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Vegetarian Conquers Highest Peak Vegan Views 76 (Spring/Summer 1997)

150 years ago, a group of people called themselves vegetarians and formed a Vegetarian Society to show people that you could be healthy without eating fish, flesh or fowl. 50 years later they formed a Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club to show they could compete on equal terms with the others and they proved their case. Many vegetarians have gained Olympic Gold Medals and have continued to win sporting events in many fields. The latest confirmation has come from Australia with the news that a vegetarian has reached the highest peak - Everest itself.

The recent issue of the Australian magazine "New Vegetarian and Natural Health" reports that Tim Macartney-Snipe has scaled Mount Everest twice, once starting from sea level at the Bay of Bengal and having to make a 350 kilometre detour because of the closed Nepali border. To make up lost time he had to run 60 kilometres per day in 35C heat.

In an interview Tim was asked how he became vegetarian.

"Well I was brought up on a farm and we always killed our own meat. When I was of school age I used to do the killing of sheep. I didn't really become a vegetarian until I went to India on my first expedition. I discovered that the local people who were working as porters for us didn't eat much meat. They seemed so tough and resilient and to do better for their diet. When you go on climbs it is very difficult to take meat - you can take tinned or dried meat, but it's not very satisfactory. At altitude you don't tend to digest meat very well. And I felt it was very hypocritical if people are prepared to eat meat yet can't stomach having to kill an animal. I have always hated abattoirs. I hate the whole process of getting animal food for our use. I thought that if I am not living on a farm I am not going to kill the animal myself, so I am not going to eat it. I started not eating meat and felt better for it. That realisation was also helped by the fact that at University one of the subjects I was very interested in was anthropology of the hunter/gatherers who don't eat much meat. Hunting takes up a large part of men's energy and it doesn't provide a lot, so we haven't evolved to be big meat eaters. All those reasons made me decide that I just didn't want to eat meat anymore."

Did you find that it had an effect on your endurance?

"I don't know. Having had scientific training I can't really say I have tested it, but certainly I feel that my body feels better without meat. I am sure that if you overeat meat it would certainly slow you down because we are simply not adapted to that sort of diet."

"The truth in the end is a paradox. Until now we believed that our instinctive lifestyle is the right way to live. It is actually our ego, or conscious self, which is right. It's been horrendous in the process of development, but in the end the conscience will be a more effective way of living. Once we can understand that the point of life is to be co-operative and loving, gentle and sensitive, we will be such a force for good. Human beings are, in the end, divine. We are not the bad species it seems we are. The problem is that it is terribly confronting, for us to look into our condition because of this very deep-seated battle between our instinct and our developing conscious self. That's the challenge we face now - to confront ourselves."

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Cross-reference: Endurance of the Veggie/Vegan Diet