Animal Rights: A History

Leonardo Da Vinci 

The Deeper Minds Of All Ages Have Had Pity For Animals
Friedrich Nietzsche

Related links: Animal Rights and Why they Matter



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Why Animals matter:
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This page is part of the section: Animal Rights:A History

Leonardo Da Vinci 1452-1519

Most people are familiar with the name Leonardo da Vinci because of his best known work of art, the Mona Lisa. Widely regarded as a genius, in addition to being an Italian Renaissance painter, daVinci was an architect, musician, inventor, engineer and sculptor. He also excelled in terms of his integrity and sensitivity to moral issues.

One such issue in daVinci’s moral life which is not widely known generally, is da Vinci’s refusal to consume meat and his stance on cruelty and the mistreatment of animals.

Even though the following quotation so often used to confirm daVinci’s vegetarianism actually comes from a

fictional account of his life by Russian author Dimitri Merejkowski, translated into English in 1902 as The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci, da Vicni nevertheless was a vegetarian.

I have from an early age abjured the use of meat , and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.

The fact that da Vinci was vegetarian is confirmed from a number of sources including his notebooks and early biographies.

Andrea Corsali , a contemporary of da Vinci ,In a letter written to Juliano de Medici or Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici wrote of DaVinci;

"Certain infidels called Guzzarati [Hindus] do not feed upon anything that contains blood, nor do they permit among them any injury be done to any living thing, like our Leonardo da Vinci."

Leonardo went further than merely abstaining from eating meat. His purchasing of and  releasing caged birds demonstrated his opposition to animals being regarded as property:

…The mere idea of permitting the existence of unnecessary suffering, still more than of taking life, was abhorrent to him. Vasari tells, as an instance of his love of animals, how when in Florence he passed places where birds were sold he would frequently take them from their cages with his own hand, and having paid the sellers the price that was asked would let them fly away in the air, thus giving them back their liberty."

The Mind of Leonardo DaVinci by Edward MacCurdy.

Edward MacCurdy  who was one of the two translators and compilers of Leonardo's Notebooks into English.

Leonardo wrote the following in his Notebooks:

If you are as you have described yourself the king of the animals –– it would be better for you to call yourself king of the beasts since you are the greatest of them all! –– why do you not help them so that they may presently be able to give you their young in order to gratify your palate, for the sake of which you have tried to make yourself a tomb for all the animals? Even more I might say if to speak the entire truth were permitted me.

More information may be found in, Leonardo da Vinci's Ethical Vegetarianism  by David Hurwitz:


Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

Original imagine and licensing details

important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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