Happy 200th Birthday Thoreau: Quotes that Inspire Compassion





Thoreau’s writings are credited as having inspired John Muir’s environmental efforts and Mahatma Gandhi’s work toward a nonviolent future.  His views on animals and the environment were forward thinking during a time when few considered such things.  It cannot be said for sure whether or not Thoreau was a vegetarian too, but his writings suggest that he was at least for the most part.  In honor of what would have been his 200th birthday we have compiled a collection of some of our favorite Thoreau quotes about vegetarianism, compassion and social justice.


“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.  That is the way of a whole human being.”

“It takes two to speak the truth:  one to speak, and another to hear.”

“No humane being past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature which holds its life by the same tenure that he does.”

“Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.”

“I saw a muskrat come out of a hole in the ice…While I am looking at him, I am thinking what he is thinking of me.  He is a different sort of man, that’s all.”

“A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.”

“Like many of my contemporaries, I had rarely for many years used animal food…The repugnance to animal food is not the effect of experience, but is an instinct.”

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the roots.”

“I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor flesh meat.” (Walden)

“I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food.”

“One farmer says to me, ‘You can not live of vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.”

“I once had a sparrow alight on my shoulder for a moment while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”

“All this worldly wisdom was once the amiable heresy of some wise man.”


Do you have a favorite Thoreau quote? Share in the comment section below!


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This Article Has 2 Comments
  1. Nicole

    My favorite is about the muskrat. I often wonder what animals are thinking when we lock eyes with them.

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