One of the great advantages of the non-sentimental over the sentimental vegetarian is that in case dislike of foods occurs, as it very commonly does, and with it a decided depression of the nervous system from the dropping of all stimulants, a slight return to ordinary diet for a time may be beneficial. Anything is better than producing a nervous irritation against the diet. Patients at any rate are then able to realise for themselves whether it does them good or not, and are able to remember how they benefited at first from the cure and go back to it when they feel inclined. They must also remember that much that they suffer from is hereditary, and has to be continually fought rather than cured. To attribute every ailment to the new diet, when people have lived on meat and stimulants all their lives, and had constant attacks of illness, is, to say the least of it, unreasonable. In the case of vegetarians Dr. Haig has told me that they often come to him insufficiently nourished. It is specially easy for vegetarians to over-eat and yet be under-fed.
I am the last to deny that many, and especially old people, have benefited from a purely meat diet (the 'salisbury Cure') when very strictly carried out, though I never tried it myself. All that I feel, and I feel it strongly, is that health is more likely to be bettered by only taking food that clearly improves the blood than by depending for cure on alterative medicines and tonics which only relieve for a time.
True wisdom always brings us back to the old rule that moderation in all things is the best guide for everybody. The fact has long been known with regard to alcohol; but it has only lately been acknowledged that tea, coffee, and beef or chicken tea, are also stimulants and not food, and are injurious to the nervous system. Who would not have laughed, a few years ago, at the statement that tea-drinking in large quantities produces a form of delirium tremens? And yet the illness is now quite recognised as existing among the under-fed who drink tea in excess. The craving for stimulants of some kind is universal, especially when nourishment is insufficient. This proves, I think, that what is most wished for is not always best for us.
The law, and generally our own inclination, oblige us to leave the treatment of disease, once acquired, in the hands of doctors and surgeons, and this in spite of the many mistakes they make - often grievous mistakes, such as cutting people open and then merely sewing them up again because nothing is wrong, or leaving pieces of lint or even forceps inside after operations. Both these cases have come under my knowledge. Knowing of these things only depresses one and does no good. But the maintaining of health from babyhood upwards and the prevention of disease - for these, to my mind, all human beings are individually responsible both as regards themselves and their children. The more the latest and most conflicting scientific theories on the subject are known by everybody the better.
For all who are interested in the subject of non-meat-eating, much general information (cooking and other) is to be got from 'The Vegetarian,' a weekly penny newspaper. It is, of course, written from the sentimental point of view of the non-killing of animals, the health of man being considered as only secondary. Everyone with any understanding must have his feelings aroused by the sufferings of animals, whether caused by man or by each other. The killing of animals comes under a different category. Anyone who keeps cows knows well the sad order that has to go forth for the slaughter of the beautiful little bull-calf, as even the most fortunate farmer cannot expect to breed only cows. Is not all or nearly all our complicated civilised life directly or indirectly mixed up with the killing of animals? No one can hate cruelty more than I do; no one can wish more than I do that legislation should be applied to control and rule the cruelty of man. But the most tenderhearted of old maids has to shut her eves to the fact that superfluous kittens and puppies are put out of the way; and if we are told that the rats are devouring our beautiful black and white pigeons, the cruel rat-catcher is sent for to fight and kill the enemy, though, poor things! Mr. and Mrs. Eat enjoyed their spring life and their young families quite as much as the pigeons. Can vegetarians keep their kitchens full of blackbeetles or their Roses covered with green fly? Do they give over all their Peaches to the wasps, or their nuts to the mice?
The wasteful redundancy of Nature involves the whole question in a cloud of difficulties, and to my mind not one of these is removed, nor is any light thrown on the subject by the sentimental view that we should give up eating meat, not for our own good, but with the idea of sparing animal life.
Besides, such countless other products are dependent upon the killing of animals that, even if the whole world were non-meat-eating, hardly fewer animals than at present would be bred and slaughtered.
I myself believe it has to be proved that people who do not eat meat are less strong than those who do. The subject is receiving much attention in Germany. Last year I saw in the newspapers that a man left money to build a school for poor children on condition that it was conducted on vegetarian principles. The trustees refused the bequest. On the other hand, last June a very interesting walking-match took place in Berlin which, the papers said, attracted the attention of the Minister of War. The course was over seventy English miles. There were twenty-two starters, amongst them eight vegetarians, and the distance had to be covered within eighteen hours. The interesting result was that the first six to arrive at the goal were vegetarians, the first finishing in fourteen and a quarter hours. The two other vegetarians missed their way and walked five miles more. All reached the goal in splendid condition. Not till an hour after the last vegetarian arrived did the first meat-eater appear, and he was then completely exhausted. He, moreover, was the only one, the others having dropped off after thirty-five miles. This does not look as if power of endurance were necessarily diminished by non-meat-eating, and a great many people who have tried non-stimulating food find, as I do, that their brains are immensely clearer, their capacity for work restored and increased, they are much less affected by changes of temperature, and their general powers of endurance are much greater than before. In short, my belief that wrong diet in some form or other is the cause of all the hundred and one complaints which are called by different names, and that they do not originate from external germs, is as great, and some will say of the same nature, as that of Mrs. Crow, the ghost-seer in the old story. This lady had unbounded faith that certain acts would make her invisible, and so went out into the streets of Edinburgh with nothing on and a prayer book in one hand. A policeman rushed at her with his cape. She was not disconcerted, but said: 'What, you see me? Then I must have put the book into the wrong hand.'