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An Excerpt From The Bloodless Revolution

Filed under: Books History

The Guardian has published an excerpt from The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times, a new book by Tristram Stuart.

The book is an in-depth examination of the origins of modern, Western vegetarianism. It follows the movement from early British encounters with Hinduism and Enlightenment philosophy through to the present. A choice quote:

Amazingly, three of Europe’s most important early seventeenth-century philosophers – Descartes, Gassendi and Francis Bacon – all advocated vegetarianism. At no time before or since has vegetarianism been endorsed by such a formidable array of intellectuals, and by the 1700s their pioneering work had blossomed into a powerful movement of scientific vegetarianism.

And it seems some things never change:

Although most people preferred not to think about it, the vegetarians insisted that filling the European belly funded the torture of animals in unpleasant agricultural systems, and ultimately the rape and pillage of the entire world.

I look forward to reading this book. I really don’t know my pre-20th century roots when it comes to veganism. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

While The Bloodless Revolution was released in the UK today, the US release isn’t until January, 2007.


  1. Comment by


    on #

    Will be an interesting read for sure. Thanks for the site, you guys are awesome!

  2. Comment by


    on #

    Interesting that Descartes is mentioned as an advocate of vegetarianism. Perhaps my memory’s a bit rusty, but I seem to recall reading in Animal Liberation that Descartes argued that animals were nothing more than machines. He likened a dog to a clock, and I seem to recall something about “kicking the clock…”

  3. Comment by

    Patrick Kwan

    on #

    I’m surprised by the inclusion of Descartes as well. I’m sure he didn’t advocate or support vegetarianism on the basis of animal suffering and ethics – perhaps he was arguing from a scientific (anatomy?) standpoint. I can’t wait to check out the book!