Monday, June 04, 2007

A Place No Pigs Would Die

As a longtime vegetarian, I'm familiar with my people's long struggle to thrive in meat-loving America. The Vegetarian Settlement Company tried back in 1856 to found an enclave for non-carnivores on the Neosho River in Kansas.

It was hoped to bring together vegetarians of common interests and aims; otherwise they, "solitary and alone in their vegetarian practice, might sink into flesh-eating habits."
By establishing a permanent home for vegetarians, it was believed that a program of concerted action could be followed, with a system of direct healing, as well as permitting the practice of the vegetarian principle. Members were required to be of good moral character, not slaveholders, and applications had to be approved by the board of directors.
The settlement was to have octagonal villages, with sixteen farms along the eight sides and a central octagon to be used for a common pasture or park. The four corners of the outer octagon were to be used for woodland or grassland.

Sadly, the experiment was short-lived.
One writer blames the promoters for "gross mismanagement," if not something worse. The location of the colony was beset by mosquitoes, and chills and fever attacked the settlers. The "inexhaustible" springs dried up, and the crops that were planted were raided by neighboring Indians. Bitter disappointment and much suffering resulted. As winter neared, all who could leave did so. [Link, via MetaFilter]
Mrs. Miriam Davis Colt's "Thrilling Account" of the "Ill-fated Expedition" includes a list of those who made the trip to Kansas to watch their dreams of a vegetarian utopia vanish.


I love that line "sink into flesh-eating habits." I've never been tempted to do that in 34 years as a vegetarian (although once I was hungry enough to eat a piece of fish when there was *nothing* vegetarian on the menu).


If those settlers had stayed the winter, they probably would have ended up eating fish. Or each other.

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