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Vegetarianism has existed since antiquity.  In the West, early modern vegetarians often abstained from meat, but consumed eggs and milk. At first, most tended to do so for health or religious reasons, but toward the nineteenth century, animal welfare also became an issue.

Dr. William Lambe (1765-1847) was one of the first public advocates of vegetarianism in England. He originally adopted the regimen for health reasons, but soon became convinced that eating meat was cruelty and a sin.  His views influenced the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, among many others.

In the United States, the first prominent vegetarian was Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), a Presbyterian minister.  Graham thought meat and animal products contributed to lust.  To avoid this sin, followers of Graham’s diet ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and very small portions of milk, eggs, and cheese.  Spices, wine, and stimulants were prohibited.  Graham’s diet lives on today in one of his health food inventions: the Graham cracker.

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