Religious Vegetarianism

From Hesiod to the Dalai Lama

Edited by Kerry S. Walters & Lisa Portmess

Subjects: Religion, Philosophy, Environmental Studies
Paperback : 9780791449721, 215 pages, May 2001
Hardcover : 9780791449714, 215 pages, June 2001

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Table of contents


Introduction: Ambiguous Permission, Journeying Souls, Resplendent Life

The Orphic-Pythagorean Tradition

Hesiod: The Five Ages
Porphyry: The Blessed Life
Ovid: Pythagoras of Samos: Spirit Never Perishes
Empedocles: I Have Been a Leaping Journeying Fish
Philostratus: Apollonius of Tyana: Sweet Offerings

The Indian Tradition

The Laws of Manu: The Sin of Killing
Akaranga Sutra: To Harm No Living Being
Kabir: Human Flesh and Beast Flesh Are the Same
Swami Vivekananda: Oneness Includes All Animals
Mohandas Gandhi: Diet and Non-Violence
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Thou Shalt Not Kill

The Buddhist Tradition

Surangama Sutra: Prohibition Against Killing
Lankavatara Sutra: Cherish Each Being Like an Only Child
Asoka: On Animals I Have Conferred Many Boons
Sir Edwin Arnold: All Life Is Linked
Chu-Hung: Releasing Life
Philip Kapleau: Meat Eating and the First Precept
The Dalai Lama: Compassion for All Sentient Beings

The Judaic Tradition

Roberta Kalechofsky: Kashrut: A Provegetarian Bias in Torah
Everett E. Gendler: The Life of His Beast
Joseph Rosenfeld: The Religious Justification for Vegetarianism
Abraham Isaac Kook: A Firm and Joyous Voice of Life

The Christian Tradition

Andrew Linzey: Vegetarianism as a Biblical Ideal
Tom Regan: In the Fullness of God's Creation
Francis X. Clooney: Vegetarianism and Religion
Carol J. Adams: Feeding on Grace: Institutional Violence, Christianity, and Vegetarianism

The Islamic Tradition

Rumi: The Men Who Ate the Elephant
His Holiness M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: Qurban and The Hunger Learns Compassion from the Fawn
Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri: They Are Communities Like You

For Further Reading



An anthology of writings on vegetarianism from a wide range of religious traditions.


Stretching back more than two thousand years and spanning diverse traditions, religious vegetarianism has an ancient and rich history. In this book, Kerry S. Walters and Lisa Portmess gather writings that reflect devotional as well as more analytical responses to age-old questions of animal suffering, dietary practice, and human responsibility. These include writings from ancient Orphic and Pythagorean authors, writings that span centuries of Indian and Buddhist thought, and writings from the Judaic, Christian, and Islamic traditions. Interesting both to those well-versed in the literature of vegetarianism as well as to others encountering it for the first time, are tensions within traditions over the use of animals for food—whether such use is consonant with fundamental values of the faith, whether religious law or tradition requires vegetarian practice, and what place animals are thought to hold in the order of nature.

Kerry S. Walters is Professor of Philosophy and Lisa Portmess is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Gettysburg College. They are coeditors of the companion volume Ethical Vegetarianism: From Pythagoras to Peter Singer, also published by SUNY Press.


"An anthology of the caliber of Religious Vegetarianism makes a wonderful case for the ability of scholars today to be able to go into the oldest, most established traditions or codified entities and expose the unexpectedly radical ideas that are embedded there." — Worldviews

"This wonderful book provides the cornerstone, the religious basis for a diet rich in compassion and a credit to faith." — Ingrid Newkirk, President, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

"Religious Vegetarianism is a stimulating collection of diverse and often out-of-the-way texts. The contrast between Eastern and Western religious texts on vegetarianism should prove to be especially thought-provoking for adherents of Western religions." — Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation