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Top 10 Famous Vegetarians

1. American Benjamin Franklin was born poor. He rose to wealth and universal respect, but first had to educate and improve himself. Books were expensive in his day, and so was meat. Franklin gave up eating meat, according to a PBS show about him, in order to save more money for books by spending less on food. He also believed that a vegetarian diet was healthful. He was in fact healthy; he lived to be 84, in an era when people tended to die relatively young.

2. Stella McCartney is an English fashion designer who is also famous for being the second-born daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney. She grew up an ovo-lacto vegetarian, and maintains that lifestyle for her own children. In all her designs, she refuses to use fur or leather.

3. George Bernard Shaw, the Irish dramatist and social critic, was a vegetarian who lived to be 94. He became a vegetarian at 25.About dying from malnutrition caused by his diet he quipped, “My situation is a solemn one. Life is offered to me on condition of eating beefsteaks.  But death is better than cannibalism.  My will contains directions for my funeral, which will be followed not by mourning coaches, but by oxen, sheep, flocks of poultry, and a small traveling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarfs in honor of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures.”

4. Antoni Gaudi was a Spanish Catalan architect. A devout Catholic, he never married and dedicated himself to his profession. He suffered from rheumatic fever during a lonely childhood, and rheumatism as an adult. He tried to deal with his disease through homeopathic medicine, prayer, long walks, and a vegetarian diet.

5. Leo Tolstoy was the master of the realistic novel. He was also a social reformer, who became what has been called a Christian anarchist in later life. His vegetarian practices were a part of his attempt to live a non-violent Christian life. He said, “ ‘Thou shalt not kill’ does not apply to murder of one’s own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai.”

6. Socrates was the Greek philosopher who drank hemlock after being condemned for impiety and corruption of youth. In The Republic, Plato records his teacher Socrates as being strictly against the killing of animals for food. In a dialogue with Glaucon, Socrates develops the ideas that eating meat is unpleasant, unhealthy, and can lead to war. Other philosophic Greeks who are on record as vegetarians include Plato himself, Empedocles, and Pythagoras.

7. Gandhi, the great Indian hero, was a vegetarian. He spent considerable time and thought on his diet, trying to find the best nutrition that could be accessible to all. At one point, doctors encouraged him to use cow’s milk, but he soon discovered that goat’s milk was a better way for him. His diet also emphasized wheat, rice, fruit, and vegetables. Though he was concerned with great political matters, to Gandhi diet was a vital matter as well.

8. Renaissance Italian Leonardo da Vinci was a great painter, sculptor, and engineer. He was also a committed vegetarian. He wrote in his notes that, “Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds theirs. We live by the death of others: We are burial places!” According to legend, he would buy caged birds in the marketplace, and set them free.

9. The famous Brontes were possibly raised as vegetarians. Mrs. Gaskell’s posthumous biography of Charlotte Bronte says that the children’s father believed that a simple meat-free diet would make the children strong and healthy. Perhaps it inspired their creativity, but they certainly all died rather young.

10. Albert Einstein was not a vegetarian for most of his life. He began to live as a vegetarian only in the last year or so of his life. However, he had apparently always found it an appealing choice. He wrote, “”Although I have been prevented by outward circumstances from observing a strictly vegetarian diet, I have long been an adherent to the cause in principle. Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” Translation of letter to Hermann Huth, December 27, 1930. Einstein Archive 46-756

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