Why Doukhobors are Vegetarians
Doukhobors did not always practise vegetarianism. Until about 100 years ago, the Doukhobor diet was not too different from those of the surrounding populations in the various regions in Russia in which Doukhobors lived.
In the 1890's, however, the Doukhobors experienced a profound and dramatic social upheaval. Inspired by the enlightened counsel of their leader, Peter Lordly Verigin, they became spiritually regenerated, and developed a way of life that came closer to attaining their Christian principles and ideals than ever before. As part of this progressive effort, and especially in the years 1893 through 1895, Doukhobors faithful to the leadership of Peter Verigin implemented a series of specific lifestyle reforms which brought them to a very high level of moral, spiritual and ethical development.
In order to bring into life the central Christian teaching as stated in the "Golden Rule," they carried out a program of sharing their worldly possessions, and established a brotherly, communal way of life. Realizing that alcohol and tobacco were harmful to their well-being, they resolved to henceforth abstain from the use of these substances, and to discontinue the widespread custom (that had developed in the preceding decades) of excessive feasting, revelry and general decadence at social and even religious occasions.
In striving to attain their expressed basic goal of "Toil and Peaceful Life," the Doukhobors touched upon the very essence of the Doukhobor life-concept, which is a state of universal love for all of God's creation. Thus, they found they could no longer participate in any form of violence, especially the taking of a human life, for any reason. This led, of course, to their decisive renunciation of militarism and the Burning of Arms in 1895 - historic events being honoured during this year's centennial
It also led to their realization that if they could not take the life of a fellow human being, neither could they kill any other of God's living creatures. Since animals had to be killed before they could be eaten, the Doukhobors resolved to stop using the flesh of animals for food. This step was taken even before the dramatic events of 1895, by which time they had already become strict vegetarians. Thus, their vegetarianism had an ethical origin, but Doukhobors soon realized that there were also distinct health benefits to a vegetarian diet, especially when it consisted of simple, unrefined, and naturally grown foods. Peter Lordly Verigin frequently counselled his followers about various healthful dietary practices. Doukhobors who grew up in the wholesome lifestyle conditions of those times became living proof of these benefits in the forthcoming decades, with their sustained vitality and remarkable longevity.
As Doukhobors in Canada acquired more formal education, they were further strengthened in their vegetarian beliefs by the knowledge that these beliefs were shared by others, including many great and famous people such as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein. Today, the nutritional superiority of vegetarianism has gained widespread recognition, and a vegetarian diet is followed by millions of people. The economic and ecological advantages of a vegetarian lifestyle are also becoming evident to many, and, combined with the ethical and nutritional aspects, are creating a worldwide growth of awareness and enlightened social change.
Research statistics have now proven that people who avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco, and animal products for food enjoy superior health and a significantly longer average lifespan. All of this attests to the remarkable wisdom, foresight and commitment of our honourable Doukhobor ancestors.
D. E. (Jim) Popoff
With permission from "Hospitality, Cooking the Doukhobor Way, 1995"