RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1880. Darwin's reply to a vegetarian. Herald of Health and Journal of Physical Culture n.s. 31: 180.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, edited by John van Wyhe 2.2008. RN1

[page] 180


—The following letter was received from Charles Darwin in answer to one written to him by a person1 who saw in the theory of evolution, as set forth by this great naturalist, evidence in favor of vegetarianism. We find it in a German vegetarian journal, and translate:

DEAR SIR.—I have so many letters to answer that mine to you must be brief. Nevertheless, this has not the significance it would have if I had given the subject of vegetarian diet special attention. The only evidence in my opinion which would be of any value, would be the statistics in regard of the amount of labor performed in countries where the population lived on a different diet. I have always been astonished at the fact that the most extraordinary workers I ever saw, viz., the laborers in the mines of Chili, live exclusively on vegetable food, which includes many seeds of the leguminous plants. On the other hand, the Gauchos are a very active people, and live almost entirely on flesh. Further, it appears to me to be good evidence that in tropical Africa an extraordinary craving exists, which increases to a necessity at times, to eat flesh, though I presume that the seeds of leguminous plants abound there, for the earth nut is extensively cultivated.


1 Darwin's 25 February 1879 letter was addressed to the wealthy German economist, publisher and socialist Karl Höchberg (1853-1885), then living in Switzerland. The letter originally appeared in Vereins-Blatt für Freunde der natürlichen Lebensweise. Vegetarische Monatsschrift. The original letter is at the American Philosophical Society. See Calendar 11902.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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