Tag Archive | history

Irish radio covers VegHist

Hear Luke Clancy interviewing Ian about “Vegetarianism: The Story So Far” on Lyric FM (the Irish national broadcaster’s cultural station). They talk about the course of vegetarian history, Ian’s motivations for the series, and visit the corner of central London where organised veganism began.

VegHist Ep 10: Revolution. English civil war, diet gurus, and the poetry of Sensibility. With Tristram Stuart and Anita Guerrini; at the Ahmedabad Panjrapole

Various eighteenth century books including an illustrated title page of "The English Hermit" and a discourse on "Sallets" (Salads)

When printing lets ordinary people access a world of ideas, including Indian vegetarianism, some European radicals and diet gurus begin to oppose meat-eating.

Episode 10: Revolution

In England, the 1600s are a century of revolution. The artisans and yeomanry are picking up books – and the New Model Army is picking up pikes and muskets to turn the world upside down.

Ian meets Dr Ariel Hessayon, a lecturer in the radicals of the English Civil War at a Thameside pub that was there during the 1600s, to discover tabloid scares and firebrand sermons about people who ate only bread, and water and fruit.

In Ahmedabad, India, he visits the kind of animal hospital that astounded European travellers. And he hears from author Tristram Stuart about the impact stories of India had on Europeans, and how they shook Christendom’s moral certainty.

Dr Anita Guerrini researches the first vegetarian diet gurus, whose books about food and medicine interpreted the intellectuals of the Republic of Letters for everyone else. And she tells Ian about the secret religion of Sir Isaac Newton.

Play or download (62MB MP3 44min) (via iTunes)
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VegHist Ep 8: Contacts. Indian Sufism, Bhakti, Akbar, Portuguese Christianity, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism

An east Indian Jagannath image of Krishna and the words "Go veggie!" and "Krishna" are painted on the side of a cart.

When conquerors who profess Islam or Christianity rule over Indian vegetarians, the conversations about food ethics go both ways.

Episode 8: Contacts

Ian discovers the ecstatic dancing and singing shared by Sufis and Hindus – including westerners singing Hare Krishna in London’s main shopping street.  In Delhi, he finds out about the inquisition that started with European antisemitism and ended with Indians being forced to eat beef.

And in the royal city of Agra, he visits a shrine built to commemorate a conversation about religion and vegetarianism between a Jain saint and the Mughal emperor Akbar. He uncovers the fascinating story of this heretic emperor who advocated vegetarianism.

At the halfway point of this 15-part history of vegetarianism, the traditions of East and West come together. From hereon, it’s all one story.

Play or download (52MB MP3 37min) (via iTunes)
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VegHist Ep 7: Heresies. On Chinese Buddhists, Cathars, Bogomils, Islam, and Manichaeans. With Vincent Gooseart, John Arnold, Jason BeDuhn, and Ven. Chueh Yun; at the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, in London

Woman in saffron robe stands before three Buddhas

In the Middle Ages, three very different monastic orders spread from the Mediterranean to the South China Sea, surrounding themselves with lay believers and challenging the norm of meat-eating.

Episode 7: Heresies

A string of religious groups across medieval Eurasia shared one common belief: that this world was a terrible place; and to escape its cycle of rebirth and redeath you needed to be ordained into a pure life, abstaining from violence. They all have some level of abstention from flesh, up to and including a vegan diet. But they all face suspicion.

Discover why the “good men” of the Cathars and Bogomils eschewed sinful flesh, why the men and women of the Manichaean Elect followed a vegan diet, and how the monks and nuns of Buddhism were shamed by their layfolk. And how a vegetarian culture spread throughout east Asia.

Ian joins a Chinese Buddhist congregation in London for its full moon service. He discovers how Buddhism not only spread across China, but made vegetarianism part of Chinese culture. He discovers a war against pescetarian heretics in Europe, the medieval Chinese horror stories that encouraged kindness to animals, and visits his local Tofu maker.

Play or download (67MB MP3 48min) (via iTunes)
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VegHist Ep 6: Hinduism. On Indian Vegetarianism, Vaishnavism, Satvik, and Mahayana Buddhism; with Sanjukta Gupta, Deepak Anand, and Ranjan Garavu; at Ananta Vasudeva Temple, Bhubaneswar and Nalanda Mahavihara

A smiling man, wrapped in saffron cloth, sits cross-legged on a carved stone platform

In the first millennium CE, Indian vegetarianism advances from an ascetic fringe to a mainstream high-status lifestyle.

Episode 6: Hinduism

How did vegetarianism permeate Indian society? Ian tracks the changes in India’s religious life during the first millennium, following the vegetarian strands of the tapestry that we now call Hinduism.

Ian travels to a temple to Vishnu in eastern India to understand the importance of vegetarianism to his worshippers. He talks to theologians and historians in Oxford and Delhi about the factors that caused the change. He uncovers heated arguments about vegetarianism and animal advocacy in the leaves of India’s sacred texts. And he explores the medieval Buddhist monastic university of Nalanda, in the company of a lecturer from its modern namesake.

Play or download (42MB MP3) (via iTunes)
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VegHist Ep 5: Flesh and Spirit. On Egyptian monasticism, Early Christianity, Plutarch, Neoplatonism, and Manicheansim; with David Grummet, Nicholas Baker-Brian, Michael Beer, and Fr. Abouna Yostas St. Athanasius

Icon of hirsuite naked man with halo

In the eastern Roman Empire, several faiths and philosophies agree on one thing; that you need to eschew flesh to live a life of the spirit.

Episode 5: Flesh & Spirit

Not all Romans celebrated pagan sacrifices or the bloodthirsty arena. Some Romans followed the semi-mythical vegetarian Pythagoras, or neoplatonist philosophers who preached a vegetarian contemplative life.

In the melting pot of Jewish mythology, Greek philosophy, and the worship of Jesus many forms of Christianity emerge. Some of them advocate vegetarianism. The lost world religion of Manichaeanism took ideas from India and was led by a plant based priesthood that would last a thousand years.

Alexandria in Egypt is the epicentre of many of these contemplative movements. Ian visits a valley in Yorkshire that still echoes with the traditions of the ancient Egyptian desert – the Coptic Christian monastery of St. Athanasius. He discovers why the monks pursue that life, what it means to them, and how they maintain some of the original vegetarian traditions of the Egyptian desert fathers.

Play or download (43MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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VegHist Ep 3: Pythagoreans. On the Cults of Orpheus and Pythagoras in Ancient Greece; with Hugh Bowden, Michael Beer, John Wilkins, and Armand D’Angour

Ancient Greek men on hillside, playing music to welccome the dawn.

In Ancient Greece, vegetarianism belongs to a secretive subculture – amongst the mystery religions of Orpheus and the musical mathematical cult of Pythagoras.

Episode 3: Pythagoreans

The Greek philosophers knew about vegetarians. But they were part of cults associated with the mythical figure of Orpheus, and the guru of harmony and number – Pythagoras. The people who introduced the concept of reincarnation into Greece.

In the British Museum, Ian talks to Hugh Bowden, the head of the classics department of King’s College London and mystery religion specialist. There, Prof Bowden examines what its artefacts of Greek life and death tell us about attitudes to animals. Including – some suspect – an Orphic pocket guide to Hades.

Play or download (43MB MP3) (via iTunes)

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Ten Days to Launch!

“Vegetarianism: The Story So Far” Update #17 on Kickstarter.com
(Updates #15 and #16 were only visible to backers on Kickstarter.)