I am reading The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922) and there are several references to him eating bacon and other meats.

How is that Dr Dolittle is not a vegetarian?

When I opened the front door I could smell bacon frying, so I made my way to the kitchen. There I discovered a large kettle boiling away over the fire and some bacon and eggs in a dish upon the hearth. It seemed to me that the bacon was getting all dried up with the heat. So I pulled the dish a little further away from the fire and went on through the house looking for the Doctor.

The next morning when we were eating a very excellent breakfast of kidneys and bacon, prepared by our good cook Bumpo, the Doctor said to me,

I find it difficult to imagine conversing with animals, knowing they are intelligent and eating them.

I would expect a response more like Arthur's with Douglas Adams's cow that wants to be eaten

"I just don't want to eat an animal that's standing there inviting me to," said Arthur, "It's heartless."

Speaking toward historical precedent, there was a History of vegetarianism in Great Britain, that preceded the Dolittle books by decades

I am aware of the Dr Dolittle 1967 film soundtrack "Vegetarian" but it is a work created 20 years after the death of the author, of the book quotes included here. This question is about the original work by Hugh Lofting.

  • 8
    Not all animals are vegetarian, why shouldn't he be like other carnivores?
    – Paulie_D
    Apr 13, 2020 at 15:55
  • 8
    @terdon Animals are essentially people in the Dolittle books: intelligent, talking creatures, seen as friends not dumb beasts. If one of your friends is a pig, wouldn't it be weird that you also eat dead pigs? Excellent question.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Apr 13, 2020 at 16:10
  • 2
    @FuzzyBoots I saw that, but it is a work created 20 years after the death of the author, in the book quotes I included. This question is about the original work by Hugh Lofting Apr 13, 2020 at 16:50
  • 3
    The bigger question is why Dolittle isn't a committed fruitarian, since vegetables also have a language in Lofting's series of books "“I found that his knowledge of insect languages, even down to the water-beetles, was tremendous – far and away better than my own. And from that he went on to learn the languages of the vegetable world.” “The language of vegetables!” cried Gub-Gub. “Well,” said the Doctor, “not exactly the languages of potatoes and carrots. We hadn’t any up there. I had often wondered, years ago, if our plants down here had any way of talking to one another"
    – Valorum
    Apr 13, 2020 at 19:14
  • 3
    Not trying to pass judgement, but many real-life animals are very intelligent, emotionally developed, and communicative - and many people are well aware of it. And they eat them anyway. Sure, it's all slightly amped up in Dolittle's case, but I think if intelligence were a major issue, many of us would already eat far fewer animals. We tend to be fine with it because they aren't humans. My guess is, same goes for Dolittle.
    – Misha R
    Apr 14, 2020 at 4:36

1 Answer 1


Reading a little farther in the book, about page 166 you find this discussion about Ben Butcher, able seaman {unpleasant human stowaway).

“Yes, and think yourself lucky,” Polynesia put in, “that you are not locked up for stowing away and eating all our salt beef.”

“I don’t know what the mischief we’re going to do now,” I heard her whisper to Bumpo. “We’ve no money to buy any more; and that salt beef was the most important part of the stores.”

“Would it not be good political economy,” Bumpo whispered back, “if we salted the able seaman and ate him instead? I should judge that he would weigh more than a hundred and twenty pounds.”

“How often must I tell you that we are not in Jolliginki,” snapped Polynesia. “Those things are not done on white men’s ships—Still,” she murmured after a moment’s thought, “it’s an awfully bright idea. I don’t suppose anybody saw him come on to the ship—Oh, but Heavens! we haven’t got enough salt. Besides, he’d be sure to taste of tobacco.” Source

It would seem that by the morals of the group, it permissible to eat any meat, that is not your friend.

This of course is not an acceptable full answer to the question, but it does provide some insight towards answering the question.

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