Franklin on Vegetarianism

In his autobiography Benjamin Franklin tells of the benefits he found, financial and mental, as a youthful vegetarian:

When about sixteen years of age I happened to meet with a book, written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made myself acquinted with Tryon's manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as boiling pototoes or rice, making hasty-pudding, and a few others, and then proposed to my brother that if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my board, I would board myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying books. But I had another advanage in it. My brother and the rest going from the printing-house to their meals, I remained there alone, and despatching presently my light repast, which often was no more than a biscuit or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook's, and a glass of water, had the rest of the time till their return for study, in which I made the greater progress from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking.

Ever the pragmatist, however, Franklin admits that within a year or so he found a way to make exceptions:

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from Boston, being becalmed off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I considered, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs. Then thought I, "If you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you." So I dined upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.

Which brings to mind a hilarious dinner-table conversation with a fruitarian in the 1999 movie Notting Hill (written by Richard Curtis):

"We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush — that are, in fact, dead already."

"Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots..."

"Have been murdered, yes."

(cf. Robert Nozick (2002-02-02), Compassionate Carnivorism (2002-11-19), Ben Franklin on Intellectual Property (2008-05-15), Franklin's Virtues (2008-05-24), Franklin on Pride (2008-06-03), ...) - ^z - 2008-06-17

(correlates: Franklin on Pride, SouthernCross, Ben Franklin on Intellectual Property, ...)