen was the discontinuance of flesh food and the free
use of water. He advised that this diet if continued for
three years would be curative for cancers.

Later, the English poet P.B Shelley, a friend of Dr. Lambe
who became a convert to Vegetarianism wrote; "Never take any
substance into the stomach that once had life." Three
decades later on September 30, 1847, a Vegetarian Society
was formed in Great Britain with 265 charter members.
Meanwhile Sylvester Graham (originator of the Graham
cracker) began preaching the virtues of a vegetarian diet
across America. The American Vegetarian Society was later
formed at a convention of diet reformers in Clinton Hall,
New York on May 15, 1850. The first President of that
society was Dr. William A. Alcott of Massachusetts, another
health advocate.

For the remainder of the nineteenth century, several leading
American health reformers publicly promoted vegetarianism.
Among them were Dr. Milo North of Connecticut, William
Metcalf, pastor of the Society of Bible Christians of
Philadelphia, and Dr. James C. Jackson and Dr. Russell T.
Trall, physicians who had given up on the dangerous drug
therapy of that time. Later Dr John H. Kellogg of corn
flakes fame, and Ellen G. White founder of the Battle Creek
Sanitarium began ardently promoting vegetarianism. Some of
their supporters included leaders of the Women Suffrage
movement such as Mrs. Susan B. Anthony and Mrs. Amelia

On November 2, 1886, the American Vegetarian Society
convened a reception in Philadelphia where the featured
speaker was Dr. John H. Kellogg of the Battle Creek
Sanitarium. At that reception, Dr. Kellogg gave a historical
review of vegetarianism. Many Americans later became firm
believers as a result of the strong emphasis on
vegetarianism by the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Ellen G.
White, founder of that institution was a notable health
reformer who wrote strongly against the use of flesh foods
in the American diet. In 1905, she wrote the following;
"Those who use flesh foods little know what they are eating.
Often if they would see the animals when living and know the
quality of the meat they eat, they would turn from it with
loathing. People are continually eating flesh that is filled
with tuberculosis and cancerous germs. Tuberculosis, cancer,
and other fatal diseases are thus communicated."

Despite the warnings, millions of acres of land in the
Southwestern United states were later cleared and used for
feeding cattle. The American cowboy became an icon. Millions
of Americans began changing their diet from a predominantly
herbivorous to a predominantly carnivorous one.

In 1981, Dr. Linus Pauling commented that over the past 75
years the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole
grains by Americans had dropped by 40%. These continuing
trends have removed the protection against dread diseases
that comes from consumption of fruits and vegetables. At the
same time diseases caused by increased meat intake are
increasing in our western world. In the nineteenth century,
tuberculosis was one of the first recognized diseases that
was transmitted through animal products. Since then, many
more have been recognized. In 1997, the National Cancer
Institute reported that at least 70% of cancer was
preventable This came after their thorough analysis of more
than 4000 dietary studies where they were able to detect a
relationship between cancer and the consumption of animal

Animal meat can cause many deadly diseases in humans. The
excess Cholesterol that produces blockage of the arteries
comes only from animal products. Slaughterhouse workers have
been shown to have a higher incidence of lymphomas, a cancer
that can be transmitted by viruses. Bovine HIV infections,
present in up to 10% of cattle are believed to be similar to
the Human HIV, and many believe that these infections can be
transmitted to humans. Mad Cow disease or Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy (BSE) is known to cause the same disease in
humans, also known as Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. This
disease has already taken the lives of over 100 people in
Great Britain. There are health experts who believe that
some patients diagnosed with Alzeihmers disease may actually
have Human Mad Cow disease.

In 2001, 13 billion pounds of dead animal parts from pigs
and cows were fed to America's chickens as food. Many
bacterial intestinal infections such as Campylobacter, E.
Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Helicobacter pylori are
transmitted by the consumption of animal flesh. In 2002 we
saw two major meat recalls in America. ConAgra Foods Inc. in
July recalled almost 19 million pounds of ground beef from a
plant in Greeley, Colorado, some of which was contaminated
with E. coli bacteria. Pilgim's Pride Corp recalled 27.4
million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken and turkey products
in what U.S. officials called the largest recall in the
nation's history. Commenting on that disaster, Paul Harvey,
nationally renowned radio personality commented last
October; "Ellen White foresaw meat contamination over 100
years ago. She said it would come close to the time of the
end." Now in 2003, we are witnessing SARS, another disease
caused by consumption of a certain cat species by the
Chinese. After 200 years, society must rethink vegetarianism
as a safer form of eating. It is a rational consideration
that can be life-saving.
Contact Dr. Dugald Lewis

Robert Cohen, author of:   MILK A-Z
Executive Director (
Dairy Education Board

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