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The sin of eating meat: Fascism, Nazism and the Construction of Sacred Vegetarianism

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Abstract

This chapter focuses on the ways in which three Twentieth-century dictatorships (the Italian Regency of Fiume in 1919-1920, Italian Fascism and German Nazism) constructed eating meat as a moral disease, and abstention from it as a means to achieve sacred purity. This study defines all of this as 'sacred vegetarianism', as opposed to the other vegetarianisms that were already widespread in the Western world but that linked to physical and spiritual health, food security or animal care. If during the Italian regency of Fiume vegetarians were propagandistically represented as more ascetic, under Fascism intellectuals such as Giacomo Boni and Giuseppe Tucci looked at meat abstention in order to historically and religiously legitimate Mussolini's regime. Finally, the Nazis drew on already existing vegetarian philosophies and cults that linked to purity and primordial naturism, pushed their limits and turned them into racist theories. In conclusion, sacred vegetarianism transformed a food practice into a food ideology, and was a valid support for the three tyrannies and their criminal plans.

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This chapter introduces the reader to the analysis of the cultural history of meat in the years from 1900 to 1918. In the first section, I summarize what meat perception was at the end of the nineteenth century, in order to accompany the reader through the rest of the chapter. After this, the analysis focuses on Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle and on some works by Joseph Conrad, which are really helpful to understand how meat and meat perception changed in the first part of the twentieth century. Later, the center of the analysis involves slaughterhouses, shifting from private enterprises to public service, and butchers, who detached their job from animal killing but not from animal death. The following section regards vegetarianism in those years. Finally, I investigate the many ways WWI changed the human approach to meat. The short story is about the difficulty for children to distinguish between animals to love and animals to eat.
Chapter
This chapter principally analyses meat in terms of its relations to ideology. Certainly, a right-wing vegetarianism existed, and is traceable in the Italian Regency of Fiume, Fascism and Nazism, three dictatorships that ruled in today’s Croatia, Italy and Germany respectively, and threatening the entire Europe. These dictatorships were also built on what I term ‘sacred vegetarianism’, a propagandistic meat abstention descending from old Oriental myths. Nonetheless, it must be said that Fascism and Nazism were adverse to the vegetarian associations in their countries, demonstrating that sacred vegetarianism was exclusively a matter of propaganda. Starting from studies that I have already published, the first part of this chapter summarizes what I have already found and interprets the result in cultural terms. What these dictatorships communicated, in fact, became part of the collective imaginary of these nations, and thus may be considered as part of cultural history. The second part of the chapter is, conversely, devoted to the way in which meat was ideologically represented in the US, and to scientific discoveries that encouraged meat consumption. Another issue analyzed is meat in WWII, from the points of view of both the soldiers at the front and the rest of the people at home. The short story is a tale about ideology and about how it splits communities into fighting factions.
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What Is a Healthy Diet? Some Ideas about the Construction of Healthy Food in Germany Since the Nineteenth Century
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Comando di Fiume d'Italia
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From Physical Illness
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Dovete essere Belle ma Esser Anche Sane
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Religious Politics: A Concept Comes of Age
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Roger Griffin, 'Religious Politics: A Concept Comes of Age', Leidschrift Historisch Tijdschrift 26, no. 2 (2011), 7-18.
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Religious Politics: A Concept Comes of Age
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