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|
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.