April 11, 2011
The quote, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields” penned by Leo Tolstoy, is reinforced by another great mind in human history. Socrates was a vegetarian who taught that virtue was based on knowledge. He was indicted for impiety, as well as the corruption of youth and was condemned to death. He refused to flee and died by drinking hemlock in 399 BC.
This excerpt from Plato’s “Republic”, who was a pupil of Socrates and one of the only 2 sources we can look to for his actual teachings, is in line with Tolstoy’s argument. It is simple dialogue between Socrates and Gloucon:
Socrates: Would this habit of eating animals not require that we slaughter animals that we knew as individuals, and in whose eyes we could gaze and see ourselves reflected, only a few hours before our meal?
Glaucon: This habit would require that of us.
Socrates: Wouldn’t this [knowledge of our role in turning a being into a thing] hinder us in achieving happiness?
Glaucon: It could so hinder us in our quest for happiness.
Socrates: And, if we pursue this way of living, will we not have need to visit the doctor more often?
Glaucon: We would have such need.
Socrates: If we pursue our habit of eating animals, and if our neighbor follows a similar path, will we not have need to go to war against our neighbor to secure greater pasturage, because ours will not be enough to sustain us, and our neighbor will have a similar need to wage war on us for the same reason?
Glaucon: We would be so compelled.
Socrates: Would not these facts prevent us from achieving happiness, and therefore the conditions necessary to the building of a just society, if we pursue a desire to eat animals?
Glaucon: Yes, they would so prevent us.
The AELLA team