Hitler’s Embrace of Vegetarianism

There is plenty of evidence that Hitler wanted people to believe he was committed to ethical vegetarianism – that he was someone who embraced vegetarianism because of the harm meat-eating inflicts on animals:

Do you know that your Führer is a vegetarian, and that he does not eat meat because of his general attitude toward life and his love for the world of animals? Do you know that your Führer is an exemplary friend of animals, and even as a chancellor, he is not separated from the animals he has kept for years?

There is also evidence that he was a health vegetarianparticularly concerned with supposed health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

There is further evidence that his committment to vegetarianism deepened during the war, as he went from eating a few favorite meat dishes to eschewing meat altogether.

So who cares? Vegetarians.

Given all the evidence that, during WWII, Hitler embraced vegetarianism, modern vegetarians spend a fair amount of time disputing that Hitler was a vegetarian at all.

Their arguments generally go along the lines that a) he wasn’t a vegetarian his whole life, b) there were many claims made about Hitler by the Nazi propaganda machine (including that Hitler was a strict vegetarian) and any claim by the Nazi propaganda machine shouldn’t be taken at face value, and c) Hitler may have occasionally cheated on his vegetarian diet. Which all sounds true. And irrelevant.

Here is what is inescapable. During the war, Hitler’s position – expressed through the Nazi propaganda apparatus – was that vegetarianism was ethically superior. And Hitler – during the war – thought vegetarianism was so cool that he attempted to eat a strict vegetarian diet, mocked friends who used animal products, and may have occasionally exaggerated about his committment to vegetarianism.

What’s so odd about this whole thing is that modern vegetarians – confronted with really solid historical evidence that Hitler embraced vegetarianism, coupled with a totally absurd and illogical inference that this tells us something meaningful about vegetarianism in general (I imagine these inferences being made at, I don’t know, back-yard barbecues in Texas) – chose to attack the really solid historical evidence instead of the ridiculous logical inference.

Hitler also liked exercise, mustaches, and trains, for much the same reasons that many people like those things today. It’s preposterous to suggest there is anything wrong with those things based on the fact that Hitler liked them. But it would also be kind-of silly to suggest that Hitler never really had a mustache…

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