Learning that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has conned the U.S. Postal Service into creating stamps honoring 20 famous vegetarians, a couple of things come to mind. The first is, “Put us down for everyone else.” The list of famous meat eaters would certainly dwarf the list of famous vegetarians.
The second, of course, is they are ignoring perhaps the most famous vegetarian of all: Adolf Hitler.
According to history books and periodicals of the time, Hitler dabbled in vegetarianism his whole life but probably became a staunch vegetarian in 1931 when his niece died. According to witnesses, the next morning he was offered a piece of ham and refused, saying “it is like eating a corpse.”
A typical Hitler meal in the late 1930s included orange juice with linseed gruel, rice pudding with herb sauce, and crisp bread with butter and nut paste. Not a hint of meat.
In April 1941 Time Magazine confirmed that he went meatless, and in June, 1942, a UPI manager in Europe confirmed it. Hitler promoted the lifestyle wholeheartedly, claiming the moral and ethical high ground – as many vegetarians tend to do.
In fact Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, said “the Fuhrer is a convinced vegetarian, on principle. His arguments cannot be refuted on any serious basis.”
One of Hitler’s favorite pastimes was trying to disgust his meat-eating friends at dinner. While eating his vegetarian meal Hitler would talk ad nauseam about slaughterhouses and how meat is processed. Along with his philosophical beliefs, some historians contend Hitler embraced vegetarianism to try to cure a terrible case of flatulence, which was both embarrassing and worrisome. Vegetarianism did not work, of course. But he did stick with it to his dying day.
Hitler and Nazis in general, by the way, were also big on animal rights. An article translated in the 1990s from a 1933 German document stated: “The new Germany not only frees man from the curse of materialism, sadism and cultural Bolshevism, but gives the cruelly persecuted, tortured and until now, whooly defenseless animals their rights… The formal laws are imminent – thanks to the energetic initiative of our Peoples’ chancellor Adolf Hitler, for whom all friends of animals of the world will maintain forever their gratitude, their love and their loyalty.”
Since vegetarians seem to think good people and vegetarianism are somehow linked, they should admit that the opposite may be true. But we all should admit that vegetarianism probably wasn’t any more responsible for Hitler’s madness than his mustache was.
The point is that being a vegetarian doesn’t grant fame, talent, looks or intelligence. Or compassion, if hundreds of concentration camps are any indication. It just suggests a limited diet, which isn’t a lot to write home about.
For more, read Greg Henderson's feature Famous vegetarians on new U.S. postage stamps