If you are a vegetarian or vegan you have most likely at some point had someone exlaim to you that
"Hitler was a vegetarian." I've heard Hitler was a vegetarian many times and have read a lot about it over the years. This morning there is a new "Hitler was a vegetarian" article in the Washington Post that interviews one of the ladies that was his food tasters. She taste tested his food for a decade and confirmed that during that time he was a vegetarian - one that ate some quite tasty meals according to her account.
So as a vegetarian or vegan should we be upset or hide the fact that he was "one of us" in this regard? It doesn't bother me at all. Why? Being a vegetarian doesn't necessarily make you a good or a bad person. It's one character trait out of many. And truth be told, I've come across vegetarians who are nice and many who are not. I've come across many ominivores who are nice and many who are not. I've come across plenty of omnivores who are wonderful people.
I think it's important to look at the reasons why people are vegetarian and consider that when thinking about Hitler being a vegetarian. The main reasons people become (as opposed to being raised) vegetarian are:
- Religious reasons
- Environmental reasons
- Ethical reasons
- Health reasons
I think from the stories that are out there that it is safe to say that Hitler was not a vegetarian for religious or environmental reasons. At least I have not read any evidence of that. That leaves us with ethical and health reasons for Hitler choosing vegetarianism. Let's look at these in the context of Hitler.
An ethical vegetarian choses the lifestyle out of concern for other living beings. They don't want to harm other beings, no matter what those beings are. Their compassion generally extends beyond animal consumption and they have a circle of compassion that includes all living creatures. Ethical vegetarians (which is what I am, followed by environmental reasons) believe that it is wrong to harm and cause suffering when there is no need to do so, and they make efforts to minimize their harming of other creatures.
A person who chooses vegetarianism based on health reasons is doing so for their own good. It is something that benefits them, and they may or may not at some point become concerned with the other reasons for being vegetarian. But their primary motivator is their own health and well being.
Having said that, could we conclude that Hitler was a vegetarian because of ethics? Given that he was responsible for the death of so many people and orchestrated genocide it is highly unlikely that is the case. Further evidence of this is that he had food tasters to begin with. He wanted them to keel over should their be poison in his food, merely again protecting himself. All signs point to the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian for health reasons. He did it because it was something that benefited him, made him healthier, and he didn't care about any other "benefits" that may have resulted along the way.
While not wanting to upset health vegetarians out there (I'm happy anytime someone chooses a vegetarian meal over an animal-based one regardless of the reasons), choosing health vegetarianism as the main reason for being a vegetarian is still a selfish act. It's done to benefit "me, me, me." Those who consume meat also have a selfish view, it's all about their comfort, what they want, their taste buds. Again, it's all "me, me, me." Whereas someone who chooses vegetarianism for the other reasons do so out of altruism.
Research also suggests that those who chooose vegetarianism for ethical reasons are more likely to remain so long term.
So in conclusion yes, it seems as though Hitler was a vegetarian for at least part of his life. But it is highly unlikely it had anything to do with ethical or compassionate reasons. He likely didn't care about the animals people eat anymore than he cared about the human animals (humans are animals, lest we forget) he was responsible for killing. Hitler was most likely a vegetarian for health reasons, hoping to maintain good health or deal with any type of intestinal issues that may have existed. This matters no more than the fact that most dangerous dictators throughout history likely consumed meat.
Hitler being a vegetarian for selfish health reasons has more in common with an omnivore who chooses to eat meat for whatever excuses they have, than it does being in line with an altruistic vegetarian.