Re: vegetarian

Clyde Davenport (clyde@BUS.HIROSHIMA-PU.AC.JP)
Fri, 24 May 1996 12:27:13 +0900

At 6:46 PM 96.5.23 -0700, Govind Acharya wrote:
>This is my first post to the list:
>Are there any vegetarian societies outside of the Indian Subcontinent and
>Santa Cruz, California(:-)))? In earlier times, I believe that most
>societies were MOSTLY vegetarian, but this may or may not be the case

To take the case of Europe in the middle-ages, it appears that the
peasants rarely had the opportunity to eat meat. If they were lucky,
they would have meat at the most a few times a week usually in small
quantities and of a simple type. Festivals, though, were the exception.
At festivals they would eat not only much meat but other kinds of food
that were usually excluded from their simple everyday diet (soup seemed
to be the main dish at all meals). Of course, this is not an example of
real vegetarianism, but it does show that even in Europe most people did
not eat that much meat.

Japan is often said to have been a vegetarian society, but in ways
this is an oversimplification. Naturally, fish was eaten (even by
some Buddhist priests). And archeological digs in the Tokyo area
have discovered large collections of animal bones, from both
domestic and wild animals, dating from I believe the Tokugawa
period, which indicate that even when the consumption of meat was
discouraged by governmental edict at least some people from some
social classes continued to eat meat. Hunting, too, was practiced by
members of the samurai class although it is not clear to me whether
this was for the purpose of sharpening their martial skills or eating
game (or both). Some groups of commoners in the mountains, for
example the Yamabushi, appear to have hunted as a regular part of
their sustenance practices.

In some regions of Japan, particularly the northern Tohoku region, it
appears that until relatively recently (much as was the case in Europe),
the everyday fare of the peasants was quite simple consisting of millet,
miso-soup, and a few pickled vegetables at most times. Rice, although
grown, was used to pay taxes or in the case of share-cropping was given
to the landlord.

Clyde Davenport