Monday, May 04, 2009

Vegan Vulcan: "Live Long and Prosper – Go Veg!"

A tribute to TV's first vegan character, Star Trek's Mr. Spock

With the much-hyped Star Trek prequel set for an international summer blockbuster premiere in theaters this weekend, I figured this would be a good time to honor television's first vegan character — Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series, which aired from 1966 to 1969. As an imaginary avatar from a more peaceful, enlightened world (that I'd still like to think is not unthinkable), Spock inspired legions of unrepentant nerds (myself not least among them) to re-envision humanity's present plight in light of a more promising future.

Illustration by Mark Middleton
For those unfamiliar with classic Star Trek lore, Mr. Spock (portrayed by vegetarian actor Leonard Nimoy) was the Science Officer aboard the United Federation of Planets' starship Enterprise in the 23rd century. He was born to a human mother and a father who was Vulcan (i.e., a race of pointy-eared humanoid extraterrestrials dedicated to living strictly by the laws of logic). The Vulcan way of life also incorporates an ideal towards non-violence: as succinctly expressed in the words of The Master himself, “It is illogical to kill without reason.” As such, a central tenet of Vulcan philosophy includes commitment to veganism (though hardcore Trekkers will surely protest that some Vulcans were pescetarians).

As a Vulcan serving aboard the Enterprise, Spock was second in command only to Captain James Tiberius Kirk, and superior in physical strength, as well as mental acuity, to his human shipmates. Spock also possessed uncanny psychic powers that allowed him to “mind meld” with others, giving him direct access to people's thoughts, memories and experiences. Notably, this unique ability parallels the characteristic empathy that many vegans display in their choice not to eat their fellow planetarians. To quote Spock yet again (from the novel Spock's World), "I would remind you, though, that the word for 'decide' is descended from older words meaning to kill; options and opportunities die when decisions are made. Be careful what you kill."

Several years ago in an article examining the potential sociological implications of lab-grown meat, I wrote that, “As a literary genre, science fiction often attempts to envision realities before (or as) they come into being. While most of these futuristic visions remain in the realm of pure fantasy, some prove eerily prescient.” Similarly, veganism has often been presented in the universe of Utopian science fiction as the preferred diet of the most advanced species and societies, whether human or alien (with Star Trek being perhaps the most well-known example of this). So, fellow vegan travelers, take heart in knowing that many of the world's most forward-looking sages have foreseen an animal-friendly future — and I'm not just talking about science fiction writers, but some of the most influential figures in all of human history.

For example, over twenty-five hundred years ago, Pythagoras (who was the first philosopher and vegetarian in the recorded history of Western Civilization) said, “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Centuries later, the quintessential Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci, was famous even in his own day for being far ahead of his time — and for refusing to eat meat on ethical grounds. With such an auspicious lineage, we vegans today are the inheritors of a long and proud tradition that stretches back many generations into the past — and, perhaps, into the distant future, with Mr. Spock guiding us toward a bold new frontier of compassion for all species.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for writing this piece and bringing to attention the wisdom of Mr. Spock, and the Vulcans. Of course it only makes sense that we will not launch ourselves into our prosperous future if we drag along cows, pigs and chickens...

    If our destiny is to include health and peace - we surely must let animal agriculture go. I often lament because I think how much farther we would be if not for the ecological destruction and psychological baggage killing animals creates... It certainly isn't the way to enlightenment.

    Thanks for the insights... and for inviting comment. :)

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  2. This is a great article! I'm going to link it in my blog since I have so many friends who are Trekkies, sci-fi fans or best of all musicians who know not only Pythagoras' contributions to mathematics but to music as well.

    Peace, love & understanding - a throwback to another generation or a glimpse at the future?

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  3. Dread4:07 PM

    Great post. Thank you!

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  4. Just stumbled across your blog and loved the information. Great work.

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  5. Anonymous9:28 PM

    Here's a topic you should write about -- anti-animal rights Canadians are making bizarre attacks against the effort to stop the brutal seal hunt.

    http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/05/28/barbaric-european-food-practices-part-i-the-snail.aspx

    Write to the National Post and demand they take down this offensive article.

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  6. Beautifully written!

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  7. Hello .. I have never seen a smart articles that you created. It really helped me to get back my ideas for writing. I will save this post, for I learn more.

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  8. Anonymous2:16 PM

    I had no idea Spock was a vegan. Sweet! Now I gotta check out the old Star Trek series. I knew Leonard Nimoy and Shatner were animal friendly. I met Shatner at a PETA gala seven years ago. I'm pretty sure Nimoy directed and wrote Star Trek 4, which obviously had a animal rights message. It's also the best Star Trek movie in my opinion, probably because the Great Spirit helped to create it. Anyway, I came across this blog cuz I was searching for more veggie-friendly Sci Fi after readin The Keepers Trilogy by Rick Friar (I say the name of the author cuz there's a few other keepers series that I'm pretty sure came out after this one). For an animal rights and environmental activist, it was truly a cathartic experience. I loved it. Love isn't even strong enough a word. I adored it, every aspect of it, even the boring parts because it all had such a great message. And the ending, (kissing sound) can't be beat. Friar is obviously a passionate supporter of the cause and I hope he writes other books soon cuz I'm fiending for another. In the meantime, I'll satiate my cravings for good vegan Sci Fi with Star Trek an whatever else I can find. Thanks for letting me know about this!

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  9. Hi,

    I'm producing a episode of The Vegan Option about animals and science-fiction. I'm sure I've read that Spock is vegan, but I'm struggling to find a source for the assertion. I might have read it somewhere non-canon.

    The link behind "televisions first vegan character ..." now 404s, and it isn't in web.archive.org.

    Where do you get this from?

    Thanks,

    Ian

    http://theVeganOption.org/

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ian,

      I can't remember the actual source for that citation -- but in my defense, I did write this post over four years ago.

      Sorry!

      Mat.

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