Tolstoy’s story for kids about not eating meat

It is not well-known that, in July 1908, Russian writer Leo Tolstoy dictated the story called “The Wolf” into the phonograph, in which he explains to children the need for vegetarianism. The story goes like something this:

There was once a boy. He was very fond of eating chickens but was very afraid of wolves. One night, when this boy went to bed and fell asleep, in a dream he saw that he was walking through a forest looking for mushrooms. Suddenly, a wolf jumped out of the bushes and rushed at the boy.

The boy was frightened and shouted: “Ou, Ou! He will eat me!”

The wolf began to speak in a human voice: “Wait, I won’t eat you, but I want to talk to you. You are afraid that I will eat you. And what are you doing yourself? Do you like chickens?”

“I love eating them.”

“Why do you eat them? After all, they, these chickens, are as alive as you are. Every morning, go and see how they are caught, how the cook carries them to the kitchen, how their throats are cut, and how they cluck when their chicks are taken away from them. Do you see that?” said the wolf.

The boy answered: “I do not see that.”

“You don’t want to see it. Now I’m going to eat you. You are chicken to me. I will eat you.”

And the wolf rushed at the boy and the boy was frightened and shouted: “Ou, Ou, Ou!” He screamed and woke up. And since then the boy stopped eating meat. He did not eat any beef, veal, mutton, or chicken.

Tolstoy vegetarian

Tolstoy: Not eating meat is good for health

In March 1908, Tolstoy answered a question from the editor of the American magazine Good Health: “I stopped eating meat about 25 years ago. I did not feel any weakness when I stopped eating meat, and I have never felt the slightest lack of, or desire to eat meat. Compared to people (the average person) my age, I feel stronger and healthier… I think that not eating meat is good for health, that is, it is harmful to eat meat because such a diet is immoral; everything that is immoral is always harmful to both the soul and body.”

Tolstoy: Torturing animals is disgusting

From a letter to A. P. Zelenjov in 1901, Tolstoy said that he knew “people who live from agricultural labor who stopped eating meat only because they had to kill their own animals.”

“Its basis is the awareness of the injustice and cruelty of killing living beings for the sake of one’s very low analysis, the pleasure of taste, since the possibility of being completely healthy without eating meat is sufficiently proven.” Tolstoy also points to elementary things: “Torturing a dog, killing chickens and calves is disgusting and painful to human nature”.

The eldest Tolstoy daughter, painter, and memoirist Tatiana Lvovna Sukhotina-Tolstaya wrote in her diary on June 7, 1890: “Dad went to Tula to the slaughterhouse today by country train and told us about it. It’s horrible and I think my Dad’s story is enough to make me stop eating meat.”


Tolstoy uncompromisingly wrote against eating meat

Tolstoy devoted a significant part of his books The Path of Life and The Circle of Reading to vegetarianism. Here are statements that belong directly to Tolstoy:

Since the most ancient times, the sages taught that one should not eat animal meat, but eat plants. However, they did not believe the sages, and everyone ate meat. But in our time, every year there are more and more people who consider it a sin to eat meat and they don’t eat it.

We are amazed that there were people who ate the flesh of the dead, and that there are still people in Africa that do so. But the time is coming when people will be equally surprised that people can kill animals and eat them. For ten years the cow fed you and your children, and the sheep clothed and warmed you with its wool. What is her reward for this? Cut her throat and eat her.

The Greek sage Pythagoras did not eat meat. When Plutarch, the Greek writer who wrote about the life of Pythagoras, was asked why Pythagoras did not eat meat, Plutarch replied that he was not only surprised that Pythagoras did not eat meat, but that even now people who can satisfactorily eat grains, vegetables and fruits, instead catch living beings, cut them, and eat them.

There was a time when people ate each other. The time has come when they stopped doing this, but continue to eat animals. Now the time has come when more and more people are giving up this terrible habit as well.

The killing and eating of animals occur mainly because people were convinced that animals were destined by God for human use and that there was nothing wrong with killing animals. But this is not true. In whatever books it is written that it is not a sin to kill animals, in the hearts of all of us, it is clearer than inthese books that animals should be pitied just like humans, and we all know this if we do not silence our conscience.

Do not be embarrassed that if you refuse meat food, everyone close to you will attack, judge, and laugh at you. If eating meat were an indifferent matter, meat-eaters would not attack vegetarianism; they are annoyed by the fact that in our time they already recognize their sin, but still cannot get rid of it.

Compassion for animals is so natural to us. Habit, tradition, or suggestion could make people ruthless towards the suffering and death of animals. If you see children torturing a kitten or a bird for their own fun, you stop them and teach them pity for living beings, while you yourself go hunting, shooting pigeons, racing them, and sitting down to dinner, for which several living beings have been killed.

We cannot be masters of animals that exist on land, eat the same food, breathe the same air, and drink the same water as us. When we kill them, the animals shame us with their terrifying screams and make us feel ashamed of our actions. Plutarch also thought so, excluding for some reason aquatic animals. Compared to terrestrial animals, we are far behind them.

There is a big difference between a person who has no other food except meat, or one who has never heard anything about the sins of meat-eaters and naively believes that the Bible will explain the eating of animals, and every able-bodied person of our time, living in a country where there are vegetables and milk, who knows all that is said by teachers of mankind against meat-eating. Such a person commits a great sin; he continues to do it, which he cannot but recognize as stupid.

The misunderstanding, illegality, and harm, moral and physical, of eating meat have recently become clear to such a degree that meat-eating is now maintained not by reason, but only by old traditions;traditions and customs. And that’s why in our time it is not necessary to show all obvious misunderstandings. It breaks itself.

Tolstoy’s influence on the development of vegetarianism

Tolstoy influenced many of his contemporaries and students with his views on killing animals.

Aleksandra Lvovna said: “A former Tolstoy student, a boy from Jasnaja Poljana, Kolya Orehov, who got a position as a cook in Tula, does not eat meat. Everyone laughs at him. They call him ‘Tolstoy’.”

Another disciple of Lev Nikolaevich, Pasha Rezunov, who is now sick at home, begged his relatives not to slaughter the lamb. (March 1909)

“Russian Letters” (1910) published a letter from Tolstoy’s secretary V.F. Bulgakov to I. Kuhin, in which he asked Tolstoy if one could wear leather shoes as a vegetarian. In this letter, Bulgakov wrote: “Among our friends and like-minded people, there are people who refuse to eat meat, but there are also those who do not use leather at all. Leather shoes are replaced by winter boots, wooden sandals as well as soles made of rubber, linoleum, etc. They themselves make such shoes. In the near future, there will be an increased production of vegetarian footwear.”


Tolstoy in a children’s book

Tolstoy is one of the characters in the vegan picture book “The Turtle Who Fights for Animal Rights”, along with other fellow writers who defended animal rights, such as Kafka and George Bernard Shaw. They used their public influence and talent to speak on behalf of those who could not defend themselves.

Vegan writers

Vegan picture book: The Turtle Who Fights For Animal Rights



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