THE ORIGIN, FATE, AND AIM
Dr. Carl Anders Skriver
[Note: this is a translation of Carl Skriver's Lecture at the 1982
World Vegetarian Congress in Ulm, Germany. He died in 1983 and
this is the last record of his views of which I am aware. Michael
Skriver did the translation; I made some minor stylistic revisions and have
added the subheadings for clarity. Skriver is the author of The
Forgotten Beginnings of Creation and Christianity, which can be
purchased through us. -- K. A.]
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends:
I had the honor to speak to you last time in Ronneby, Sweden, in
1973; and in 1965 in Swanwick in England. I'm very glad to meet you now
again in Germany. In my long life, dear vegetarian friends have died,
while others have been born or converted to vegetarianism. I still miss
many faces from the "old guard": Mr. Rudd, Mr. Mankar, Dr.
Robinson, Dr. Røgler, and others. I greet both the old and the new
friends and all fellow vegetarian workers.
To my new friends I will now introduce myself. For more than twelve
years, I was a member of the Executive Council of the International
Vegetarian Union, and became afterwards one of the vice-presidents. I am
also a life member of the British Vegan Society. I have been a
vegetarian since 1920, and a vegan since 1948 -- so I have been a vegan
for 34 years and am still alive! For many years I was a clergyman of the
Evangelical Church of Sleswick-Holstein.
But now to the subject matter at hand: the origin, fate, and aim of
The Loneliness of Vegetarians
A vegetarian is a stranger on earth, a foreigner in a bloody
nonvegetarian world whose law is the law of the jungle.
I know that you will not like this angry truth. I am sorry, but I
have more than enough experience to verify it. Of course, it's very
pleasant to spend your holidays at this beautiful conference at Ulm, and
to live with such a wonderful group of vegetarians. It's a great good
fortune to see so many people of good will; to see people who feel,
think, live, confess, and defend the vegetarian way of life, the
Pythagorean way of life.
But we must be sober enough to realize that very often in life
vegetarians are quite alone in their world; at best they may share their
vegetarian values with their family. For the last 25 years I have shared
my vegetarian life only with my family, and have served as a pastor in
my parish. The parishioners are farmers and cattlemen who have been
quite content with their pastor; but they can't understand how an
otherwise reasonable man would want to be a vegetarian. They can't
imagine getting rid of their cattle, except by slaughtering and eating
them, with the help of the rest of mankind. I must tell you that I
haven't converted a single farmer, or Christian minister, to
vegetarianism. It was hopeless to convert them, to save them, or to
change them. That isn't to say that I never converted anyone to
vegetarianism, or that I never helped fasten a vegetarian down to their
vegetarian beliefs. But farmers and ministers were a barren soil.
I have had other bad experiences in my long vegetarian life. In the
past 60 years, the world population has increased tremendously, so that
by the end of the century there will be more than six billion humans on
the planet. Most of them are not vegetarians, unless you count the
starving and impoverished as "vegetarians." Now consider: has
the vegetarian movement in this time increased in the same proportion?
Have we carried our message to the media, to doctors, and to the
churches? Has our message been any louder than it was 60 years ago? No,
it certainly hasn't. Perhaps the world has been tolerant of us, but it
hasn't changed its mind or its eating habits.
In The Best of Reader's Digest, February 1982, it is stated:
"About 500,000 vegetarians are living today in the Federal Republic
of Germany." To begin with, this number is probably exaggerated.
But even if it is accurate, not even 1% of this number are in the German
Union of Vegetarians! And that means that not even 5000 people in West
Germany have enough of a sense of responsibility to help support
vegetarianism. Moreover, West Germany has 60 million inhabitants. This
means that for every 120 Germans there is only one single vegetarian!
And that's not even to consider what kind of vegetarians these people
are. I don't believe that the situation in the other Western countries
is going to be substantially different.
So what does reality look like for the animals? Consumption of animal
products -- meat and milk products -- is rising continually among the
"civilized" countries of the world, as it has for the past 200
years. These "civilized" countries will soon consume over 100
kilograms of animal products per person. As a consequence, we have had
to deal with many medical problems; we have had to deal with diseases
such as heart disease and heart attacks. Even medical science is
beginning to warn us against these excesses. But its advice, at best,
amounts to no more than this: eat a little less meat, but don't become a
Since the foundation of the International Vegetarian Union in 1908,
not one slaughterhouse has been demolished in the entire world. Nor have
we done any better with vivisection and laboratory experiments! What
have we done for the world, except to enjoy our noble food and our
lessened food expenses? Have we organized Easter marches against
slaughterhouses and vivisection in the middle of our hypocritical
I accuse myself as well as others. In my life I have been more of a
writer than an activist. Humans are not idealists by nature. Rather,
they are lazy, egotistical, and exploiters and plunderers of nature.
Nature is often evil as well, forcing men and all living beings to
struggle for existence. If humans only follow the principles of nature
without ethical control, the consequences are that we will have meat
eating and a population explosion.
The Religious and Ethical Hope of Vegetarians
But humans, fortunately, can transcend nature. They are the offspring
of the divine, of God; they have a memory and a longing for a better
world than that of a crass struggle for existence. Humans long for
nonviolence, forgiveness, and peace.
So what is the true aim of our vegetarianism? Not just to be a bit
healthier than others; but rather to have more justice, peace, and
security for all humans and all animals. Our aim is a world without
rifles and arms and butcher's knives, without general carnivorism. Moral
values are necessary for life, and are especially necessary for society.
They are as essential as eating and drinking. "Man shall not live
by bread alone," or even by bread with salad, but also by obedience
in harmony with God's will.
Vegetarianism in and of itself is not a sufficient philosophy of
life. Peace is not a part of vegetarianism, but vegetarianism is a part
of peace, a part of ahimsa and nonviolence. Scientific persons sometimes
say that we are damaging vegetarianism if we mix up arguments about
vegetarianism with religious or ethical questions. On the contrary, we
are damaging vegetarianism if we only worry about calories and
digestion. If we have only a narrow scientific point of view to the
exclusion of ethical problems, people who are seriously concerned about
these problems will turn away from us with contempt.
And what good does vegetarianism do us, if tomorrow a nuclear war
breaks out and destroys us all? We vegetarians must also struggle
against needless death, for life everywhere, and for the abolition of
arms. Aristotle called man a "zoon politikon," a political
animal. Therefore we must not only grow our salad and cabbage but also
work for a reasonable peace and justice on earth. This is what Tolstoy
and Shaw did before us, and we should follow their example.
On the other hand, man is not only a mortal creature in this material
world, but also an eternal part of the spiritual world beyond. No one
can deny that the founders of religions, and the great poets and
philosophers of antiquity and the eastern world like Mahavira, Buddha,
Krishna, Hesiod, Pythagoras, Jesus the Nazoraean, have all been at the
forefront of the struggle for worldwide vegetarianism on ethical
principles -- for the sake of animals and humans. In ancient times, the
religions marched at the head of progress.
In one of the oldest messages of mankind, the book of Genesis, it is
revealed that in the beginning God created a vegetarian world. The first
creation in the now-lost Paradise, and even the beginning after the
"Fall" (Genesis 1-3), was entirely vegetarian. And in the
beginning Christianity was vegetarian as well! How could it have been
otherwise, if Jesus Christ should be considered the Savior and Redeemer
of all creation, if he had forgotten the animal world, if he had not
demanded the conversion and return of creation to the original
vegetarian beginning! He would say to our sinning meat-eaters: "Get
thee behind me, thou art an offense unto me, for thou savorest not the
things that be of God, but those that be of men!" (Matthew 16: 23)
Here is the actual teaching of Jesus the Nazoraean (Matthew 23:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you make
clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are
full of extortion and excess." (Better translated: "but within
they are full of robbery (of life) and debauchery or gluttony.")
"Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup
and platter (that is to say: your food), that the outside of them may be
clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, for you are like unto
white sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward (beauty covering
cruelty!), but are within full of dead (animals') bones, and of all
Jesus frankly says: You flesh-eating men are like walking, traveling
tombs! He could not have interpreted his own message about carnivorism
any better. But as John says: "He came unto his own, and his own
received him not." (John 1: 11). Jesus warned his own followers of
himself: "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in
me." (Matthew 11: 6) More exactly translated: "Blessed is he,
for whom I am not scandalous, not shocking!" If the churches
understood the true teachings of their Master, they would be shocked.
During the first three centuries Christians refused military service
and were living vegetarians. Jerome, the great learned man in the 4th
century, lived and taught the true Christian tradition: "Jesus
Christ has lead back (or restored) the end to the beginning, so that now
we are no longer allowed to eat meat." And Origen, the famous
Egyptian father of the church, stated: "We Christians no longer
guide the sword against a nation, and we no longer learn the art of war;
because by Jesus, who is our leader, we have become sons of peace!"
How much has Christendom failed true Christianity, to the harm of
both humans and animals! Buddhism and Christianity once abolished the
sacrifices of animals, and thus their culture and life became
vegetarian. But the later great folk-religions of both confessions have
continued sacrificing animals in pagan slaughterhouses. Thus it has been
in the nations of India, China, and Japan, and in all of Europe and
America. That's what I call the betrayal of the animals by the churches
and by the great religions. So much about the fate of vegetarianism in
our earthly world.
Will We Survive?
And what is our fate -- the fate of vegetarians?
You would have to be very uninformed not to be able to sense the
despair and anxiety of our time. Many people fear the end of the world,
the Last Day, the fulfillment of the revelations of many prophets such
as St. John, Nostradamus, and others. Doomsday is announced by many
ancient and modern prophets. Fortunately, they have often miscalculated.
But this time we do not only hear the voices of doubtful
clairvoyants, but also serious scientists. Astronomers are investigating
the lining-up of the planets. Geologists are announcing the possibility
of various imminent disasters with devastating results for continents,
islands, and living beings. And in 1986 we must fear another meeting of
the earth with Halley's comet.
But even if you disregard all these speculations, no reasonable
person can deny the great danger of a Third World War and a nuclear
holocaust. This is the situation in which we are all living -- all of
us, including even we vegetarians who are now attending the 26th World
Vegetarian Congress with its wonderful motto: "For a human world at
peace." We are always living at the risk of our lives, in danger of
death and catastrophe. Therefore we should not be careless and flippant
because nothing has happened thus far.
What should we do then, in these last decades of the 20th century, at
the end of the second millennium? It's not going to be enough to put our
heads into the sand like ostriches. Of course, I hope never to live to
see the convulsions which some geologists are predicting, or to
experience first hand the Third World War. But that is a personal escape
and not a solution to these problems.
What should be done? The first thing is the old-fashioned deed of
penitence. Jesus began his gospel with the admonition: "Repent ye:
for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" But that is a translation
which has been worn out by the church's use of it. In the original Greek
it means: "Change your mind! Renew your thoughts and deeds! Return
from error to truth, from the evil to the good! Deliver yourselves from
All the prophets of Doomsday describe vividly the wrath and anger and
revenge of God towards this wicked world. Their God acts like the devil
— with thunder, fire, water, and earthquake. But at this point
Christianity must repent; it must correct even its present
"Christian" belief and religion. The unknown Jesus the
Nazoraean taught quite another doctrine about God than we are told about
in school or church. In the Bible, in the first letter of John, Chapter
1, verse 5, we read:
"This then is the message (the decisive message) which we have
heard of him, of Jesus, and declare unto you, that GOD is LIGHT, and in
him is no darkness at all!"
That's a totally new message! That means: wars, atomic/
bacterial/chemical weapons, industrial plundering and poisoning of the
soil, water, and air, and also earthquakes, thunderstorms, typhoons,
floods, and so on -- all these dark things have nothing to do with God,
who is only light, life, and love. These evil things have other causes.
They are caused by violent wrongdoers on earth, or by evil beings or
demons. Even the cruel forms of disease and death are not inventions of
God. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I
Corinthians 15: 26). Is God his own enemy? Jesus said: "The world
cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify that the works
thereof are evil" (John 7: 7).
It is not the good God of love, but men and other beings who have
been the destroyers of this world, down to this very day. They are
digging their own graves. Jesus said: All of you will be offended
because of me, for nobody will change their thoughts and turn away from
their ways of thinking, neither Christians nor anti-Christians! You all
are offending God by your wrong and evil ideas! "But blessed is he,
whoever shall not be scandalized by me!" (Matthew 11: 6)
Martin Luther was convinced in the 16th century that during his life
the final days would break out. But he resolved: if tomorrow is the end
of the world, I will still today plant an apple tree and pay my debts!
That's a wonderful attitude, worthy of our imitation.
Above all: even in an infernal catastrophe, if we are suffering an
individual or a common death, our souls will overcome and our eternal
life will continue. We shall survive; and if we were better than this
world, we-, shall meet again in better regions. In considering the end
of this world, however, we shall never give up our protection,
conservation, creation, and maintenance of peace; and we shall make good
our mistakes and omissions.
We vegetarians are not just dreamers; we are sober realists. We are
not near-sighted materialists, but radical and consistent idealists. In
short, we are realistic utopians. We are representatives, servants, and
advocates of all good ideas in the spiritual world -- light, love, and
peace. We vegetarians are charged with the task of recalling and
reconstructing the origin of all religions. That origin is peace and
Till the end of our earthly life and the end of time, we will work
for a better world. We will engage in passive resistance against all
evil. We will participate in the movement for peace, disarmament,
political and social justice, and for the protection of nature. We will
participate in the movement for reverence and renovation of life, for
the abolition of slaughterhouses and vivisection. We will work for the
abolition of alcohol, smoking, and drugs. We will work for the abolition
of hunting and trapping, for beauty without cruelty.
In short, we will work for a vegetarian world. We are not talking
about vegetarianism for a minority, but vegetarianism for all mankind.
We are not talking about a vegetarianism which tolerates the
slaughterhouse; we must cleanse the temple of the vegetarian movement,
and cleanse the temple of our bodies as well. It is our task to point
out the forgotten sins of mankind and of Christianity.
Tolstoy said: "As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will
also be battlefields."
And George Sand, the famous French woman author of the 19th century
whose real name was Aurore Dupin, wrote these words:
"It will be a great step forward in the development of our race,
if we become fruit-eaters and meat-eating disappears from the earth.
Everything will be possible on earth, from the moment when we abolish
bloody meat meals and war."
We intend to carry out a food revolution the abolition of meat eating
just as we once abolished cannibalism. Our aim is in agreement with
God's original will and plan for creation: the return to UNIVERSAL
VEGETARIANISM! That is an act of penitence, not an act of unrealistic
Dear friends, you are mistaken if you think you have just been
listening to a sermon. No; this is a fair account of our dangerous and
tragic situation in 1982. Thank you!