Henry Stephens Salt

English writer and social reformer

Henry Stephens Salt (20 September 185119 April 1939) was an influential English writer and campaigner for social reform in the fields of prisons, schools, economic institutions and the treatment of animals.

If "rights" exist at all … they cannot be consistently awarded to men and denied to animals, since the same sense of justice and compassion apply in both cases.

Quotes edit

  • And, after all, the humane spirit, which is the motive power of all true schemes of reform, is, by its very essence, independent of belief in what is commonly called "success." We work for an ideal, not because we believe the ideal is destined to be triumphant, but because we are impelled so to work, and cannot, without violence to our best instincts, act otherwise. We protest against cruelty and injustice for the same reason, not merely because we feel that the dawn of a better day is at hand, but because such a protest has to be made, and we know intuitively that we must help to make it. Of the event we can have no absolute assurance—it rests for other minds and other hands than our—but we can at least be assured that we have done what was natural and inevitable to us, and that, whether successful or unsuccessful, there was no other course for a thoughtful man to take.
  • The emancipation of men from cruelty and injustice will bring with it in due course the emancipation of animals also. The two reforms are inseparably connected, and neither can be fully realized alone.
    • From an essay in Cruelties of Civilization (1897) as quoted in Roderick Nash, The Rights of Nature, University of Wisconsin Press, 1989, p. 29.
  • I shall die ... as I have lived, rationalist, socialist, pacifist, and humanitarian.
    • As quoted in Henry Salt, Humanitarian Reformer and Man of Letters, George Hendrick, Illinois (1977).
  • Religion has never befriended the cause of humaneness. Its monstrous doctrine of eternal punishment and the torture of the damned underlies much of the barbarity with which man has treated man; and the deep division imagined by the Church between the human being, with his immortal soul, and the soulless "beasts", has been responsible for an incalculable sum of cruelty.
    • Seventy Years Among Savages (1921).
  • No League of Nations, or of individuals, can avail, without a change of heart. Reformers of all classes must recognize that it is useless to preach peace by itself, or socialism by itself, or anti-vivisection by itself, or vegetarianism by itself, or kindness to animals by itself. The cause of each and all of the evils that afflict the world is the same the general lack of humanity, the lack of the knowledge that all sentient life is akin, and that he who injures a fellow-being is in fact doing injury to himself. The prospects of a happier society are wrapped up in this despised and neglected truth, the very statement of which, at the present time, must (I well know) appear ridiculous to the accepted instructors of the people.
    • Seventy Years Among Savages (1921).
  • The Animals, you say, were "sent"
    For man's free use and nutriment.
    Pray, then, inform me, and be candid,
    Why came they aeons before Man did,
    To spend long centuries on earth,
    Awaiting their Devourer's birth?
    Those ill-timed chattels, sent from Heaven,
    Were, sure, the maddest gift e'er given—
    "Sent" for Man's usage (can Man believe it?)
    When there was no Man to receive it!
    • The Sending of the Animals, as quoted in The Savour of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, Centaur Press, 1989, p. 55.

A plea for vegetarianism, and other essays edit

Henry Stephens Salt (1886) (in en), A plea for vegetarianism, and other essays, Wikidata Q116409104, OCLC 1050804885 

Animals' Rights edit

Animals' Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress, New York: Macmillan & Co, 1894.
  • We have to decide, not whether the practice of fox-hunting, for example, is more, or less, cruel than vivisection, but whether all practices which inflict unnecessary pain on sentient beings are not incompatible with the higher instincts of humanity.
    • Prefatory Note
  • Have the lower animals "rights?" Undoubtedly—if men have.
    • Chapter 1
  • Oppression and cruelty are invariably founded on a lack of imaginative sympathy; the tyrant or tormentor can have no true sense of kinship with the victim of his injustice. When once the sense of affinity is awakened, the knell of tyranny is sounded, and the ultimate concession of "rights" is simply a matter of time.
    • Chapter 1
  • If "rights" exist at all—and both feeling and usage indubitably prove that they do exist—they cannot be consistently awarded to men and denied to animals, since the same sense of justice and compassion apply in both cases.
    • Chapter 1
  • [The] notion of the life of an animal having 'no moral purpose,' belongs to a class of ideas which cannot possibly be accepted by the advanced humanitarian thought of the present day—it is a purely arbitrary assumption, at variance with our best instincts, at variance with our best science, and absolutely fatal (if the subject be clearly thought out) to any full realization of animals' rights. If we are ever going to do justice to the lower races, we must get rid of the antiquated notion of a 'great gulf' fixed between them and mankind, and must recognize the common bond of humanity that unites all living beings in one universal brotherhood.
    • Chapter 1
  • The charge of "sentimentalism" is frequently brought against those who plead for animals' rights. Now "sentimentalism," if any meaning at all can be attached to the word, must signify an inequality, an ill balance of sentiment, an inconsistency which leads men into attacking one abuse, while they ignore or condone another where a reform is equally desirable. That this weakness is often observable among "philanthropists" on the one hand, and "friends of animals" on the other, and most of all among those acute "men of the world," whose regard is only for themselves, I am not concerned to deny; what I wish to point out is, that the only real safeguard against sentimentality is to take up a consistent position towards the rights of men and of the lower animals alike, and to cultivate a broad sense of universal justice (not "mercy") for all living things. Herein, and herein alone, is to be sought the true sanity of temperament.
    • Chapter 1

The Humanities of Diet edit

The Humanities of Diet, Manchester: The Vegetarian Society, 1914 [orig. pub. in London: W. Reeves, 1897]. Excerpts: 1, 2, 3.
  • As man is truly “humanised”, not by schools of cookery but by schools of thought, he will abandon the barbarous habit of his flesh-eating ancestors, and will make gradual progress towards a purer, simpler, more humane, and therefore more civilised diet-system.
  • In the writings of such "pagan" philosophers as Plutarch and Porphyry we find a humanitarian ethic of the most exalted kind, which, after undergoing a long repression during medieval churchdom, reappeared, albeit but weakly and fitfully at first, in the literature of the Renaissance, to be traced more definitely in the eighteenth century school of "sensibility." But it was not until after the age of Rousseau, from which must be dated the great humanitarian movement of the past century, that Vegetarianism began to assert itself as a system, a reasoned plea for the disuse of flesh-food.
  • I say ethical principle, because it is beyond doubt that the chief motive of Vegetarianism is the humane one. Questions of hygiene and of economy both play their part, and an important part, in a full discussion of food reform; but the feeling which underlies and animates the whole movement is the instinctive horror of butchery, especially the butchery of the more highly organized animals, so human, so near akin to man.
  • The ignorance, carelessness, and brutality are not only in the rough-handed slaughtermen, but in the polite ladies and gentlemen whose dietetic habits render the slaughtermen necessary.
  • Before passing on, I will merely add this, that in some ways the evils attendant on slaughtering grow worse, and not better, as civilisation advances, because of the more complex conditions of town life, and the increasingly long journeys to which animals are subjected in their transit from the grazier to the slaughterman.
  • Has the artist ever considered the history of the "chop" which is brought so elegantly to his studio? … He has first employed a slaughterman … to convert a beautiful living creature into a hideous carcase, to be displayed with other carcases in that ugliest product of civilisation, a butcher's shop, and then he has employed a cook to conceal, as far as may be, the work of the slaughterman. This is what the Spectator calls being "humanised" by schools of cookery; I should call it being de-humanised.
  • I advance no exaggerated or fanciful claim for Vegetarianism. It is not, as some have asserted, a "panacea" for human ills; it is something much more rational—an essential part of the modern humanitarian movement, which can make no true progress without it. Vegetarianism is the diet of the future, as flesh-food is the diet of the past.
  • It is often said, as an excuse for the slaughter of animals, that it is better for them to live and to be butchered than not to live at all. … In fact, if we once admit that it is an advantage to an animal to be brought into the world, there is hardly any treatment that cannot be justified by the supposed terms of such a contract. Also, the argument must apply to mankind. It has, in fact, been the plea of the slave-breeder; and it is logically just as good an excuse for slave-holding as for flesh-eating. It would justify parents in almost any treatment of their children, who owe them, for the great boon of life, a debt of gratitude which no subsequent services can repay. We could hardly deny the same merit to cannibals, if they were to breed their human victims for the table, as the early Peruvians are said to have done.

Quotes about Henry Salt edit

  • It was Mr. Salt's book, A Plea for Vegetarianism, which showed me why, apart from a hereditary habit, and apart from my adherence to a vow administered to me by my mother, it was right to be a vegetarian. He showed me why it was a moral duty incumbent on vegetarians not to live upon fellow-animals.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, Speech at Meeting of London Vegetarian Society (20 November 1931), in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (New Delhi: Publications Division Government of India, 1999 electronic edition), Volume 54, p. 188.

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