I found a very interesting page online providing good evidence that Leonardo Da Vinci was a vegan. He was a well known vegetarian, but seeing as the term hadn’t been differentiated from veganism until the 20th century, the exact form of vegetarianism isn’t usually noted.
Leonardo Da Vinci lived for 67 years and his genius is testament to the effectiveness of his lifelong diet. He’s also a monument to the falsity of the b12 deficiency myth. He obviously never supplemented, and got that supposedly non-existent vegan vitamin b12 from somewhere.
Before getting into the quotes relevant to veganism as opposed to just vegetarianism, I want to start off with his observations on eating meat, which are especially poignant.
“If you are as you have described yourself the king of the animals — it would be better for you to call yourself king of the beasts since you are the greatest of them all! — why do you not help them so that they may presently be able to give you their young in order to gratify your palate, for the sake of which you have tried to make yourself a tomb for all the animals? Even more I might say if to speak the entire truth were permitted me.”
Now turning to the subject of Leonardo Da Vinci’s specific veganism, here’s a quote he made regarding eating eggs:
“Oh, how many chicks will never come to birth!”
And here, on consuming milk and its products:
“The milk will be taken from the tiny children.”
Leonardo Da Vinci was probably a vegan who abstained from honey too:
“Living as they do in communities, whole populations are destroyed so that we can have their honey. Thus will many great nations be destroyed…and multitudes deprived of their food and stores; and they will be most cruelly submerged, swept under, drowned by invading armies, out of their minds. Oh, Justice of God! Why dost Thou not awake and protect Thy misused creatures?
In fact, though I haven’t found a quote on it, there is apparently indication from his notebooks that he was fruitarian, which, if true, would really mean that he went all the way in minimising the harm caused by his diet.
Because of the effort which it takes me to change what I eat, I personally draw a line between dairy products (which I don’t consume) and honey (which I do consume, sparingly). I freely admit that this is an arbitrary line. I hate causing harm to even plants, but I must accept it for the moment.
In future I’d like to become more aligned with nonviolence in my diet and come closer to the example set by Leonardo Da Vinci. He’s an inspiring and fascinating man. A lot of people have suggested he was an indigo, in fact
I got a comment suggesting that these quotes are in fact false. I decided to do some research of my own, and found to my delight that for once, a dubiously sourced quote from the internet was actually basically true.
The accusation consisted of this bit from About.com:
The Quote Most Often Used
“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they look upon the murder of man.”
This, or some variation of it, is frequently used as proof that Leonardo was a vegetarian. The problem is that Leonardo never said these words. An author named Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky (Russian, 1865-1941) wrote them for a work of historical fiction titled The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci. In point of fact, Merezhkovsky didn’t even write the words for Leonardo, he put them in the (fictitious) diary of (real) apprentice Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (ca. 1466-1516) as a quote from Leonardo.
I decided to search Leonardo’s notebooks which are available for free online here. I found this:
King of the animals—as thou hast described him—I should rather say king of the beasts, thou being the greatest—because thou hast spared slaying them, in order that they may give thee their children for the benefit of the gullet, of which thou hast attempted to make a sepulchre for all animals; and I would say still more, if it were allowed me to speak the entire truth.
OK, so “I have since an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they look upon the murder of man” was added in. (I have accordingly updated the article with a more accurate quote). But the first part of the quote is unmistakably similar to this part of Leonardo’s notebook.
Additionally to support Leonardo being a vegetarian we have this information from Wikipedia:
Edward MacCurdy (one of the two translators and compilers of Leonardo’s notebooks into English) wrote:
…The mere idea of permitting the existence of unnecessary suffering, still more that of taking life, was abhorrent to him. Vasari tells, as an instance of his love of animals, how when in Florence he passed places where birds were sold he would frequently take them from their cages with his own hand, and having paid the sellers the price that was asked would let them fly away in the air, thus giving them back their liberty.
That this horror of inflicting pain was such as to lead him to be a vegetarian is to be inferred from a reference which occurs in a letter sent by Andrea Corsali to Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici, in which, after telling him of an Indian race called Gujerats who neither eat anything that contains blood nor permit any injury to any living creature, he adds ‘like our Leonardo da Vinci.’
So it seems pretty hard to believe that Leonardo was anything less than vegetarian.
I also checked the quotes about eggs and honey, and both of them were to be found in the notebooks just as I have posted them in this article. If you’d like to verify for yourself, use control+f to search the page. The quote on milk I could not find in this text, though given that the others are true it would seem surprising that that was made up.
For your interest, I will list a few more quotes which demonstrate his attitude towards animals. (In some cases I’ve updated the antiquated English used for ease of reading):
(Of Sheep, Cows, Goats and the like.)
Endless multitudes of these will have their little children taken from them ripped open and flayed and most barbarously quartered.
Note that these are all animals which are used to produce milk. The reference to their children taken away from them is likely about the need for an animal to birth to produce milk, whereupon their child is nothing but a “byproduct” to the farmer.
(Of Donkeys that are beaten.)
O Nature! Why are you so partial; being to some of your children a tender and benign mother, and to others a most cruel and pitiless stepmother? I see children of yours given up to slavery to others, without any sort of advantage, and instead of remuneration for the good they do, they are paid with the severest suffering, and spend their whole life in benefitting those who mistreat them.
(Of the Tongues of Pigs and Calves in Sausage-skins.)
Oh! how foul a thing, that we should see the tongue of one animal in the guts of another.
(Of Oxen, which are eaten.)
The masters of estates will eat their own labourers.
(Of Fishes which are eaten unborn.)
Endless generations will be lost by the death of the pregnant.
The severest labour will be repaid with hunger and thirst, and discomfort, and blows, and goadings, and curses, and great abuse.